The Human and the Martian
The universe has turned it’s back on Earth. After so long worrying about the Source Wall and what the state of it meant for the people of the Multiverse, the heroes of Earth, the Justice League told everyone that they had a solution. And in actuality, they did. After breaking the Source Wall wide open to defeat Barbatos and his Dark Knights, Earth’s defenders knew exactly what they needed to do to fix their mistake and prevent Perpetua from waking up to destroy everything. Too bad for them an unexpected return changed not only their plan, but the course of the entire Multiverse. Now, with their backs against the wall, Martian Manhunter has traveled to his home planet, and he invited an unexpected guest.
As J’onn walks across what’s left of his home, he comes across a rock wall bearing Perpetua’s symbol. We then see a gun being pointed at the back of his head by the person he invited to come with him: Lex Luthor. J’onn tells him that he has invited Luthor, because he is the only person capable of helping Manhunter track down someone he believes can help. This person was mentioned by J’onn to Starman and apparently knew J’onn as a child. Lex tells him that he doesn’t believe a word he says and reveals that he knows J’onn brought Jarro with him (a small piece of Starro that the Justice League adopted). Lex also reveals that he equipped his suit with a psychic toxin to neutralize Jarro. This, however, backfires, as J’onn did not bring Jarro to neutralize Lex, but rather a group of feral Martian animals that feed on whatever they can. As the two of them flee, we get a flashback from J’onn’s childhood. We see him trapped by the Earth scientists who tried to recreate Perpetua’s army, and a little boy in the lab with him. As the scientists loom around J’onn, the little boy gestures to his shirt. As J’onn explains, “He kept gesturing to his shirt. Then I saw…If the infinity symbol meant ‘eyes’…set your eyes to ten to the fourteenth power…infrared light.” Upon doing this, J’onn is able to see that the boy wrote on his shirt in a special ink that could only be seen in infrared light. The boy reveals himself to be called Albie. Back in the present, J’onn implores Lex to help find this mysterious person that J’onn believes can tip the balance in the League’s favor. Of course, Lex refuses and brags that he is close to raising Perpetua up to take everything he wants. When J’onn tells him to be cautious with her, Lex tells him that once his armor has rebooted itself, he’s taking J’onn with him to the Hall of Doom. “We’ll go to the Hall of Doom where you can meet her yourself. I’m sure she’ll have a use for you.” J’onn then tells him about the ceremonies they held on Mars. A ceremony in which the Martians would chant the word “Sh’anne” as a way to release their anger and negative emotions.
Back in the past, Albie approaches J’onn in his pod. The two of them speak for a moment before Albie tells J’onn that he believes both of them will die in this place, so while they can, they should make the most of it together. The two of them begin using J’onn’s abilities to project themselves into dream worlds where the two young children would pretend to be superheroes. Lex snaps the reader back into the present by threatening to kill J’onn if he doesn’t help him escape the Martian animals. J’onn then cuts him off and says that he’s been trying to show him his way out through the flashbacks. He tells Lex that one day in the lab, Albie and the scientists approached J’onn, and Albie was crying. When J’onn filters his vision, he sees a message that Albie wrote on his shirt. “I’m sorry, J’onn. They’re going to kill you. I tried to stop them. But they wouldn’t listen. So I did the next best thing. I rigged the machine. When they hit the button to kill you, it’ll send you away. But before you go, I want to tell you my name.” When Albie turns around, the name on the back of the shirt reads, “Alex”. As in, Alexander Luthor. “You’re Albie, Lex. And you can stop all of this.” As J’onn tries to explain that Lex had his memories taken from him as a child, Lex lashes out and attacks J’onn. Before he can do anymore damage, the feral animals arrive and continue their chase. J’onn uses Jarro to control one of the beasts and leads himself and Lex towards two now open portals back to Earth. As J’onn begs Lex to come with him, they end up falling into separate portals, sending Lex to the Hall of Doom and J’onn to the Hall of Justice. When Batman asks if their plan worked, J’onn replies, “I…I don’t know. My only hope is that some part of what I said got through to him.” On the other side, Lex is comforted by Brainiac and Sinestro before walking towards his room. Once there, Lex sits on his bed and says, “Sh’anne…Sh’anne.”
With this issue’s revelation that Lex and J’onn were childhood friends, one has to wonder if that will come into play when the League and the Legion’s inevitable clash happens. While not focused on the direct fallout from the destruction of the Source Wall, this issue was as good as a one-shot can be. Much like the arc on Thanagar, I didn’t expect much when I saw that this issue would be Lex and J’onn on Mars. And just like the Thanagar arc, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. At this point, I should know better than to even remotely doubt Scott Snyder. Like I said, moving forward, I have to wonder what will happen between J’onn and Lex in the future. Snyder never makes a move without planning ten steps ahead, so I’m sure this will be a factor. Could we see Lex turn on the Legion of Doom and rejoin the Justice League? I doubt that a full turn is in Luthor’s future, but maybe giving his childhood friend a small assist could happen when the final battle begins.