Sunday, July 24, 2011

Breach #4 (June, 2005)

With the Beacon destroyed, the Army was preparing to clear out of South Africa. Major Zanetti sat on the sand, having kept silent since the previous day's events. Doctor Campbell Chambers approached Tim, who finally asked who the two men flying toward the camp were.

Superman and the Martian Manhunter were surprised to find themselves surrounded by troopers pointing guns at them. "Well-- this isn't quite the welcome we expected. We're the JLA." The c.o. replied "Sir, we're the U.S.A... Army, that is. I'm Captain Yoshiba. What are you folks doing here?" While Superman explained the the League was investigating unusual energy patterns, J'Onn J'Onzz reached out telepathically to Major Zanetti.

Tim asked Campbell about the strangers. "Oh, that's right... They appeared while you were in your coma. Major, those are superheroes. Our self-appointed saviors." And here Tim thought his outfit was ridiculous. A soldier took offense to how Tim spoke about Superman. "I'm sure he is... Wait, you're serious? That's the big guy's name? Not too much of an ego, eh?" The Doctor was surprised to see Tim display a sense of humor, and he confided that she and her husband had helped keep him sane. He wanted her to know, "before these rages take over for good."

In the first of several instances, J'Onn J'Onzz's telepathic eavesdropping was represented visually through the Martian pantomiming the Major's motions a panel apart. Superman was clearly stalling as he tried to reason with the intractable Captain Yoshiba. J'Onzz asked about "that being," and Dr. Paul Chambers began to answer "Mr. Manhunter, sir--" but was silenced by the captain. "That is classified information, sir. And JLA or not, it will remain classified."

Tate was flown to a German base for questioning by his stepfather, General McClellan, who was relieved to learn his boy had minimal contact with Zanetti. However, he was again disturbed to learn the reason for Tate's side trip to Limpopo was "a brunette with a weird accent and a smoking fetish. Right out of central casting... She was incredibly... compelling..."

Conspiracy novelist Tobias Underwood had begun work without his usual uncredited writing partner in his isolated cabin in the woods. He looked suspiciously like Dr. Ward from Project: Otherside. The cigarette smoking woman appeared after a long absence, assuaging Tobias' fears that "the killers" may have gotten to her. Such fears were unfounded, and she was ready to help Tobias start their new, final book. "We shall call it... Breach."

The army was taking soil samples for analysis of alien traces, but Tim said plainly, "You won't find any. We leave no traces... I meant they probably don't. Slip of the tongue." Batman, sneaking about in the distance, did find traces of Kobra, however.

Superman didn't figure Captain Yoshiba liked him much, and in the absence of a clear threat, the JLA would have to leave. "A hidden threat is often the most lethal. I tell you... something is going on here. And it centers on that individual. From the moment we arrived, I sensed powerful thoughts, thoughts that concern me. At times, unfocused, on the edge of perception. But then moments of frightening clarity... that sears like fire." As the Manhunter flew off without warning back toward the army, Superman shouted "J'ONN!" Yoshiba started freaking out, demanding to contact General McClellan about the situation.

The Herdsman opened a wormhole somewhere, and the Major began tripping out. "Th- there are more of them! Five more. I-- I can sense it." Yoshiba thought he was having another episode, and ordered restraints. Campbell Chambers tried to calm Tim with her hand on his shoulder, which spooked Paul. The Major sent troops flying when they tried to clamp him. Paul pulled Campbell to safety. "I perceive the world differently now. More keenly than these blind idiots. They don't see the growing danger, because they can't. What weak things they are!"

A voice was heard amongst the soldiers surrounding Zanetti, and a translucent blue cape slowly began to appear, until the form of the Manhunter from Mars stood between them and the Major. "So. As I suspected... you were the source of the energy disturbance we detected. Intriguing. Your thoughts burn brightly through you. I feel their heat. They are chaotic, a mass of conflict and pain. They do not... belong. Thus, I ask you... before anyone is injured... stop."

The Major somehow knew the Herdsman wasn't dead, "I know he has brought others with him. And I know this refugee from a bad drive-in movie wants to stop me. Which makes him my enemy. And enemies are to be-- destroyed!" Tim halfway liquified the Alien Atlas with an energy blast. "You said you felt my thoughts? And you still wanted to stop me? What kind of monster are you!?" The kind whose injury would justify the Man of Steel popping Tim in the kisser.

In the suburbs, a nuclear family of two white parents, two mixed gender children, and a house cat fussed in the morning. Something turned up at their door. Tim sensed a horror awaiting them, giving him the strength to knock "Groovy Guy-- or whatever they call you--" on his ass. Heat Vision burned through the Major suit, and Campbell Chambers rushed out to once again defend Zanetti. "Stop! This man is not your enemy. He's an American soldier, one who's undergone tremendous trauma. Something someone like you may not understand. He deserves your respect-- not to be treated like your latest punching bag. Why don't you listen to what he has to say?"

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The Major created a wormhole of his own, but before he could walk through it, a Hand of Steel clamped onto his shoulder. Tim tried to warn Superman, who was certainly in for an "interesting" jolt, but nothing fatal. The Kryptonian grappled with Zanetti until the army could restrain him, and the wormhole closed.

Batman draped a cape over a haggard looking Natural form Martian, and Kal-El asked if he was all right. "I am... coalescing." As for Tim, "I could not read him precisely, my friend. I only know beneath the intense chaos of his thoughts... there is a dark core that threatens to grow and overwhelm him." Regardless, the Flash radioed Batman to tell the team the Pentagon had ordered their immediate evacuation. Superman planned to keep an eye on the operation though, as "They're in over their heads..."

Paul was angry at Campbell for endangering herself, but the fairer Dr. Chambers feared Tim Zanetti had a purpose the military was preventing him from fulfilling. "I can't shake the feeling that something... big... is happening. Something frightening. And that if we don't start listening to him... it will be too late.

"Heroes" was by Bob Harras, Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez. Where Captain Atom was Steve Ditko at his earliest and most commercially mainstream, Martin does an excellent job of gently tapping the vein of divine weirdness Ditko mastered in the late Silver and Bronze Ages. He also works a fine looking on-model Martian Manhunter. Harras does a great job of making everyone on the scene wrong and right, really testing the loyalties of the reader. Tim has some of his dimensions restored in this issue, no pun intended, and the Herdsman's machinations are conveyed with a proper sense of terror. A good issue all around.

Brave New World

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