Monday, July 14, 2008

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 Review

Writer: Peter Tomasi
Penciler: Doug Mahnke

Poor Martian Manhunter. While being a contant presence in nearly every incarnation of the Justice League of America, he has never been able to carry his own book, a television show or a movie. No editor has ever figured out what the problem is, but I believe it was his insecurity. As a shapeshifter, he was never quite "in his own skin", so to speak, and was often in the position of continually trying to fit in with humanity, never really noticing that he already did so.

Whatever it was that plagued the poor fellow's commercial success, he's now dead. He's probably permanently dead, given that resurrection seems to be saved for tier-one characters or at least their angry sidekicks. The quality of this story, moreover, is likely to make this a classic, and having something bad happen to you in such a classic story kept Supergirl and Barry Allen dead and Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair for twenty years.

This comic is a wonderful tribute to one of DC's most unappreciated characters. It does a very good job of tracing what it was about J'onn that made us love him. A lot of his past history is retold, including the betrayal of his brother and the death of his family, followed by many of his adventures on Earth. I knew many of these stories and some I didn't, but it had the effect of a wake in which we got to hear many of the stories about the deceased.

There were two truly masterful parts of this story. First, it gave the sense perfectly of how loved he was by his friends. As J'onn was a psychic, his friends were able to feel him die. Moreover, he gave them a part of himself, the history of Mars, and they were able to know a part of him only in his death. This brought out the real feelings people often have at the death of those close to them: they gain insights into the person who died just as they realise they will never see them again. It was very saddening, and a much more insightful approach to death than Morrison's jokey "praying for a resurrection" in Final Crisis #2.

The second aspect of this story that was done brilliantly was the actual murder of J'onn J'onzz. Murdering someone is a messy, bloody business, and this story captures it perfectly. Often characters die in either ways that are either poetic or absurd in their violence, like Supergirl's or Jason Todd's ambiguous scratches, or the dissolving of Barry Allen or the eye-poking of Psycho-Pirate. Instead, J'onn takes a while to kill. His mind thrashes out at his killers, confronting them with their worst fears. Finally, Libra takes out a knife and finishes off the writhing Martian as even Luthor looks on in horror. This is a messy, ugly death, with no charm.

This is really one of the best comics published in recent years. It was a wonderful tribute to one of DC's longest-running characters, and deeply insightful into brutality and into what it feels like to lose a friend whom one may not have appreciated as much as one ought.

We should have appreciated you more, J'onn. We'll miss you.

A

1 comment:

Barry Allen said...

I've done my part to support old Martian, even bought the Italian "omnibus" edition of the great Ostrander/Mandrake series, despite having already the original comic books!
Hope he'll be back someday,
I (Barry Allen!;) just came back...