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Detective Comics 326
"The Death of John Jones, Detective!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND DC Comics; April 1964; Jack Schiff, editor; featuring Batman in "Captives of the Alien Zoo!" and John Jones, Manhunter from Mars in "The Death of John Jones, Detective!"

There seems to be a demand for a review of the Martian Manhunter story in this issue-- the 101st and last to appear as a regular feature in DETECTIVE-- and though I wrote a review of the issue once before, I lost it in a hard drive crash and apparently it isn't archived anywhere (it predates the list's move to Yahoo). So I'll try reprising my review.

The story of the "Death of John Jones" is written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa. On the splash page, the Martian Manhunter and his other-dimensional pal Zook stand, along with a solemn Police Chief Harding, tearful Patrolwoman Diane Meade, and some other Middletown cops-- at the spot on the street where John Jones "died". The Manhunter vows, "My friends, I promise to avenge the killing of our dear friend, Detective John Jones-- and will devote the rest of my life to destroy the bizarre power that was responsible!"

A criminal named Vince Durskin sneaks into the home of a curio collector named Collins to steal the most unique item in his collection-- an ancient artifact known as the Idol-Head of Diabolu! Durskin believes he will find hidden treasure inside the idol, for he has found the "secret key that will unlock (it)!" Collins catches Durskin in the act, but Durskin threatens the collector with a gun and escapes. Detective John Jones is assigned to investigate the theft, and, after getting a description of the thief, asks about the stolen item. Collins explains that the Diabolu Idol-Head was an ancient Babylonian artifact that supposedly had "all of the evils of mankind locked up inside it!" He produces a book explaining the legend of Diabolu, and John Jones reads, "Once opened by the secret key, DIABOLU will release one of its evils... and henceforth, each time the full moon appears, the idol will automatically open to release another of its evils!"

Collins urges Jones to prevent the opening of the idol, but it's too late; Durskin has already opened it, and instead of the "rare jewels" he expects, he gets a flash of light that strikes his face and causes destructive beams to emit from his eyes. Durskin is panicked-- he can't look at anything without destroying it-- until he finds that a pair of sunglasses will block the deadly beams. (Apparently he shops at the same eyewear emporium as Scott Summers.) As if giving Durskin the evil eye wasn't enough, the Idol-Head then disgorges a second menace-- a glowing yellow cloud that floats through the city disintegrating whatever it touches. Spotting the cloud, Detective John Jones concludes "This is a job for the Martian Manhunter!" (I guess Superman was already occupied). As the cloud attacks the local airport, J'onn J'onzz hurls some old airplanes into it-- "We'll have to sacrifice these old crates!" -- until, as he hoped, the cloud is temporarily glutted and drifts away without absorbing anything or anyone else. But what happens when the cloud gets "hungry" again?

Meanwhile, Vince Durskin has decided that his new ability isn't such a bad thing, as he takes his glasses off and unleashes his eye-beams to smash in the side of an armored truck and steal the money inside. But the Manhunter arrives on the scene, and his indestructible Martian body is able to withstand Durskin's gaze. Durskin evades the Manhunter, however, by using his beam to blast a giant dinosaur model into the air; while Manhunter is catching it, to prevent it from falling on innocent bystanders, Durskin flees. The Manhunter recognizes Durskin as fitting the description of the Idol-Head thief, and as John Jones he learns Durskin's name and finds his house, wrecked by the first appearance of the glowing cloud. Not finding the Idol-Head in the wreckage, Jones concludes it must have fallen into a nearby river and floated away.

After Jones reports his findings to Police Chief Harding, a bulletin is put out for Durskin, and when he is spotted, the chief assigns Jones to join the force sent to capture him. A call is put out for the Martian Manhunter's help, as well-- but the Manhunter can't very well appear while John Jones is on the scene! Then, while he is trying to figure out a way to switch identities, the glowing cloud appears and a kid in a go-cart rolls into its path. John Jones rushes in and throws the kid out of harm's way-- but he himself is swallowed by the deadly cloud! "I-- I can't believe it! Detective Jones-- gone-- GONE!"

Nor, it seems, will Jones be the cloud's last victim, as it continues its path of destruction. But suddenly the Martian Manhunter appears with Vince Durskin held in his clutches. Reflecting that he was able to switch to his Martian form and pass underground before the cloud actually got him, he stands in the path of the cloud with Durskin held in front of him. "Are you mad? Th-that thing will kill us both!" "Stop wailing! It was YOU who got us into this jam!" But then, as the cloud approaches, Manhunter snatches the glasses from Durskin, and the beams from his eyes strike the cloud. When that happens, the cloud vanishes, and Durskin's deadly beams dissipate as well. "I figured that-- being connected-- the two evil powers might destroy each other!" Kind of a far-fetched hunch, but luckily it panned out.

The Middletown police force, however, is left to mourn the loss of Detective Jones, who is still "dead". Gathering at the site of his death for a memorial, Chief Harding eulogizes, "Detective Jones was the finest officer I have ever known!" and even little Zook cries "Boo-hoo!"-- "Even though I know Manhunter really okay, I miss Detective Jones!" He is consoled by Diane Meade (making her last appearance as the Manhunter's romantic interest): "There, there, Zook, you must try to be brave! We all loved him very much!" The Manhunter makes his vow to devote himself to hunting down the Idol-Head of Diabolu and battling the menaces that emerge from it, and the final caption reads, "And so we say farewell to the detective career of John Jones! The Manhunter from Mars will now be featured in HOUSE OF MYSTERY! Look forward to the next full moon-- and the next evil released!" (See my review of HoM #143 for the next evil.....)

Although John Jones was "killed" in this story, Superman found ways often enough of rescuing Clark Kent from similar apparent "deaths".... maybe the Manhunter was serious about devoting full time to the search for the Idol-Head, or maybe J'onzz was just bored with being Jones.

The lead story in this issue is Batman in his last "Old Look" tale, "Captives of the Alien Zoo!" I covered this story in more detail in my original review of the issue, but I don't really feel like going through it again, so I'll just quickly note that this story was the epitome of the sort of bizarre sci-fi Batman yarn that finally palled on readers and necessitated a "New Look". While flying over Africa in the Batplane, Batman and Robin crash in the jungle and are captured, along with some jungle animals, by aliens who carry them off to their home planet. The Dynamic Duo find themselves put in zoo cages and forced to perform circus-type tricks to get food. Their only hope is to convince the aliens that they are intelligent beings, not mere animals. Escaping captivity, they save an alien's life and prove their intelligence when Batman draws a sketch of the alien's bird-like face in the dirt. After learning the alien language by means of "speech translator" devices, our heroes help foil a plot by alien criminals to use the "zoo animals" for crime, and in gratitude, the alien authorities give Batman and Robin a spaceship ride home. "Thanks! And believe me, your alien zoo is one we won't forget!" (Should we take it that Batman has seen so many different alien zoos that he tends to lose track of them in his mind?)