Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Return Of The Martian Manhunter; Adventure Comics #450

Hopefully I have waited long enough and the resurrection of J'onn J'onzz in Blackest Night #8 is no longer a huge spoiler. It was great to see the Martian Manhunter back amongst the living. Unlike most recent 'comics events', I really liked Blackest Night.

Given the Manhunter's return, I thought I would review Adventure Comics #450, a Supergirl/J'onn story from 1977. A while back, blog friend Frank Lee Delano referred me to this story, one I didn't know about. Frank runs the excellent Martian Manhunter blog, The Idol Head of Diabolu. Here is the link: http://idol-head.blogspot.com/ , a character blog definitely worth checking out. In gratitude for the tip, I promised him I would review the story once J'onn returned.


For me, this story was something of an unexpected treat. It is a short 6 page story, a chapter in a Martian Manhunter solo story acting as a second feature in the Aquaman driven Adventure Comics of the time. The story is written by one of my favorite comic writers of all time Denny O'Neil. I didn't think O'Neil had ever written Supergirl in any form. So it was great to see this story, even if Kara is only the guest star.

Here is the opening splash page. Once again we will see a 'hero fighting hero' story. It certainly is an attention grabbing panel as the reader is dropped into the fight.


But really, the story starts out in space with the Manhunter from Mars in a spaceship en route to Earth.

Turns out J'onn was on Mars when his best friend Re is killed. Re's dying words make J'onn think the killer is hiding out on Earth. When he says he is going to Earth to hunt him down, the Martian army leader N'or tries to stop him. J'onn wants justice and so fights his way to the ship and takes off. N'or jumps into another ship and the chase is on.


In fact, N'or catches up and is able to shoot J'onn out of the sky.

Luckily, Supergirl is flying over Metropolis and notices the wreckage falling near the city. In a nice little 'turn around is fair play' maneuver, Supergirl catches the falling debris and fires it back at the alien pilot. Unfortunately, that pilot is J'onn, the innocent victim.


Addled from the destruction of his ship, the Manhunter From Mars turns on Supergirl, mistaking her for an enemy. Supergirl realizes that she made a mistake hurling the falling spaceship at J'onn. Unfortunately she can't initially get through to him. In fact, he is attacking with all his might.

Kara doesn't want to hurt J'onn ... but she doesn't want to be hurt either. She decides to try to hold the Manhunter at bay until he regains his clarity. One gut punch later, J'onn comes to, recognizing Supergirl for who she is.

I don't know if I like that Supergirl questions her ability to analyze the situation as good as Superman would but at least she accomplishes her goals.

While the two heroes recover from their battle, the trailing Martian general N'or approaches and fires his missiles. With J'onn still concussed, Supergirl realizes she needs to save him and the city below from this artillery barrage. Despite not knowing what Martian weapons can do to her Kryptonian physiology, she flies into the face of danger.


As expected, the weapons explode harmlessly against the Maid of Might.

It was nice to see Supergirl do what's right, going straight into a potentially dangerous situation to save the day.

With the attack thwarted, N'or takes off. Rather than giving chase, Supergirl returns to tend to J'onn who has finally recovered. And so the Manhunter will continue his manhunt to find Re's murderer.

It was pretty appealing to see these 2 characters interact like this since I don't know too many other times their paths have crossed this closely. It also was nice to see Supergirl be such a pro-active force in this book, saving the city twice and J'onn once in a short 6 pages. So she wondered what Superman would do for that one second ... she still got the job done!

And while J'onn doesn't do too much in this story, there is no denying his sense of justice and how nothing will stop him from getting his target.

Mike Nasser certainly draws a lithe and buxom Supergirl, filling out the seventies hot pants costume. Many of the panels remind me of somewhat of Marshall Rogers, at least in composition. Nasser is no Rogers', but the art had that feel to it.

So not a bad little story and certainly worth the small price I paid to get it. Thanks again to Frank Lee Delano for pointing me to this issue. A Denny O'Neil Supergirl story ... who knew!?

And, of course, welcome back J'onn J'onzz!

Overall grade: B/B+

9 comments:

mathematicscore said...

Here, here! Great review as always. I rather like Nasser's style The cape effects on J'onn look pretty cool, and I like his dynamics. Supergirl flying really has a sense of movement.

Gene said...

Anj wrote:
"Kara doesn't want to hurt J'onn ... but she doesn't want to be hurt either."

She should have flicked on her Bic lighter, or toss him a package of Oreos. :P

Mart said...

Lovely review. I know I have that issue but I don't remember it at all. I always liked to see Kara playing with Kal's pals, such as her rare JLA forays.

Mauricio said...

I have that comic, it was the first time I saw MM.


Didn't made much of him until JLA animated show.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how well the Bronze Age Supergirl seemed to function as a guest star outside her home feature? I can't think of any of her somewhat rare team ups from the era that didn't come off one way or another.
She can be an acolyte with Batman, "one of the boys" with The Atom and The Flash (and of course they feel threatened by that) and a Big Sister to Mary Marvel.
All of which were aspects of the character you didn't necessarily see in her core feature at the time.
This is why I prize stories like this a chance to see Supergirl cast in the different light.

John Feer

TalOs said...

Nice! :-D I truly had no knowledge about this 'lil gem's existence! So did this mean that in Pre-COIE E-1 continuity it was Supergirl being the actual first Superhero of Earth that J'Onn encounters upon his arrival then? :-/

Question: does anybody else wonder as to why J'Onn and the Teen Titans own 'Ms. Martian' (who's actually a WHITE martian who's race are actual enemies to J'Onn's own) have as of yet to meet proper? :-/

Diabolu Frank said...

Y'know, when I first sent this to you, I considered emailing all four chapters. I decided in the end that despite the Superman appearance in the conclusion, I should just stick with the Supergirl stuff. I chose wisely, as your synopsis is much better than the actual comics story.

Since you gave Denny O'Neil the benefit of the doubt (not the way I'd go before the '80s, at least,) what was a flimsy excuse for a string a fight/team-ups takes on a mysterious, mise-en-scène quality. From the perspective of a Supergirl fan, the story's heroine is bright, empathetic, employs deductive reasoning, and more than hold her own in a fight. As a Martian Manhunter fan, this was the story where my hero is a hyper-reactive idiot manipulated into a bunch of stupid, near-suicidal/homicidal punch-outs with fellow good guys, who gets schooled by the Maid of Might.

Finally, Kara was, to be a swine for a moment, deliciously drawn by Mike Nasser/Michael Netzer. Good Lawd, she was drawn pretty. J'Onn looked good too, but that was the saving grace of the whole moronic affair for me.

All in all, Anj, I return to my original premise, that your review is better written than the actual comic! Kudos!

TalOs, this wasn't a reworking of Martian Manhunter's first arrival on Earth, but his brief return to the planet after joining his fellow Martians in exile in 1969.

Anj said...

Isn't it funny how well the Bronze Age Supergirl seemed to function as a guest star outside her home feature? I can't think of any of her somewhat rare team ups from the era that didn't come off one way or another.
She can be an acolyte with Batman, "one of the boys" with The Atom and The Flash (and of course they feel threatened by that) and a Big Sister to Mary Marvel.
All of which were aspects of the character you didn't necessarily see in her core feature at the time.


I know the issue with the Atom/Flash you are talking about.

I agree that Supergirl comes off very well here.

Anj said...

From the perspective of a Supergirl fan, the story's heroine is bright, empathetic, employs deductive reasoning, and more than hold her own in a fight. As a Martian Manhunter fan, this was the story where my hero is a hyper-reactive idiot manipulated into a bunch of stupid, near-suicidal/homicidal punch-outs with fellow good guys, who gets schooled by the Maid of Might.

You know you're right. This might be a 'Martian Manhunter' story but he doesn't exactly star here. He is almost inactive here.

How funny that the same story when looked from different perspectives can be taken so differently.