Posted by:
Byron Brewer

The Brewer Report: The Martian Manhunter


picWho is he? What can he do? Not easy questions about one of my favorite DC creations of all time, J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, even before the New 52 relaunch.

No character so brilliant has been so used, misused and abused as has this great green avenger, star of one of comicdom’s greatest stories, Justice League of America Vol. 1 #71, “And So My World Ends.” In this tale, J’onn kills his arch-rival, finds his world and most of its people destroyed, and so decides to go with the survivors into deep space to find a new home and bids farewell to his friends in the Justice League. A truly heartfelt story.

These days, following the events of Flashpoint, the Martian Manhunter has become a member of the covert Stormwatch organization in a New #1 that is quickly becoming a CBNfavorite (at least in the editorial department corner desk, lol.)

Despite now being allied with the Stormwatch group, it is mentioned in the first New 52 issue that J'onn was, in fact, a member of the Justice League in the past. During this first appearance with the team, he accompanies Jack Hawksmoor and the Projectionist on a mission to recruit the Superman-level hero Apollo, whom J'onn is forced to fight after he attacks the agents.

We cannot wait to see what Stormwatch scribe Paul Cornell has in store for this favored hero, including the saga of his people. Is he a lone survivor? We shall have to wait and see, but it will be intriguing.

We have see the Martian Manhunter use a number of his powers already in Stormwatch. Given the writer and the era, here are some things that J’onn has done in the past – for whatever good that counts for in the DcnU!

The Martian Manhunter possesses a wide variety of superhuman powers, which have been shown inconsistently throughout the years.

Of course, many of the character’s powers are similar to those of Superman, including super-strength close to that of Superman, flight, invulnerability, super-breath, and “Martian vision” (a term designating both the ability to see through solid objects and the ability to project beams of energy from his eyes). Superman once said of the Manhunter, “He is the most powerful being on the face of the Earth.” Wowzers! (We’ll have to see how he does with Apollo, but from that first ish bout it looks like he can hold his own with the golden boy – and then some.)

During the 1990s, it was stated that the source of his flight and “Martian vision” was a limited form of telekinesis (he had occasionally demonstrated more traditional uses of telekinesis to levitate and animate objects during his Detective Comics and House of Mystery appearances). His “Martian Vision” energy beams, which we see on some Stormwatch solicit covers thus far, have sometimes been shown to knock foes backwards, On most occasions, however, these energy beams are depicted as heating objects rather than delivering a concussive impact.

The Martian Manhunter possesses the power of shapeshifting, which we have seen at great length in both Stormwatch and in the old Justice League series on Cartoon Network. He can employ this for various effects (adopting human or monstrous appearance, elongating his limbs, growing to immense size, altering the chemical composition of his body, etc.). His default form during Stormwatch is a “human-frendly” version of his actual birth shape. In today’s new world, he has also adopted a public human guise.

J'onn can become intangible, passing harmlessly through solid objects. He can also render himself invisible. He lost the ability to use his other powers while invisible during the Silver Age.

He is a powerful telepath (something we have seen in Stormwatch), capable of both perceiving the thoughts of others and of projecting his own thoughts. He once acted as a “switchboard” between minds in order to coordinate the Justice League's actions, and has already done that for Stormwatch. The extent of his telepathic abilities is great; several times he has connected his mind to the entire population of Earth.

J'onn is also capable of absorbing energy projectiles such as beams and other energy waves like Ms. Marvel or Nova.

Aside from the Martian Manhunter’s superhuman powers, he is a skilled and very capable detective. As Batman himself mentions in his file, “In many ways, the Martian Manhunter is like an amalgam of Superman and the Dark Knight himself.”

One of the Martian Manhunter's signature traits is his vulnerability to fire. Although it has been an element of the character since his earliest appearances, writers have depicted it with great inconsistency throughout the character's long career. In some instances, it is portrayed as a physical susceptibility inherent to the Martian race, while at other times it has been explained as a personal psychosomatic disorder. The degree of vulnerability has also been wildly inconsistent, in some cases capable of stripping away his powers and killing him, while at other times simply inflicting pain or delirium with no actual danger of physical harm. This weakness has been diminished or cured on more than one occasion, only to have it return with a vengeance in a later story. Thus, it is difficult to define. It will be interesting to see if Cornell touches upon it at all.

It was a great idea to make the Martian Manhunter the character that firmly roots these Stormwatch characters of the Wildstorm Universe into the DcnU. Let’s hope that mysterious cloaked female doesn’t ruin a good thing!