Young Justice: Phantoms of Mars by Jerry Whitworth
With the surprise release of the first two episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms to coincide with DC Fandome, the two year wait for the fourth season of the cult favorite series Young Justice has ended. Focusing on the lives of the proteges and offspring of the Justice League of America along with other young heroes, Young Justice first aired in 2010. The show was canceled in 2013 after two seasons despite its popularity when toy sales for it and other DC properties failed to perform well enough at the time. However, it was given a new life as an exclusive series for the new streaming service DC Universe and returned with a third season in Outsiders in 2019. Unfortunately, DC Universe struggled in the emerging streaming service climate and Young Justice lingered for years before returning from the dead yet again now as part of HBO Max. Little is known what this new season will entail but thus far, the latest offering has delved heavily into the alien world of Mars. Lets take a look at what we’ve seen thus far and how it relates to the source material. Warning: there will be SPOILERS.
A Martian agent of the law, R’ohh K’arr is a nod to the first Manhunter from Mars Roh Kar introduced two years before J’onn J’onzz in the comics. Appearing in the pages of Batman, Roh Kar was the only law officer on Mars who had observed the heroes of Earth from afar and found inspiration to follow in their example. When the criminal Quork escaped to Earth, Roh Kar pursued him and teamed with Batman and Robin to bring him to justice. It’s likely in some fashion that Roh Kar inspired the creation of J’onn J’onzz (if not in the title Manhunter from Mars alone) in Batman’s companion title Detective Comics. Post-Infinite Crisis, a green Martian named Roh’kar was briefly introduced in the pages of Martian Manhunter as a survivor of Mars imprisoned on Earth.
Crown prince of Mars and a red skin Martian, J’emm J’axx sought the aid of Earth’s heroes visiting Mars to look into the assassination of his father King S’turnn. The character is based upon Jemm, Son of Saturn (making the Young Justice character then J’emm, son of S’turnn), a red Saturnian prince whose parents died as part of a civil war on his planet with the white skin members of the race. His childhood friend and betrothed love Syraa managed to survive the conflict by fleeing to Earth which saw Jemm give chase. Originally, Jemm was going to be J’em, a green Martian cousin of J’onn J’onzz. However, at the time, Justice League of America featured the war between Earth and Mars II and the elements of the two stories would have conflicted with each other. So, J’em became Jemm, Mars became Saturn, and J’onn became Jogarr. Later, red and white Saturnians were retroactively identified as being clones of green and white Martians, respectively, as Jemm became a supporting character for the Martian Manhunter.
A yellow skin Martian priestess that performed Superboy and Miss Martian’s wedding ritual, S’yraa S’mitt saw her skin turned yellow by a mystical process that imbued her with magical power. Noted earlier, Syraa in the comics was Jemm’s beloved who fled to Earth to escape Saturn’s civil war. Phantoms is the first season of Young Justice to mention yellow Martians. In the comics, yellow Martians originally acted as servants of the Duke of Deception, himself a subordinate of the god of war Mars whose base of operations was the red planet named after him. That same year those yellow Martians were introduced, J’onn J’onzz fought the yellow Martian B’rett in the pages of Detective Comics.
White skin Martian brother of Miss Martian and intergalactic terrorist, Ma’alefa’ak appears seemingly as a pawn for the ongoing civil conflict on Mars first introduced last season. In the comics, Ma’alefa’ak is the twin brother of J’onn J’onzz. A scientist taking after his father, Ma’alefa’ak was kidnapped by agents of Apokolips and brainwashed into becoming a disciple of Darkseid. In the wake of Mars successfully defending itself against Apokolips, Ma’alefa’ak continued secretly seeking out elements of the Anti-Life Equation for his master before being caught and mind wiped by his people. Despite this, the influence of Apokolips ran deep and Ma’alefa’ak developed a virus that nearly wiped out his species, seemingly himself and his brother the only survivors for a while. The character largely became the Martian Manhunter’s nemesis in the comics and beyond and was re-imagined as a white Martian in the pages of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
A bio-weapon developed by DeSaad of Apokolips that allegedly will wipe out all non-white skin Martians, the Gene Bomb was introduced at the end of the latest episode of Young Justice given to Ma’alefa’ak. For the source material, the Gene Bomb was developed by the Dominators to be used on the people of Earth to negate the effects of the metagene. However, it actually activated the metagene for latent metahumans instead. The Gene Bomb of Young Justice sounds more like something akin to the Blue Flame of Mars or H’ronmeer’s Curse. For the former, white Martian terrorist Commander Blanx sought to use the Blue Flame to wipe out the green Martians but instead wiped out those of his own skin color. H’ronmeer’s Curse was the name given to Ma’alefa’ak’s aforementioned virus.