WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Justice League: No Justice #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Josh Williamson and Francis Manapul, in stores now.
Many of the greatest and most popular comic book characters in history have joined the Justice League over the years. Everyone knows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash, but there are other longstanding members that have mostly escaped the mainstream public's attention. Chief among those heroes is Martian Manhunter, who was a founding member of the Silver Age team, but found himself on the outs when Cyborg replaced him in 2011's New 52 reboot.
It may have made some level of sense from a marketing perspective to have diminished his role in the League at the time (Cyborg is more well known, after all), but it's clear that the creative team behind Justice League: No Justice appreciates the character. In fact, they even gave J'onn J'onzz a brief yet major moment to shine in the first issue.
Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson and Francis Manapul have billed the four-issue weekly series as a chance to pair characters up with those they may not normally interact with, and the first issue made good on that promise in a big way. And yet, despite the introduction of massively dangerous characters, dozens of heroes and villains forced to work together, and a major death, the scene that perhaps stood out the most was the subtle, yet eye-raising conversation between Lex Luthor and Martian Manhunter.
In a moment of peace, the two come together to talk about how much things have changed in such a short period of time. In recent continuity, Martian Manhunter has been missing for an unspecified number of years, and has only just resurfaced toward the end of Dark Nights: Metal. Since he has been away, Lex Luthor went from villain to hero to semi-bad guy again. J'onn may be back with the Justice League, but a lot has changed. Luthor realizes, though, that the success of their current mission may hinge on the abilities of Martian Manhunter.
The super beings Brainiac has recruited are being forced to work with heroes they don't normally interact with. Robin argues with Dr. Fate, and Starfire nearly comes to blows with Sinestro. With heroes now expected to work with villains, it's clear that this mission is on the brink of complete pandemonium, but that's where J'onn J'onzz comes in. Luthor mentions that just because these people have been assigned to the same team, it doesn't mean they will all work well together. When it came to binding teammates together, he points out to J'onn, "You used to serve that role — are you ready to take the mantle up again?"
Martian Manhunter may be a telepath who can literally bind his teammates together and help them work better as a team, but there's more being said here. Over the decades, Justice League members have come and gone. No matter how many times Superman or Batman left the team, though, the one constant on the roster has always Martian Manhunter.
He has played many roles over the different iterations of the team -- leader, mentor, advisor and even something of a den mother. He was there when the Justice League moved to Detroit, he was a part of Justice League International, and he was there when JLA brought DC's superhero pantheon back together. Even after Infinite Crisis, when he cut himself off from the superhero community before being murdered in Final Crisis, his legacy as a founding member of the League stood tall. Then the New 52 took that status away from him, and both he and the Justice League suffered for it.
J'onn J'onzz has long been considered the heart and soul of the Justice League. While other heroes have places to go back to, cities to defend and secret identities to live, Martian Manhunter is the one man who has devoted his life to the Justice League. For all those years, he was the glue that kept the team together, and now he's back, and the team will be stronger for it. Even Lex Luthor knows as much. Now if he can just figure out a way to get everyone to work together in No Justice, maybe they can save the universe.