Professor X may no longer be the X-Men’s greatest asset, but their greatest weakness, as DC’s Human Target has just proven.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Human Target #5, on sale now from DC Comics.
How to beat a telepath? It’s what many haters of the X-Men have wondered for decades, as they were often faced with the possibility of going up against the group’s founder, Professor Xavier. Some had ingenious solutions. Magneto’s helmet, for example, was able to block any telepathic attacks, rendering Charles Xavier’s mental attacks useless against his former friend. But what if you can’t get yourself something like Magneto’s iconic headgear? In the event of a psychic frontal attack, it wasn’t Marvel that revealed the strategy, it was DC.
Christopher Chance’s search for the Justice League member who killed him continued in The human target #5 (by Tom King, Greg Smallwood and Clayton Cowles). The previous issue led him to the Martian Manhunter. The only problem was that interrogating a telepath is tricky. They will already know why you are interviewing them and what you are looking for. So the first step to beating them, before even getting into a mental fight with them, is figuring out how to fight them. In fact, when he and J’onn faced off, Chance’s best option was to lose on purpose.
This number of The human target is different from the others that preceded it. It’s not just about how to interview J’onn Jonzz, he East questioning J’onn J’onzz. This whole issue is the psychic battle between the human target and the Martian Manhunter. It may not seem like it at first, but it soon becomes clear that it is. The issue’s rambling narrative, constantly swinging between different moments in Chance’s life, is disorienting at first. It’s clear that’s how the series’ protagonist feels too, as his usual calm, poised voice doesn’t flow as usual. It’s pulled in a number of different directions, like the narrative itself, and it’s very effective.
Throughout the chaos, the human target remembers his time spent with another seer, Emra of Titan. She tried to train him to resist psychic attacks. In this, The human target provides the perfect metaphor for a telepathic attack. The telepath searches for the most important memory, and as the victim tries to hide it from him, he bypasses all the other memories he has left unattended. As the victim tries to hide these memories from her, she becomes distracted and lets go of what she most wanted to keep. So, in the end, the telepath has free rein over every little secret. It’s a perfect metaphor for an entirely invisible attack and highlights exactly what’s going on in this number, clearing up the chaos for what comes next.
Due to his tragic superhero origin, Chance was unable to let go of his most important memory to fend off the attack, as he needed to. Therefore, Emra gave him a different strategy. He could never win, so the best thing he could do was lose. Offering no resistance to the attacking psychic, they drop into their victim’s mind and allow theirs to be read back.
Chance got what he wanted, as memories of Martian Manhunter bleed into Chance’s narrative and story throughout the issue. Slowly but surely, the difference between the memories of the two became clear and the human target found the vital clue he was looking for in J’onn’s memories. All the while, the mighty Justice Leaguer believed he had won, not realizing that he himself had read his mind as well.
This issue also showed someone who has developed complete resistance to telepaths, but the strategy shown here is far more effective. By losing, Chance got exactly what he was looking for. If he could have developed any mental blocks that could have prevented Martian Manhunter from entering, it would have made his investigation of his own murder all the more difficult. It seems that, despite the power of telepaths, they have a fatal flaw. Using this technique, someone like Professor X would no longer be a threat. In fact, they would be a major liability. With this simple trick, everyone’s secrets are on the table. Telepaths generally believe that they have nothing to fear from those who cannot resist them. Now they are the thing they should fear the most.
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