"The Nicest Place This Side of Mars"  by DarkMark

PAGE ONE:  Three panels at top, then splash.
In the three panels, (1)  An Amtrak train pulls up at a station.  (2) DETECTIVE JOHN JONES alights from the train.   The conductor thanks him for riding Amtrak, and remarks that it's a long trip he's made by train; he could've flown.
I sure COULD'VE, replies John.
(3)  We see John walking off from the train, while he finishes:  But I wanted to take time for MEMORIES.
SPLASH:  J'onn J'onzz's Martian self symbolically hovers over John Jones as he walks the streets of his city, Middletown.  Kids are playing on the streets, a dog chases a cat, a driver argues with a cop about a parking ticket.  All in all, it's just about...
     "The Nicest Place This Side of Mars"

John Jones walks the streets of Middletown, looking at a boarding house where he once lived, and remembering--
FLASHBACK:  J'onn, in Martian form, but in civilian clothes, looking at his bathroom mirror and trying to learn how to tie a necktie.
Mrs. Murray, his landlady, comes in the door.  J'onn switches to human form before she can see him.
Mrs. Murray ties his tie for him.
She leaves; behind her back, Jones unties the tie telekinetically and then re-ties it.

STILL FLASHBACK:  John Jones at the desk of Captain Harding of the Middletown police, presenting his faked police academy papers.
Harding picks up his phone, thinking he's going to check with Administrator O'Hara at the academy; Jones, reading his mind, says, "Mr. O'Hara spoke highly of you when I asked his opinion."
Harding, still holding the phone, asks John how is O'Hara--then thinks of how he and his pals wrote "PIG" on the side of O'Hara's car one time.  John says, He's fine.  He says to tell you his CAR is fine, too.
Harding puts down the phone, reaches for Jones's hand.  Let's see how you do in harness, Mr. Jones, he says.  As they go, John catches sight of Diane Meade.

PAGE FOUR:  Back to present.  John Jones walks by the First National Bank of Middletown.  And he remembers his first big case.
FLASHBACK:  Jones and other cops are barricaded in front of bank.  One cop with a bullhorn; terrorists inside.
Shot of terrorists holding people hostage.
A grenade flied upwards from one of their hands (Jones is invisibly grabbing it), goes behind a counter, and explodes without hurting anyone.  At the same time, the terrorists find themselves kayoed by invisible punches.
Jones comes out of the bank with the three terrorists draped over his shoulders or dragging them out; cops are astonished.

PAGE FIVE:  Jones on block where Diane Meade's house was, remembering how SHE was...
FLASHBACK:  John Jones and Diane at carnival, with cotton-candy cones in hand; barker at shooting gallery asks him to try and win his girl a panda.
Jones shoots down ducks and rings target-bells, shooting BLINDFOLDED.
Diane and John walk away smiling, Diane with panda, barker dumbfounded.

John Jones reflects on how he faked a paper trail.
(1)  Jones imputing false knowledge into the mind of the director of the police academy, mesmerized and sitting before him.
(2)  Jones, invisible, planting fake file with his records into police academy file room.
(3)  Captain Harding at station house, phoning the academy for info on Jones.
(4)  The clerk at the police academy reading the file data back to Harding over the phone, saying he was exemplary...even though NOBODY quite remembers seeing him.
(5)  Jones, in present, laughs as he remembers how Harding never COULD figure him out...but he worked out so well that Harding quite trying.

John Jones walks on, remembering--then turns his head at a female voice.
He sees a housewife, in her mid-forties, in red T-shirt and blue jean shorts and tennis shoes, and wearing an apron, calling for a girl and a boy to quit shooting baskets at the hoop over the garage and help with dinner before Dad gets in.
Jones says, involuntarily, DIANE--
She hears, turns, sees him.  She does a double take.  John?  she whispers.  John JONES?
John stands across the yard from her, striving to conceal his emotions.

John and Diane in the house, at the table, with the kids.  She wonders why he isn't older, isn't married.  He says he studied under DICK CLARK for the first, and as for the other, well, he just never found the right girl.
John tells himself that he's just told a big fat lie.
FLASHBACK:  John Jones and Diane in park.  John is lying with his head in her lap.  She tickles his nose with a flower.  Make me an honest woman, John, she cracks.  Marry me.
Not yet, not yet, Diane, he smiles.  I'd be thinking about you so much--
He stands up, fingers making like guns, "blowing" Diane away, saying, "that on stakeouts, crooks would TAKE ADVANTAGE of me...like THIS!  Ba-da-BLAM!"
"Johnnn, PLEASE..." sighs Diane.
John and Diane look at each other.  She says, "Marry me, John.  I'm lonely.  YOU'RE lonely.  We're getting OLDER..."

John says "No" and turns away.
"DAMMIT, John!" snaps Diane.  "What do you WANT from me?  Aren't I WOMAN ENOUGH for your stupid macho COP SELF?"
He looks at her.  "You're woman enough for ANYONE, Di.  It's just..."  And he turns away again.  "We're from...two different WORLDS."
Back to the present.  John pulls himself out of reverie.  Diane, exasperated at her husband Curt, flips on a beeper from her shirt pocket and asks him where he's at.

Cut to Curt, in a tight shot, who says he'll be lucky to get home C.O.D....

Pull back to show cop cars around a cave, with Curt speaking on the beeper.  A huge, orange monster is crunching a car, howling "MNNNTR!"  Curt describes the scene.

John bolts from the table.  Diane says, Where are you GOING?
To lend a hand, he says.
Diane follows him to the garage, yelling, "John, what the hell can YOU do that the whole POLICE FORCE can't?  Why risk YOUR neck like this?
John changes into his Manhunter self.  "THIS is why, Diane," he replies.  Then he flies off.
"John...you...YOU..." gasps Diane.
She sinks to her knees, the kids coming through the door from the house to near her, as she mutters, "You WERE him after ALL."

Manhunter, flying through the air, remembers another of his friends from the past...ZOOK.

Flashback panels:
(1)  Zook helps Manhunter fight aliens, using his frost power.
(2)  Manhunter tells Zook, sadly, that they have to part ways for a while.  He has to assume another identity and go undercover to fight MR. VULTURE.  He bids Zook, who hides his tears, to be a good soldier and wait for him.
(3)  Months later, Manhunter returns to his cave hideout--and finds Zook lying motionless, apparently dead.
(4)  Manhunter stands grimly over Zook's grave in the cavern.
Back to present:  Manhunter arrives near the cave--his own!--where the orange monster is radiating cold, yelling "MNNTR!"

Manhunter tries to fly near, but the monster radiates heat, forcing him back.
Manhunter confers with the cops, who tell him that if the monster keeps blazing, it'll start a forest fire.  Curt is in this scene.
Manhunter, putting his hands to his mouth, yells, "ZOOK!  ZOOK!  This is MANHUNTER!  TURN OFF YOUR HEAT POWER!"
The monster, still ablaze, hesitates, saying, "Manntr?"
The monster flames off, yelling, in joy, "MANHUNTERRR!"

Police gape as monster crouches over Manhunter, overjoyed to see him.  Manhunter says, "Zook--how did you GET this way?  I thought you were DEAD!"
Flashback:  Zook, in cave, feeling drowsy, torpid, and then going into HIBERNATION.
Zook, in the ground, undergoing the METAMORPHOSIS common to his kind.
Then, hours ago, Zook psychically sensed Manhunter's presence and arose from his trance.  Out of the cave, Zook scared the heck out of a picnic party...and that's where it all began.

Cops are amazed as Manhunter says, "It's been YEARS since you fell asleep, Zook..."
"Wanted to see you, Manhunter.  Didn't know where you were--figured I'd raise ruckus and you'd come."
"You figured right, old friend.  Now...what?"
"Wanted--to say GOODBYE to you," says Zook, and phases out, returning to his home dimension.
Cut to:  a weirded-out Curt arriving home.  He tells Diane that the Manhunter had a message to give her:
Cut to:  two panels of John Jones boarding Amtrak, and the train pulling off into the sunset.
Voiceover of Curt saying, "He said to tell you GOODBYE...and that this has to be...the NICEST PLACE THIS SIDE OF MARS."

J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter From Mars and all other characters in this fict are property of DC Comics.  No money is being made by this story, no infringement is intended.