Since the Martian Manhunter is one of my favorite characters, I had really high hopes for his story arc. I thought Brightest Day would be an opportunity to take the character back to his roots, or maybe back to his roots with a little twist of noir.
Instead, the J'onn's antagonist is basically a female version of Malefic. *sigh* (For the record, I really don't like Malefic, J'onn's evil twin brother, for those of you who don't know who he is.) Coupled with that is an origin retcon, which always bug me to no end.
But all of that out of the way, here's what I think really needs to happen to bring the charcater of the Martian Manhunter to new heights:
Get rid of Mars.
Get rid of it! I don't mean obliterate the planet Death Star-style, but just let it stay in the background, not the forefront. Here's why:
1. Mars is so poorly defined. Is it a war-like culture reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs? Is it a planet/nation of philosophers and poets? Honestly, I can't keep track of what Martian culture was like.
2. And while we're at it, can we cut out the whole "the entire planet has the same culture/government/language bit? As much as I love Star Wars, the fact that Tatooine is entirely desert makes no sense. (Okay, "Galaxy far, far away," so I guess it has different rules.) Yes, I know there were White Martians, which to me, are a mess to begin with anyway. There were Pole Dwellers, but they got retconned out, I tink. But take a look at these speech bubbles from Brightest Day #12:
The Martian Symbols of Love and Hate? Slip "Earth" into that sentence and it makes no sense. Can you think of the Earth symbol for danger? The Earth symbol for love? If someone dropped you off a country with a completely different language and culture, would you even know what a stop sign looked like?! ARGH! A whole planet can't have the same culture!
I think somewhere in the DC universe it was explained that Earth has a variety cultures. To me, that's just an excuse to have a lack of imagination. That's why whenever I see a female alien creature with hardly any similarity to humans yet is still drawn with bosoms to identify her as female, I start wanting to throw things across the room. It makes no sense and it's just lazy. Heck, even abs shouldn't be the same. Which brings me to point 3.
3. The Green Lantern universe handles aliens and alien cultures much better than any incarnation of Mars ever could. So you know what? Let's just forget everything about Martian culture, leave it as some sort of vague understanding that it was slightly different than Earth culture, and let J'onn J'onzz move on to superheroing and detectiving, and leave the aliens to the mythos that does it well. Stop trying to define Mars, becuase the whole Mars history has gotten so convoluted, that there's just no way you can define it with any modicum of logic short of another history-changing Crisis.
4. Every story centered around Mars, by default, makes the story about J'onn J'onzz being an alien, not about what he does as a superhero. There is no forward motion in a story that basically boils down into a character trying to figure out his destiny when he already chose it decades ago. In any recent story that I can think of, J'onn J'onzz doesn't DO anything other than try figure out who J'onn J'onzz is. He's become the Odo of the DC Universe, for those who have seen Deep Space Nine: he is only defined by his race and how different/similar he is to them. Sure, Odo was the security guy who bantered with Quark, but he was the "good Dominion guy," too. There's more to J'onn than just being the de facto "good" alien of the JLA.
5. Quick: name three things Superman stands for. Okay, try that with J'onn J'onzz. It's nowhere near as easy, is it. Why? Because any major Post-Crisis story involving J'onn J'onzz--except American Secrets and DC: The New Frontier--boils down to "Should I like Mars more or Earth more?" The more Mars is in the foreground, the less J'onn J'onzz's core values are. And I don't mean core values as in "Earth is more important to me than Mars," which is a passive value. I mean it in the sense of what a hero considers is worth fighting for and acting upon, like "Truth, Justice, and the American Way."
6. Get rid of Mars, get rid of the Superman parallels. The less J'onn is torn between two worlds, the less he is like Superman, and the more he can do other things to make him different. You know, like be a detective. Kind of how he started out.
Okay, rant is finished. Anyone got any counter-arguments? Or some Maalox?