Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ghosts: Martian Manhunter Annual #1!

Just from the cover, I'm thinking this one is going to be rougher than the Wonder Woman Annual: with another Bernie Wrightson cover, Martian Manhunter Annual #1, "Heart's Afire" Written by Ty Templeton, art by Ariel Olietti.

Templeton pays lip service to the idea that J'onn J'onzz has a ton of other identities on earth, although I don't know if I see him as a Siberian fur trapper, but that his detective John Jones is still a favorite, like a comfortable suit. His partner Karen Smith is surprised to see him in his office, since he's rarely there, but she's still glad to see him. She obviously likes him, but J'onn plays it off as having "a...thing...about smoking." Their banter is interrupted by a young girl, Rachel, who wants J'onn to investigate her murder. She appears to be shot, then bursts into flames, paralyzing J'onn; but when he looks into the flames he sees his Martian wife and daughter.

J'onn's a little dismayed to notice his car has been towed: he notes he spends a lot of time in other countries, and forgets parking rules from town to town, but is standing under a No Parking sign as he narrates this. At the police station, J'onn uses a trick like Dr. Who's psychic paper: a smiley face on a notepad makes a perfect picture of Rachel, who had been reported missing by her boyfriend six days prior. J'onn asks Karen to follow up a lead while he gets his car--an '87 Chevy Impala--out of impound, but an officer makes a phone call that someone's looking into Rachel's disappearance.

J'onn's poor car is run off the road later, and while he's in no danger, he does see Rachel again in the flames. Catching up to the drivers as the Martian Manhunter, he finds they were put up to it by a cop; and sends them back to the cops to confess under mental coercion. J'onn tries to warn Karen off the case, but she's already at the boyfriend's, who is part of a militia group called the "New Revolution," and she's captured. J'onn disguises himself as an old woman to visit Rachel's roommate, who recalls how much she was looking forward to a camping trip with her boyfriend, even if it was with a bunch of "survivalist weirdos." J'onn allows himself to be captured as well, and is taken before the militia's General Washington, a black man with a somewhat unfortunate hairstyle.

Washington doesn't seem especially broken up over having to kill Rachel--omelets and eggs. She "was not ready to commit to our lifestyle," and the boyfriend calls her a class traitor. The militia plans a bus trip to DC, to murder "every member of the corrupt, slave-owner aristocracy" they can. J'onn decides he's heard enough, and changes to the Manhunter, breaking his handcuffs. Washington expected something like this: "The Justice League are well-known tools of the new world order!" Preparing accordingly, he had a flame-thrower ready, and torches J'onn.

The flames have J'onn on the ropes, seemingly finished, until another blast from the flamethrower appears as his wife and daughter, turning on the shooter, saving him. After that, J'onn takes the militia's information from Washington's mind, and stifles them with no loss of life. Karen is just vivid, though, feeling like J'onn's been laughing at her. Pissed, she lights a cigarette, and Rachel and J'onn's family appear in the flames again, this time to say goodbye.

This is probably the best of the Ghosts annuals so far! Since I'm not real up on the New 52 continuity, I'm not positive if J'onn's family's death is still a big part of his origin. I'd assume so, but can't say. Their deaths were pretty well established, though. That Wonder Woman Annual referred back to a supporting characters death from ten years earlier in 1988, and next week's annual refers to three deaths that same year...

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Damn that looks good, and not just because I'm a sucker for Ariel Overleti art...But damn good story from the looks of it. Good point about them not explaining this part of MM's NUorigins yet. I'll imagine it may get touched on this year or next though. Perhaps in the new Secret Origins series they're relaunching.