REVIEW: YOUNG JUSTICE MARTIAN MANHUNTER & MISS MARTIAN TWO-PACK
One of the major animated hits on the Cartoon Network, and the current place to find most of the heroes from the DC Universe, is the animated series YOUNG JUSTICE. Although it takes its name from a long-canceled comic book, the series has little in common with that series, except for a certain emphasis on some of the younger heroes of the DC Universe such as Robin, Superboy, and Kid Flash. However, recent episodes (as of this writing) have expanded the cast drastically, bringing in a host of young heroes, and certainly not neglecting the adult heroes of the DC Universe either, with frequent participation on the part of the Justice League and other well-known heroes.
Mattel, of course, has produced a nice line-up of action figures based on Young Justice. Some of these are a 6" line of heroes that are similar in some respects to their excellent line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figures. But there is also a smaller-scale line of Young Justice figures, with a more extensive cast.
This review will take a look at what I like to call the Martian Two-Pack, featuring Martian Manhunter, and Miss Martian.
Let's have a look at the Young Justice animated series, and then the history of these two heroes, within the DC Universe in general, and the Young Justice series specifically.
Young Justice (dubbed Young Justice: Invasion for the second season of the series) is an American animated television series created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti for Cartoon Network. Despite its title, it is not an adaptation of Peter David, Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck's Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes. The series follows the lives of teenaged heroes and sidekicks who are members of a fictional covert operation group called the Team. The Team is essentially a young counterpart to the celebrity-level famous adult team, the Justice League. The main setting is the fictional universe of Earth-16, during a time period in which superheroes are a relatively recent phenomenon.
The pilot episode (later re-broadcast as the opening two episodes of season 1) aired a month prior to the debut of the regular series and introduced four characters: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy. It established their desire for greater recognition and respect, namely, a promotion from sidekicks to full-fledged superheroes. Met with opposition from their respective mentors in the Justice League, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Arrow, the protégés react in different ways. Speedy/Red Arrow resigns from being Green Arrow's partner and begins calling himself Red Arrow. The others seek to persuade their mentors of their worth by secretly taking on a Justice League mission to investigate the Cadmus building. During their infiltration of Cadmus' headquarters, the three heroes find a clone of Superman named Superboy. After the discovery, the team finds out Cadmus is creating living weapons called Genomorphs. The episode deals with this revelation, the origin of Superboy, and how this relates to a mysterious group of people called The Light (Cadmus's Board of Directors). In the end, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy negotiate with Batman to organize a covert operations team as a practical contrast to the Justice League whose celebrity status makes it difficult to maintain secrecy. After consulting with his colleagues, Batman establishes Young Justice in a secret cave on a secluded island. Here the teens are trained and mentored by the Justice League. Miss Martian makes an appearance at the end of the episode and joins as the fifth member.
Young Justice includes an array of characters from DC Comics as the supporting cast, which will continue to expand throughout the series; the second season will add members to the team. Wonder Girl was supposed to have been part of the series originally but due to licensing constraints was unable to be. As of episode 16 of season 1, there are 135 characters from the DC Universe in the show.
The Justice League plays a major role, primarily as mentors to Young Justice. There are sixteen members in total, though members that do not have an immediate connection with the main characters will serve as background characters. Direct mentors — Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow — will feature prominently. Batman and Red Tornado are the most prevalent recurring characters, though Black Canary, Captain Marvel and Zatara are frequent additions to the cast. Batman also acts as Young Justice's handler, choosing the team and assigning missions.
DC Universe characters who are neither affiliated with the Justice League nor Young Justice will also be supporting characters. This includes frequent recurring character Roy Harper, who starts out as Speedy and later assumes Red Arrow as his superhero identity.
As to the character of Martian Manhunter, his Young Justice profile doesn't really have a lot to say, other than that he is a founding member of the Justice League and the uncle of Miss Martian. However, within the DC Universe proper, the character obviously has a far more extensive profile, which I think is worth delving in to in some degree:
Created by writer Joseph Samachson and artist Joe Certa, Martian Manhunter first appeared in Detective Comics #225 (Nov. 1955). The character is known for being one of the core members of the Justice League.
The Martian Manhunter debuted in the back-up story "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" in Detective Comics #225 (Nov. 1955), written by Joseph Samachson and illustrated by Joe Certa; the character is a green-skinned extraterrestrial humanoid from the planet Mars, who is pulled to earth by an experimental teleportation beam (originally presented as an attempted communication device) constructed by Dr. Saul Erdel. The Martian tells Erdel where he is from, and is told to send him back will require the Computer Brain's thinking plot to be changed. The shock of the encounter kills Dr. Erdel and leaves J'onn with no method of returning home. The character decides to fight crime while waiting for Martian technology to advance to a stage that will enable his rescue. To that end, he adopts the identity of John Jones, a detective in the fictional Middletown, U.S.A. He is thought to have been inspired by a story in Batman #78 where a Martian Lawman comes to Earth and teams up with Batman and Robin to capture the Stranger, a Martian criminal called Quork who has stolen a spaceship and come to Earth.
J'onn eventually reveals his existence to the world, after which he operates openly as a superhero and becomes a charter member of the Justice League. During the character's initial few years as a member of the Justice League, he was often used as a substitute for Superman in stories (just as Green Arrow was, for Batman) as DC Comics were worried about using their flagship characters too often in Justice League stories because of fears of overexposure. The Martian and the archer inaugurated the team-up format of The Brave and the Bold. J'onzz would appear there one other time, working with fellow JLAer the Flash. In some stories he is shown travelling through space at near-light speed or to other planets.
The detective John Jones is ostensibly killed in action by the Idol Head of Diabolu, an artifact which generates supernatural monsters. J'onn abandons the civilian identity as he decides fighting this new menace will take a great deal of his time. At this point his feature moves to House of Mystery, where J'onn spent the next few years in battle against the Idol Head. Shortly after its defeat he takes the persona of Marco Xavier in order to infiltrate the international crime cartel known as VULTURE, which he defeats in the final installment of his original series.
In early 1987 DC revamped its struggling Justice League of America series by relaunching the title as Justice League International. This new series, written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with art by Kevin Maguire, added quirky humor to the team's stories. J'onn is present from the first issue and within the stories is used as a straight man for other characters in comical situations.
The Martian Manhunter possesses a wide variety of superhuman powers, which have been shown inconsistently throughout the years.
In the current DC continuity, many of his powers are similar to those of Superman, including superhuman strength close to that of Superman, flight, invulnerability, vortex breath, and "Martian Vision" (a term designating both the ability to see through solid objects and the ability to project beams of energy from his eyes). Superman once said of the Manhunter, "He is the most powerful being on the face of the Earth".
During the 1990s, it was stated that the source of his flight and "Martian vision" is alimited form of telekinesis (he had occasionally demonstrated more traditional uses of telekinesis to levitate and animate objects during his Detective Comics and House of Mystery appearances). His "Martian Vision" energy beams have sometimes been shown to knock foes backwards. On most occasions, however, these energy beams are depicted as heating objects rather than delivering a concussive impact.
The Martian Manhunter possesses the power of shapeshifting, which he employs for various effects (adopting human or monstrous appearance, elongating his limbs, growing to immense size, altering the chemical composition of his body, etc.). His default form during JLA meetings and in public is a "human-friendly" version of his actual birth shape.
J'onn can become intangible, passing harmlessly through solid objects. He can also render himself invisible. He lost the ability to use his other powers while invisible during the Silver Age.
J'onn can become invisible to the naked eye. Until he was stripped of the use of his other powers while invisible J'onn was virtually unknown to the world except as John Jones, detective. He did his heroing while invisible as an unknown "angel" helping those in need.In "The Unmasking of J'onn J'onzz" from Detective Comics #273 where B'rett, a yellow-skinned Martian criminal, lands on Earth he reveals J'onzz's existence to Earth-1's public by using a Martian weapon to take away J'onn's ability to use his powers while he is invisible. Once visible to fight B'rett, J'onn is quickly outed as a Martian hero.
He is a powerful telepath, capable of both perceiving the thoughts of others and of projecting his own thoughts. He often acts as a "switchboard" between minds in order to coordinate the Justice League's actions. The extent of his telepathic abilities is great; several times he has connected his mind to the entire population of Earth.
J'onn is also capable of absorbing energy projectiles such as beams and other energy waves.
He has demonstrated regenerative abilities, once able to regenerate his entire body from only his severed head, but with great strain (due to the loss of mass, he found it necessary to incorporate new matter from the Martian sand). Early appearances of the character show him as able to breathe underwater; he displayed this power when he encountered Zauriel in the sea of San Francisco in JLA #6. The Manhunter has sometimes been said to possess nine senses, but these additional senses are poorly defined and generally ignored by most writers.
Aside from his superhuman powers, the Manhunter is also a skilled and very capable detective. As Batman mentions in his file, "in many ways, Martian Manhunter is like an amalgam of Superman and the Dark Knight himself."
J'onn J'onzz has also demonstrated the ability of generating and manipulating heat or energy beams, waves and blasts, and even absorbing extra mass from the earth to greatly increase his size.
As for Miss Martian, her character differs a fair bit between her comics incarnation, and her Young Justice version.
Miss Martian is a White Martian known as M'gann M'orzz. She serves as a member of the Teen Titans during the year between the events depicted in Infinite Crisis and the "One Year Later" stories. On Earth, she simplifies her name to Megan Morse.
M'gann M'orzz was originally sent by rocket from Mars to the Vega system, to escape the civil war between the Green Martians and the White Martians. To date, it is still unknown when she came to Earth from Vega.
Initially, M'gann pretended to be a Green Martian, like the Martian Manhunter, and joined the Teen Titans. After her feelings were hurt through insensitivity and misunderstanding with her teammates, M'gann left the Titans to be a hero in Australia. Though the Titans suspected she might have been a traitor, it turned out that her accuser, Bombshell, was the actual traitor. After helping the team defeat Bombshell and proving her loyalty, she was accepted as a full member of the Titans.
Miss Martian possesses abilities similar to Martian Manhunter. She can fly, shapeshift, turn intangible and fire energy blasts from her eyes. She is a telepath who can read minds. She also has great strength, durability, speed and stamina, as well as the ability to turn invisible. Like all Martians, she can be weakened by fire.
In the Young Justice series, although the character looks identical to her comic book counterpart, the character is somewhat different.
Miss Martian appears in the Young Justice animated series voiced by Danica McKella. Within the show, she is the niece of the Martian Manhunter, and is 48 in Martian chronological years, but only 16 by human biological standards (she is 48 years old, but that is equivlent to being a teenager based on martian lifespan). She has shown strong telekinetic and telepathic abilities as well as flight. She can shape-shift - which additionally permits her to camouflage (though not to become truly invisible) - but she currently has trouble mimicking men.
She was able to mimic Red Tornado flawlessly (possibly due to his inorganic nature and simplified anatomy). Other comic-based abilities such as super strength, super speed, invulnerability, super senses, healing factor, and laser vision are not indicated, though intangibility, which she calls "density-shifting" is cited by her as an "advanced technique".
Her lack of or weaker version of certain powers mirror the notable absence of certain abilities in her teammates, such as Superboy not possessing the power of flight or heat vision. However, in "Failsafe" her mental capacities were stated to be far more powerful that her uncle in terms of raw power and potential growth. Martian Manhunter even goes as far to say that she is the most powerful telepath he ever encountered.
She states that she has 12 sisters on Mars, indicating that there is still a surviving Martian society present. Miss Martian's humanoid form and personality, as well as her catchphrase "Hello, Megan!" is based on a character, also named Megan, from an old Earth TV show she enjoyed watching on Mars.
The episode "Image" focuses on Miss Martian's character and she meets Garfield and Marie Logan on a Qurec animal reserve, the latter of whom is revealed to have inspired Miss Martian's human appearance and her catchphrase on a television show called "Hello Megan!". During an airstrike by Bialyan drones Garfield is severely injured and Miss Martian morphs her blood type into O negative to match Garfield's, who becomes Beast Boy and regards Megan as an adopted sister.
Later she confronts Psimon while infiltrating the Qureci President's home, who make her turn into her White Martian form. Her desperation to hide this from her friends becomes obvious when she knocks out Robin, Kid Flash, and Superboy before they find her.
Psimon then makes her see her greatest fears within her mind; the Justice League and Young Justice learn about her true form and openly reject her, Martian Manhunter expelling her to Mars. This drives her over the edge and she defeats Psimon, waking up her teammates and blaming Psimon for knocking them out. Later on, the team confronts M'gann about her real appearance, and Megan exposes her "true" form (in reality she became bald and morphed her skull to match her uncle's).
When she visits a recovering Garfield, Queen Bee is waiting for her, revealing that she is aware of Miss Martian's true form and blackmails her with that information. In "Usual Suspects," Miss Martian gets a message from Queen Bee telling her to meet up with her on Santa Prisco. Before heading there, Miss Martian reveals to the Team that she is a White Martian.
How she's a White Martian and related to J'onn J'onzz I have no idea.
Since the second season of the series, which experienced a five-year jump, she has shortened her hair, and wears a different, stealth costume at all times, and has gained the power of intangibility.
So, how are the figures? Really very nicely done. The animation style of the Young Justice series is different than any previous DC Universe series, and I would have to say in all fairness that it is the most detailed to date.
Whereas the Batman and Superman series that commenced in the 1990's, and the Justice League series that followed, had a very distinctive and common style, and the subsequent "The Batman" and "Batman Brave and the Bold" also had distinctive styles of their own, all of which worked well for their respective series, I would have to describe the Young Justice style as the most detailed, and honestly the most realistic to date. It goes a little bit into anime, but not all that far, and the overall character designs are truly superb.
This is, as one would expect, reflected in the figures. Let's consider MARTIAN MANHUNTER first.
Martian Manhunter stands just under 5 inches in height. He doesn't really have a classic appearance, but he is impressive nevertheless. Arguably the most iconic version of Martian Manhunter is as a green-skinned, muscular humanoid, with a prominent brow, but otherwise fairly human features, dressed in blue trunks with a red belt and red straps crossing over his chest and back, and blue boots and a high-collared blue cape.
Following the events of "World War III" in the comic books, which resulted in a somewhat edgier Martian Manhunter for a time, the character took on a deliberately less human-looking facial and cranial structure, and started dressing mostly in black, with a uniform that covered his entire body (arguably any costume Martian Manhunter wears is simply part of his body, however).
The Martian Manhunter from Young Justice is arguably a compromise between these two visages. The head isn't quite as human-looking as it might be – neither is it as alien. Martian Manhunter has a prominent brow, and his nose seems to descend directly from the brow. His mouth is somewhat distant from the bottom of his nose, and he has prominent cheekbones, and a slightly extended skull in the back. While a bit more radical than his "slightly more human" appearance, it's not as extreme as his "I'm an alien and I don't care who knows it" look. He retains his red eyes, outlined in black, and very neatly painted on the figure.
His uniform is definitely based on the "edgier" Martian Manhunter. He's dressed almost entirely in black, with only his head and hands seemingly exposed. His traditional red straps do criss-cross his chest and back, and he has a red belt. There are narrow red trim lines on the arms and legs of the costume (these trim lines, generally the same color as the rest of the costume, can also be found on other characters – seems to be some sort of weird super-hero fashion trend). These have also been very neatly painted on the figure.
Martian Manhunter has a large blue cape, outlined in red – and THAT can't have been easily accomplished. It has a high collar, but it is different from the traditional Martian Manhunter in that instead of being open in the front, it's closed, and tapers down to the upper chest. There are two yellow circles, which are reminiscent of the clasps of the original Martian Manhunter's cape.
Although the figure does not have a lot of paint details on him, what he does have is extremely neatly done, and the sculpted detail of the figure is similarly impressive. Overall, the figure is an excellent rendition of the character as he appears in the animated series.
Now let's consider MISS MARTIAN. Unlike her uncle, this is the first-ever figure of this character as far as I know. Personally, I'd love to see her turn up in the 6" Young Justice line. I've managed to squeeze a couple of other Young Justice 6" figures into my DC Universe Classics collection (see my reviews on Artemis and Sportsmaster), and I'd be more than happy to do it with this interesting character.
Miss Martian stands about 4-1/4 inches in height, and she has her "Season One" hair length and costume, which is based on the character's appearance in the comic books.
Miss Martian is wearing a short-sleeved white shirt, that has red straps criss-crossing it front and back just like her uncle's. She also has a red belt with a gold buckle. She is wearing a blue skirt, and has blue gloves and boots. Both the gloves and boots are notable for distinct cuffs, which were also a feature of Martian Manhunter's original costume, and the boots also have high heels. She is wearing a blue cape with a black collar and trim, something of an acknowledgement of her uncle's current wardrobe choices, I'm sure. There is a small gold clasp at the top.
Miss Martian has much more human features than her uncle, despite the green skin. She has distinctly human-looking eyes, a normal-looking nose and mouth, and even freckles, as well as reddish-auburn hair which is slightly past shoulder length on this figure.
All of the details are well-painted. However, one slight criticism I would have is that the entire head was molded in the color of the hair, with the face painted green. I can see why this was done from one standpoint, in that the hair actually takes up more space than the face, and so the face would require less paint. However, I did have to deal with a slight paint glitch on the face, and that was not easy. Had the paint situation been reversed, I don't think a paint glitch in the hair would have been as noticeable.
Nevertheless, the facial details are all superbly painted, although there's something about either the sculpt or the painted details that gives the Miss Martian figure a slightly worried expression on her face. While certainly the character faces serious situations in her adventures in the Young Justice series, she's generally been a bit more upbeat than the facial expression of the figure would tend to indicate.
Still, on the whole, it's an excellent figure of the character, and all of the details have been nicely done.
Now, let's discuss articulation, because this is something that the smaller-scale Young Justice figures have taken a lot of grief over. It's true that the line is rather limited in articulation. Both Miss Martian and Martian Manhunter are poseable at the head, arms, and legs – that's it. However, let's consider the fact that the late and lamented Justice League line had no more articulation than that (with a few exceptions of the lead characters at one point), and that line lasted well beyond the end of its animated series, brought in no shortage of characters that were never even on the show, and as of this writing, is looking to offer a handful of online exclusives even past what was intended as the supposed final offerings of the line. It's as though Mattel keeps saying, "Look, this is it, we mean it this time!" and then comes up with a few more.
I'm not saying that the Young Justice line has matched the popularity of the Justice League line. It hasn't – YET, anyway. But I think it's been proven that there's a market for well-crafted figures based on a popular animated series that aren't necessarily given the equivalent articulation of a circus contortionist. I'm all in favor of a well-articulated figure. But I do think that articulation can be taken to excess, as well. The Young Justice small-scale line has decided on an articulation level that, admittedly, by modern standards is quite limited. But what it may lack in articulation, it makes up for in superb likenesses of characters that are part of what I believe stands a good chance of being the new top-of-the-line DC Universe animated series. From that standpoint, I can live with it.
It's worth mentioning that while Miss Martian's skirt is something of an articulation hindrance, it's not as bad of a one as you might think.
So, what's my final word? Okay, I've always been a fan of the DC Martians. And I'm certainly a fan of the Young Justice series. It's telling stories that are just as impressive as the Justice League, and the cast is growing just as exponentially. There's tons of potential here, and I'm definitely a fan of the character design style. I'm very pleased that Martian Manhunter and Miss Martian have been brought into this line, and if you're enjoying the Young Justice animated series, then you should definitely be giving the figures a chance.
The YOUNG JUSTICE two-pack featuring MARTIAN MANHUNTER and MISS MARTIAN definitely has my highest recommendation!