What makes this arc so special for me is that it spotlights one of the most overlooked characters of the Justice League : the Martian Manhunter. Since he has been a member in almost every incarnation of the league he often is taken for granted. And because he´s such a peaceful character people forget what he really is capable of. Most of the time he gets a bad rap and is dismissed as a second - rate Superman knock - off. What most people forget is that Jonn Jonnz is on the same level as Superman.....plus he can become intangible and walk through walls. And he can become invisible. And he is a mindreader and telepath. And he is a shape - changer. No, he´s not really on the same level as Superman.....he´s more like four levels above him.
One of the reasons why the Martian Manhunter is so seldom used is that his one weakness seems stupid to a lot of writers : fire. It seems ridiculous that an alien on Jonn´s power level can be put out of comission by something as simple as a match. What Joe Kelly manages in this story is to come up with a reason why martians are vulnerable to fire that makes total sense. When you read it you go : Of course, NOW it all makes sense. You even wonder why nobody else thought about it before. And that is pure genius. Coming up with answers for questions you didn´t know you had.
Earlier I wrote that people forget what Jonn is really capable of. And that´s one of the things I really enjoyed about TRIAL BY FIRE : watching the Martian Manhunter tearing up the Justice League without breaking so much of a sweat. He´s always one step ahead of them. Guess that´s what happens when you go up against a mindreader, like when Jonn ties up Wonder Woman with her own lasso. That´s just wrong on sooo many levels but a part of me can´t help and remember all those old bondage covers of Wonder Woman. Maybe I have a nasty streak but that story had soooo many FUCK YEAH ! - moments.....
One of which involves John Stewart. Now after the events of AGE OF BRONZE Kyle takes some time off and John Stewart is his replacement. And let me tell you as much as Kyle is incompetent John is experienced. Besides Hal Jordan he is probable the most seasoned lantern on earth. So when he comes back to whip the floor with Jonn and saves the entire league you just want to jump up and down.
Another FUCK YEAH ! - moment involves Plasticman. Besides Frank Miller in his masterpiece THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN Joe Kelly seems to be one of the few writers who realized the potential of Plasticman. He ( like Jonn ) can be one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe. Most of the time he is just used as comic relief but used right ha can become total unstoppable. So the story has a lot to do with the potential of league characters.
Like in AGE OF BRONZE Dough Mahnke really shines in this one. No one draws powerful alien monsters like Dough and his rendition of Jonn as the " burning martian " is freaky as $hit. You surely wouldn´t want to run into him in a dark alley. He looks totally evil and menacing.
And the battle with Plasticman - just two shapechangers totally out of control - that´s totally awesome. You haven´t seen nothing like it in a comic book.
But the most awesome aspect of the art is that you would never guess that the book was coming out twice a month during TRIAL BY FIRE. And not only doesn´t Dough Mahnke miss a beat he even pulls it up one notch. Now that´s craftmanship !
So what´s the final verdict ? This is definitely a contender for the title of BEST LEAGUE EVER. Top notch writing, top notch art, top notch use of character, lots of FUCK YEAH ! - moments.......what more can you get from a Justice League story ? Only surpassed in sheer brilliance by AGE OF BRONZE this trade should be in every league fans comic collection. It´s a book well worth your money. Like all Justice League storyarcs of the new series it´s available in trade so you have no excuse.
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When the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.