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The Covers of Superman #75

Here are the covers to Superman #75 from November, 1992:

superman_0075_all_versions

I’m not certain if the second through fourth printings were made available to actual newsstands to have the bar code instead of creator credits in the UPC box (and I’m not sure that I have a version of the first printing with the creator credits). But aside from barcode/not-barcode, these are the six* versions of Superman #75/the death of Superman from 1992 that one might come across.

(* does not include the “platinum” edition nor the 1999/2000 Millennium Edition)

  1. Black-bag Collector’s Edition (may or may not be opened, may or may not contain the bonus items that ‘necessitated’ the bag)
  2. Opened Black-bag edition with none of the accessories
  3. Newsstand edition first print
  4. –second print
  5. –third print
  6. –fourth print

Back in 1992, I’d gotten the black bag edition, opening at least one of the copies (I believe I wound up with 3 total). Right around that time, I was only ever able to get the fourth print newsstand edition…coming across the other printings and bag-less collector’s edition copies in recent years in quarter/bargain bins.

Perhaps suggesting just how relatively “common” the issue has become IN bargain bins…rather than selling one of the tattered-cape covers, I recently saw a dealer at a convention selling a “set” of all 4 printings for whatever price (I couldn’t read it from a distance and didn’t feel like asking).

Hard to believe it’s been 24 years.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour #0

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0000Zero Hour

Story and Layout Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Jerry Ordway
Letters: Gaspar
Colors: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Here we are, at last–the final issue of Zero Hour itself. We’ve seen time anomalies pop up, and worsen. We’ve seen heroes discover time is being destroyed in the past and the future, working toward the present. We’ve seen the emergence of Extant, and the fall of the Justice Society. We’ve had dozens of tie-in issues where few have directly been part of this core event, though a fair number have danced on the edges. We’ve seen Hall Jordan–former Green Lantern, now Parallax–revealed as the sentient, actual manipulator of things as he seeks to wipe the slate clean after his own trajedies. The heroes have failed, all time and space has been destroyed, and a handful of heroes pulled outside it all, while another small handful remains with Parallax.

Hal prepares energies for the re-creation of the universe, of all existence. His way will see many worlds, and all wrongs will be set right. There will be the Earth everyone knew, minus stuff like the Coast City disaster. There will be a world that Batgirl remembers, in which she was never assaulted by the Joker. Even Extant will have his own world to rule over. Everyone will be happy. This is opposed–how can Hal be God? Waverider and his group of heroes attacks, disrupting Hal, and ultimately–after quite a scuffle–the universe IS reborn…but it unfolds "naturally" withOUT any one entity controlling it, tweaking it. As such, events unfold mostly as remembered, but here there are no alternate timelines, so everyone, everything is folded into one single chronology. The potential time-loop is closed, and all it costs is Hal Jordan and the young Kyle Rayner…while Green Arrow is wracked by the guilt of losing (having had to try to kill) his best friend.

For some reason, the phrasing "the universe is born old" sticks out to me, reading the issue. That may be random or personal and get into stuff I’m not really going to get into in a comics blog, but it’s a key phrasing to my reading.

A lot happens in this issue–look a couple paragraphs above, and that feels like scratching the surface. And yet, it’s a simplistic issue. Time is restarted; Hal wants to tweak it his way, but he’s stopped and so it restarts and unfolds naturally, so it’s similar to before, with small adjustments that functionally "explain away" continuity glitches and timing and such; shuffling a few events here and there to mash into one specific timeline.

We’re left with the notion that anyone that died via entropy or the time fissures has been restored…while anyone who died "outside of Time" (such as the Justice Society) remains dead. Victory, but at a cost.

The art and visuals remain excellent here with clean, crisp pages and dynamic layouts and (to me) iconic scenes playing out.

I don’t know if I’d recommend this as a stand-alone issue out of context of its other issues, but in a way it does work as a singular thing. You open on nothingness, and from that, Hal and his group; the opposing group, we see the FINAL final battle, the villain defeated and the universe restored…and a hint of what’s to come, as well as a fold-out timeline laying everything out for now and moving forward into the rest of 1994 and beyond. So it works as an artifact of sorts, as seeing the end of the story. And if you’re actually going to read it–whether re-read or you’ve never before read it–it’s definitely worth getting if you come across it. But it’s even better if you can snag all five issues–4/3/2/1/0–and read this core story even without any of the other tie-ins!


Going beyond the issue itself and expanding on stuff…

This is a really effective issue and makes me think. There’s a part where Hal smiles, explaining he just wants to make everything right, he wants everyone to live, where I wonder if the intent was to go for a "creepy" smile, or a "mad" smile, as if Hal’s insane. Personally, I have always–and again this time through–found myself wondering ok, why SHOULDN’T he be able to fix things? He’s not talking about recreating a universe that he RULES, or subjugating entire populations, or ending his actions with half the living entities dead, or stuff like that. He’s not targeting any particular people to wipe them out–he’s not even talking about killing Mongul. He just wants a universe where wrongs are set right, and Coast City never blows up.

Yet the argument opposing him makes sense–who is HE to singularly dictate events? Things happened for a reason, and need to remain that way, or Time WILL be altered. So really, my heart hurts for the guy, on the surface, and without considering that he was willing to wipe out the entire universe (he was gonna put it back…). And in the end, all the ramifications and little detailed points are far too numerous to address in a blog post.

I buy into this. I didn’t get into comics until about 2 1/2 years after the original Crisis. While I’d read a couple issues of Armageddon 2001, and a number of Eclipso: The Darkness Within and eve more of the Bloodlines stuff…and of course Doomsday/Funeral for a Friend/Reign of the Supermen, as well as Knightfall, KnightQuest, and KnightsEnd…this was my first DC Universe-wide event of this scale. This story ironed out details I didn’t even know at the time were issues. But it did solidify for me the notion of everything being in one single timeline…and the issue even provides a timeline, concretely laying out where/when major things happened (at least as relevant to the publishing schedule of DC in 1994!).

This was epic, and really set the standard for me of what great events could be. Of course, I’d mainly read only the core series, the Superman chapters, and several others, so it wasn’t until my current reading project of going through the entirety of the event–every single tie-in I’m aware of–that I saw the major cracks in that, and how so many issues were only loosely connected.

Looking back on this current reading experience vs. 22 years ago, I don’t feel like I actually DID "miss out on" anything back then. I did not find anything in these various issues that expanded my understanding of the story or filled in any gaps that I’d truly wondered about or that truly impacted the story…and I was disappointed at some that I’d expected would be expanded on/filled in that really were not. It seems like the issues I’d read back in the day–the Superman titles, Batman, Green Lantern, the core mini–were very much a complete enough experience.

That said, this has provided me a "survey" of a month’s worth of DC titles from July 1994, basically sampling over 30 different titles (though several "families" of related titles are in that).

There’s a lot more that can be discussed on Zero Hour itself–as a story, as an event, on ramifications and implications in-story and on a meta level. Structurally, I found this to be a solid event, and going back the 22 years, it really "set the standard" for me, and I truly MISS when even a universe-wide MAJOR event would "only" take up one publication month–with a WEEKLY core series and just one issue of tie-in per TITLE (though related titles could expand to have larger arcs tying in).

New Books And How They Could Have Been Better

Taking advantage of an online discount, I snagged several volumes recently that I was really quite interested in…if not entirely "justified" in ordering.

new_ist_books

I’m at least the previous volume behind in reading on The Walking Dead. But I really did not want to let myself get away from "keeping up with" the series in collected volume format…and I can definitely see sitting down and binge-reading several in one go, my periodic binge rather than slogging through issue by issue.

I’d heard really good things about Titans Hunt, and rather than track down 7 or 8 issues at $3+ apiece, I waited a couple extra months for the collected volume. While I certainly do NOT disapprove of it also containing an issue of New 52 Justice League along with the Titans: Rebirth issue…it kinda makes the Lois and Clark volume look a little light by comparison.

I thoroughly enjoyed Superman: Lois and Clark as a series before I had any inkling of a Rebirth or this Superman (the closest to "my" Superman I see in modern comics) "taking over," and was quite thrilled that "even though" the series was retroactively a "mini-series," it was leading into the character taking over the main books.

But honestly…if Titans Hunt can include two additional issues beyond its core-titled run…why the heck did this Superman volume not contain Convergence: Superman #s 1-2?!? The inclusion of just those two issues would have pretty much made the volume as perfect a collected volume as I could imagine.

I have no desire to buy one of a bunch of other TPBs "just" to have those two issues on my bookshelf. I might have to just bag the Convergence issues and slip ’em in between this and whatever’s on the shelf next to it.

Zero Hour Revisited – Booster Gold #0

90srevisited_zerohour

booster_gold_0000Blue & Gold Chapter 1: The Secret Origin of Booster Gold

Written by: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Pencil Art by: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Randy Gentile
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Jurgens & Rapmund
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I probably should have actually tucked this in with the "week 3" issues, as this 1. does not end on white pages and 2. takes place prior to events seen in "week 4." C’est la vie…I put this issue almost at the end of stuff because of it being a "retroactive tie-in" published a decade and a half AFTER the actual series.

This issue sees Booster Gold and the Blue Beetles travel through time, and cross paths in the timestream with Parallax (Hal Jordan) and Extant (Hank Hall) circa Zero Hour, 1994. Parallax damages their time-bubble and they’re forced into the 25th Century (with no need to chase down the time-trouble-makers, as they’ve already been dealt with IN Zero Hour–oops, we’ll see that shortly). Turns out the exact day the group emerges in is the day that Booster "threw" a football game and was caught doing so. While striving to ensure that this timestream is not disrupted, they use resources available to continue their own mission and we learn a bit more about Booster’s background as well as the Blue Beetle (several of ’em!) before things have to be dealt with–like putting Dan and Jaime back in their own times without any memory of this issue or the previous having happened…and Ted’s poised to be another "Hero You’ve Never Heard Of" alongside Booster… it’s Blue & Gold, reunited! Though the two quickly realize there’s a bit of a Brother Eye problem that may end things before they’ve truly begun.

This issue was actually published in 2008, some 13 1/2 years after Zero Hour. We were post-Infinite Crisis, post-52, mostly through Countdown, heading toward Final Crisis. And in the early issues of the Geoff Johns run on Booster Gold, with art by Dan Jurgens–the character’s creator and Norm Rapmund‘s excellent inks. And I recall this being one of the more fun series at the time, certainly one of my favorites.

In fact, I had covered the issue at the time, for comiXtreme (and republished in this blog years later), and rated it quite highly. That particular review was based on the issue in that context rather than as a random issue added to this mix, hence any discrepancies between then and now.

Ultimately (given the 14-year-gap in publication) this issue does nothing for the understanding of Zero Hour itself, moving the 1994 series along, etc. But this makes a fun tie-in and providing a more grounded "time" to touch base with–a nod to older/longer-time readers–while serving its own story.

This issue actually kicks off the second arc in the Booster Gold title, and leaves me quite interested in re-reading it…unfortunately, I don’t believe I have any of the early collected volumes, nor ready access (consolidated) to my singles at the moment.

I don’t recommend this in context of Zero Hour itself, really, but it was a great throwback issue, touching in continuity and playing off the #0 issues concept (this was the seventh issue of the series). But as a Booster Gold story, I very definitely recommend the Blue and Gold arc that this kicks off, as well as the first one, 52 Pickup.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour #1

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0001Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Jerry Ordway
Letters: Gaspar
Colors: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

We pick up with a group of heroes–Guy Gardner/Steel/Supergirl/Batgirl–being pulled back into stuff from where-ever they were. Extant is put in his place (with green energy from the mystery figure–who is apparently a "bigGER bad" than Extant who has been the "focal villain" thus far). The Legion/Legionnairres fade out as the Time Trapper is ‘killed’ again; Power Girl’s baby is about to arrive, while heroes from other times (Impulse, Booster Gold both from the future) start fading out as Time is being eaten away from both ends. Representing the past, Jay Garrick (the original Flash) gets an in-person meet with the Spectre right before fading away (as Spectre swears he’ll be avenged). Things continue to deteriorate for the heroes, and Extant looks like he’s about to take out the remaining resistance when the day seems saved at the sudden appearance of Waverider–an alternate timeline Waverider, anyway. The last heroes wrest the ‘upper hand’ and things seem just about over when the TRUE "big bad" of the piece finally steps in to take an active role…taking out Superman with one punch, as the rest of the heroes look on in shock. The clock runs out as Hal Jordan–former Green Lantern, now going by the name Parallax–declares "It’s over. Your time is over. All time is over. This is Zero Hour." He then steps into nothingness, talking of how the universe needs to be remade…and even hints at a multiverse.

I’ve been approaching even this re-read with the full knowledge of who was ultimately behind everything…so re-reading the beginning was interesting as my memory jolted and I recalled that initially, Extant was played as the central villain of the piece…which had made sense at the time, given he was already involved with time-travel stuff and mucking with time, from the Armageddon 2001 stuff barely 3 years earlier. I continue to be impressed at how tight this core story actually is, how CONTAINED it is. Despite the many tie-ins, thus far there’s been so very little that actually seems to be any kind of driving force to the plot of this core story, making it all the more key as it has a huge impact (if only short-term) on so many characters.

And I continue to love the art on this…all I can really say right now is that it is solid, great, conveys everything, and is such a real treat to see, reading through the issue.

It’s also interesting to re-consider certain memories I’ve thought I had from the story and the covers…stuff I’ve thought I remembered but didn’t happen here, and stuff that I didn’t remember that does, and stuff I’ve just plain forgotten. I definitely remember being rather surprised the first time I ever read this–I’d already read Emerald Twilight so knew what had "happened to" Hal Jordan, but up until turning to that particular page, I never guessed that he would be behind things (even though it seems so obvious when I go into the reading any time since, as well as the cover of the paperback giving it away!).

We’ll see if any of the "final week" tie-ins "matter" to the story–I recall them all ending on blank pages, signifying the "fade out" of all existence at the end of this issue where the heroes seem to have failed.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #2

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0002Story and Pencil Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Back in the ’90s, we had a number of odd numbering schemes. It was an age of #0 issues (not even talking about the Zero Month that followed this event)–wherein publishers would put out “origin” or “prequel” issues to something, and gave it a #0 to place it before the #1 issue. Wizard Magazine would create a number of #1/2 issues (think “0.5”) as well. Still others would do goofy stuff like Malibu with their Ultraverse line–doing a 4-issue mini-series numbered #0-3 rather than 1-4. With Zero Hour, here we are at issue #2, and it’s actually the third issue of the series…counting backwards from #4, such that when we hit 0, we’re truly at Zero Hour.

Opening on Vanishing Point, Waverider reacts to Extant’s reveal, and then we shift to Metron and Superman’s group, as they deal with a future city about to settle over New York–something that spells the end for BOTH cities. While that’s dealt with, there’s a moment to mourn, and the JSA is no more. Superman’s group moves to the 30th century to face the entropy there, while Jay plans to confront an old ally, and we get other bits of subplots amidst various heroes. Back in the 30th century, our heroes are attacked by the Team Titans and Extant, and suffer a significant loss. Salvaging the situation, the Entropy rift is neutralized, thereby accomplishing the mission in the future. The heroes return to the 20th century, while Extant rails against the situation unfolding counter to what he–as a time-traveler–knew to occur. Finally, a shadowed figure calmly, casually re-opens the rift.

This was quite the issue for me…particularly in the realm of nostalgia. A lot happens in this issue, there are a lot of references to outside events, as well as stuff that can be expanded on, as well as key, iconic “moments.” The most significant there–for me–was Jay and Alan resigning their roles, becoming the FORMER Flash and FORMER Green Lantern–passing those duties to Impulse (in Wally’s absence” and Kyle as truly THE last Green Lantern.

The torch, held with nobility and honor by the first generation–has been passed. There is no applause. No words of congratulations. The silence screams respect.

That bit of captioning has long been one of those memorable “quotes” to me. “The silence screams respect.” Such simple phrasing, and yet it conveys something huge and monumental…or what sure seemed like it and was intended to–at the time. (Nevermind what’s happened with the characters in the 22 years since 1994).

The story moves along at a fast pace, and as with the previous issue of this core mini, I continue to realize just how “core” this was, keeping the “main” events within the title, as I’ve come to realize that the tie-ins really do seem far more like tie-ins than actual expansions or continuations of the story. Any crucial scene in another book that has any key or significant impact here…is duplicated, such that even with the ultra-“compressed” nature of this story (5 weekly issues instead of some year-long spectacle with dozens of crucial side issues and the like) one does not seem to truly need to follow any of the tie-ins.

The art continues to be fantastic, and it’s rather astonishing to see the overall quality maintained on something like this–a consistent creative team on an entire Event book published weekly with a couple dozen tie-in issues…and this was weekly. (My, how Times have changed…this entire mini had to basically have already been completed before the first issue hit…rather than the Event getting halfway through and going off the rails by a couple months and causing a cascade effect!)

Strong story, great art…everything’s gotten across as it needs to; even a scene I totally misinterpreted the first time I read (I missed that the shadowed entity at the end was NOT actually Extant). At this point–with two issues to follow this as well as a number of tie-ins yet, I definitely would say that if you find these single issues or can get the collected volume–it’s well worth it…and works very nicely on its own even without the tie-ins. And though its impact has faded with time…for 1994, this was a key, crucial, important, impactful event that truly affected the entirety of the DC Universe.

Zero Hour Revisited – Superman #93

90srevisited_zerohour

superman_0093Home!

Story and Layout Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Josef Rubinstein
Lettering: John Costanza
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure if I’ve actually re-read this issue since the summer it was originally published; and I definitely feel like I’ve now read it slightly out of order…it seems to be kinda crammed somehow in between Zero Hour #s 4 and 3, almost like this and Man of Steel should have been read “alongside” Zero Hour #4.

Amidst all the stuff going on with Time Anomalies, Superman finds himself back in Metropolis, agonizing over a call from Ma–does he help his own parents, “only 2 people,” or focus on and stick to helping “The world” at possible expense of his parents? He makes the choice and zips to Smallville, where he finds two people claiming to be his BIOLOGICAL parents, who explain how it is that they’re there–that Krypton never actually blew up, and has entered a new golden age, but for the missing Kal-El. Their time here is limited, and they want him to come back with them permanently. Superman thus has another choice to make. But as his choice plays out, tragedy strikes, and even though he realizes they were time anomalies, he feels orphaned again. Before he can grieve much, he’s pulled back into the main Zero Hour story.

There were parts of this issue that struck me as a bit odd or “off,” as it especially seemed like Superman was a bit too quick to accept this Jor-El and Lara as genuine from his timeline, rather than accepting them more as “just more time anomalies.” Of course, being who they are, he’d be a bit understandably biased and such, so that’s not a huge deal. In their recounting events that unfolded on the not-exploded Krypton, though, there’s mention of their clothing being life-support suits or such, like what they wear is essential to literal survival…which is NOT something I consciously remember at all from anything I’ve read. I don’t know if that was some slip, or I forgot something, or what. I also feel like there was some senseless “drama” to the issue, with Jonathan and Martha “worrying” about Clark up and leaving. To me, the Superman I grew up on and the understanding I have for the Superman of this period of publishing: he was sent from Krypton in the gestation matrix, so was not even BORN yet, he was not even a conscious entity on Krypton and thus never knew his biological parents, nor had they ever met. He grew up on earth with Jonathan and Martha, not even knowing he was not their biological son until he was 18 (half his entire life as of this point if Superman was in his early-30s). Maybe I myself am biased in my own life experience, but it seems to me that there should never have been any real drama about whether or not he’d leave. Still, Zero Hour provides a perfect context to be able to touch on this, to put this experience into Clark’s story for later use.

The art seemed slightly off, though not bad at all…but I find myself pondering the credits a bit: Layout Art and Ink Art, and that could be what I noticed–Rubinstein may have had more of a hand in the art itself than Jurgens; if Jurgens did very loose art, as “layouts” for what he envisioned for the story, that keeps the consistency of the title, but it looks like Rubinstein might have been able to do more original art beyond “just” inking. Whatever the case and despite seeming slightly “off,” it worked well for the issue, holding the look and “feel” of ’90s Superman. Beyond the observation/speculation, really nothing complaint-worthy with the art!

Given Jurgens‘ involvement as the writer of Zero Hour itself, it makes this feel like it’s that much more important–with him using Superman in ZH and knowing what’s to come, he can “use” the character more effectively than someone else just “tying in” to the story. That’s also something I never consciously thought about originally but likely contributed to some of my reading experience  at the time, and what I’m noticing in the issues I’m reading for the first time now. Namely, Jurgens being one of the core Superman writers (and I was following all the Super-books) as well as writing the main Zero Hour (that I was following) meant I was reading pretty much the entirety of Jurgens‘ hand in the event, and perhaps the Superman books (with Jurgens being a core member of that writing team) by “default” got to have just a little more perceived importance.

I definitely enjoyed rereading this issue, and look forward to the other couple Superman books, though I only recall slight bits of detail from each. This issue touches directly into the looser flow of Zero Hour itself…it’s not essential, but it’s got direct touches to Zero Hour itself where most of these tie-ins tie only on the loosest basis that there’s “something” going on with Time or there’s some sort of “Time anomaly” that happens/appears in a book…so as tie-ins go, I’d recommend this ahead of most of the ones I’ve read so far. Maybe at the end of this reading project I’ll make up a list of “core” issues that I’d recommend reading along with the central mini…maybe I won’t.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #3

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0003Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

We open with Jay Garrick lamenting the loss of Wally–first Barry in the last Crisis, now Wally in this one. While Waverider, Jay, and the other “elder” heroes prepare to take the fight to Vanishing Point, Superman and Metron arrive at the gathering of the other heroes as they try to properly organize. There’s a brief aside with the Time Trapper, mirroring the Trapper/Rokk scene from Valor #23 (the “key moment” from that issue). Waverider and the Hawks are separated from the rest of the JSA mid-teleport to Vanishing point; where they wind up, Waverider witnesses a merging of “the Hawks,” all the versions of Hawkman over the years settling into a single entity. At Vanishing Point, Extant takes the older heroes apart, outright killing or aging all of them (removing what had kept them physically young), save Green Lantern/Sentinel (Alan Scott). Unable to  get through his powers, Extant de-powers Scott’s ring. Waverider and the “merged” Hawkman joined the “other heroes” before Waverider sensed things and disappears to Vanishing Point…where he’s too late to prevent Extant’s attack on the JSA, and the villain reveals a stunning secret to Waverider–that of who and what he truly is (beyond what we saw in the prelude story).

I’d almost swear I’ve “always” read this story in one close-together chunk…the only exception being that summer the issues were originally being published, where I’d read them the week they were put out and then had to wait until the next week for the next issue. With that in mind…it’s rather weird getting to this issue, having forced myself to read EIGHT OTHER issues between. This main story was thus majorly disrupted for me, so much that I could–in a manner of speaking–almost say that I’d forgotten what happened in the last issue.

Of course, one gets back up to speed (no Flash pun intended) pretty quickly as we get back to that plot point–a Flash has died, and it’s the “older generation” of heroes that remains once again. Though I might have argued the point reading the previous issue–that the story could only be enhanced reading the tie-ins–actually having read some of them now and been largely underwhelmed, I’m that much more convinced that the core Zero Hour story truly does stand on its own. This gives a reader what they need just in the core title withOUT being REQUIRED to read tie-in issues. There’ll surely be some exceptions to that, some rich pieces that truly make full use of the crossover, but with stuff like the Legionnaires and Outsiders issues and even Green Lantern being business as usual with only the loosest connecting tie, I’m quickly convinced they’re far from necessary.

As with the previous issue, both the story and the art are very strong, giving us quick bits on several situations, definitely moving things forward and setting up plot elements both for the rest of the event as well as character points for DC continuity going forward. This both looks and feels like the previous issue, like it’s the next chapter of the larger story–as it should!

The aging of, and deaths in, the JSA are quite memorable and iconic for me–this was my “introduction” to most of the characters and the generational concept in the continuity of DC Comics. I didn’t know who all of them were–and I’m still not familiar with all of them, though I at least RECOGNIZE them all now. Within this issue, Superman references recent events in his own book, which leaves me thinking either there’s no absolute, good order to read these in…or whatever I was working from was more than a little off.

Obviously this is not an issue one would jump into cold, and as the second issue of five, of a WEEKLY Event series, I doubt anyone would expect to. We get the continuation of the core story, key elements from other books (Rokk/Trapper) are drawn into the core story as applicable, and we have events that’ll presumably be touched on in other tie-ins for the next round of books.

All in all, after the first round of books I’d have to say I don’t feel like I missed anything by not having really read outside the Superman and Batman titles originally…and it remains now to be seen if I find more tie-ins that are suitably crucial to the core Event in the next round of tie-ins.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0004Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

As a weekly, core event mini-series, there is a LOT that happens in this book. Also, though this is the first issue of the series, it was numbered as 4–because we’re counting down TO Zero Hour, and go from #4, to #3, down to #0.

This was my first DC Universe event that I got in on from the very beginning. While I count Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines as events, those played out in Annuals and thus were a separate thing from the actual titles. Zero Hour played out across actual issues of a bunch of different series throughout July 1994, and was truly an Event, capital-E.

We open on the Time Trapper being killed. Knowing the end of this story and 20+ years of DC history since, it makes total sense who the villain of the piece is from these pages, though I recall being entirely clueless at the time. We then jump around quite a bit as pieces are moved into place, both for this core series and to set things up for tie tie-in titles for the first week of the event. Metron finds Darkseid and urges him to act. When that fails, he leaves on his own to seek allies elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Joker finds himself facing Batgirl, and then an equally-surprised Batman and Robin who don’t know who this young woman is. The Linear men become aware of a disturbance in Time, so Waverider and Hunter (with no reference at all to Sum: Zero–the Prelude to Zero Hour from Showcase ’94 #s 8-9) are dispatched to investigate. They arrive in the far future just in time to see The Flash–Wally West–die trying to shut down the rift eating through Time itself…they escape into the past. Back in the present, Superman meets up with Batman for the first time since before their respective “big events” (Superman’s death/return and Batman’s broken back/healing)…just as Metron shows up. Waverider and Hunter then encounter a young Hal Jordan, himself displaced in time, and try once again to stop the rift, but this time only Waverider gets out, though Hunter is able to tell him to look up a “crisis.” Back on Earth in the present, Hawkman confronts Vandal Savage, and then splits into numerous iterations of himself, confusing Savage. Metron and Superman locate Kyle Rayner, the current Green Lantern, and broadcast a message to the heroes of Earth, informing them of the situation. Metron then confronts the Spectre; Hawkman re-merges with himself as the Justice Society shows up; Vandal Savage disappears, and Waverider appears, bearing the horrible news of this crisis having already claimed its Flash…and Extant gloats.

Given its relative quick point, I’ll touch on the art, first. It’s Jurgens…with Ordway. Fantastic stuff, some of my absolute favorite, particularly given their involvement with the Superman books, this was a line-wide event, but helmed by “the Superman guys” I was already familiar with, AND Superman’s involved, so when this came out, it seemed a natural extension–or expansion–for me, and fit perfectly. Even now in 2016, I love the art, and it just IS. This being my first such event, and these guys on the art, their work became instantly “iconic” for me, and a standard I often hold stuff to even after another 22 years.

Story-wise, this also fit into the Superman books of the time–my core anchor to the then-DC Universe. His involvement here brought me into it (Ditto Waverider), and though at the time I wasn’t all that familiar with many characters, there were enough that I WAS familiar with that it never turned me off. I understood–even then–that this was bringing together a ton of different characters, so I followed along, getting more out of the characters I knew, and rolling with those I did not. Some of the scenes that unfold in this book remain iconic to me both in the visuals as well as story beats–particularly the Flash’s big moment.

We get just enough in this issue itself to grasp the core of what’s going on–rifts in Time are eating backward from the End of Time as well as the Beginning, causing anything from those periods to cease to exist, both ends moving toward the late 20th century. We see characters experiencing chronal anomalies, as everyone is affected from humans to gods and everyone in between.

This issue virtually ignores the prelude bits from Showcase ’94, without even a reference or footnote pointing readers to it, so I certainly didn’t miss it back then, though it gives context for the panel Extant appears in here. Other than that, we’re introduced to the situation, see how it’s affecting things, see various characters face the situation while others notice its effects, a call to action goes out, and though this issue alone provides a lot of story, it also shows us glimpses of things that are expanded on in various tie-in issues. I only remember reading several of the Batman and of course the Superman tie-ins, and this core series and getting plenty from the Event. This time through, I’m reading every tie-in that I’m aware of, hopefully lined up with the weeks they were originally released in (corresponding to the core mini’s issues).

The core series was a 5-issue WEEKLY book…with the entire event, start to finish (outside of the prelude) taking place in ONE MONTH. Blink, and you miss it. Blink twice, and you missed the Zero Month as well. Drastically unlike modern events that can take six or more months to a year to play out, chewing up entire ARCS in a title or filling entire mini-series if characters’ involvement can’t interrupt something in their individual titles. Zero Hour, then a bunch of #0 issues for Zero Month, then the DC Universe continued on.

That I’m about to dive into all of the tie-ins along with the core series and Superman/Batman books is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And as a self-proclaimed Official Reading Project, I’ll be sharing my experience in writing, as I intend to cover every issue (including the Booster Gold issue from Geoff Johns).

The clock is ticking…

Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #9

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0009The Secret Origin of Scarface part Two – Call Me Scarface

Script: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Art & Colors: Teddy Kristiansen
Lettering: Ken Bruzenak
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Neal Pozner
Cover: Shawn McManus
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Much as with the first chapter of this Scarface story, the art’s rather simplistic…but expecting it this time and looking past it not being ‘great’ and just taking it as it is, it works very well here getting everything across that needs to be, at least in not taking me out of the story AS I read, and leaving me satisfied with the story at the end.

Wesker and Woody make good on their escape–though it involves a brick-to-the-face and then hanging of Donnegan, and the murder of a couple of guards. We see Wesker falling prey to whatever madness Donnegan had–as the dummy seems to be the lead and the Ventriloquist following. We also get a sort of explanation for Scarface’s speech thing–his “B” having a “G” sound–as Wesker isn’t that great a ventriloquist.

The story is fitting, and I’m definitely quite satisfied with this “origin” of Wesker as The Ventriloquist, and Scarface, how they came together and all that. I can certainly visualize this being summarized in a one or two page origin–perhaps that’s been done elsewhere already (in Countdown, perhaps?) but that’s mostly irrelevant for now. As a lead feature in an anthology title, it works, was an enjoyable read, and after the first chapter in the previous issue I was actually looking forward to this and trusting that it was to be a 2-part story and nothing longer.

A Story

Writer: Terrance Griep, Jr.
Penciller: Kyle Hotz
Inker: Pav Kovacic
Colorist: Mike Danza
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Editor: Neal Pozner

This “middle story” is a brief one, but interesting. Like the Wildcat piece in the previous issue, it’s singular and self-contained; a slice of life sorta thing. We meet Pax, a man bent on revenge against the alien parasites that slaughtered his people–the entire population of his world except he himself. As he narrates his story, it comes to light that the parasites can look like anyone, and we see him take on a group of them, killing them…and moving on. When he’s picked up by a group of “police,” he begins his narration again as we see that his hunt-and-kill mission continues.

I had absolutely no idea what to think of this story at first. At the first page, I thought MAYBE this was Vandal Savage or someone of that nature, given the name “Pax,” but obviously I was quickly proven wrong in my assumption. The parasites appear to be the sort that we saw in Bloodlines–the Annuals event from 1993, which would make sense given this story would have been out just a few months after the end of that event in Bloodbath. And for a one-off story, seeing someone hunting the parasites would kinda show them to be a bigger deal than just the few that made it to Earth and caused the trouble they did.

The lack of expectation going in, of even knowing what the segment was to be about, worked in its favor. The art fits, gets stuff across quite effectively; and has little to be compared to on this read-through. The story itself is ultimately forgettable, but still worth having read it. Reading this in 2016, though, it puts me in mind of 2014’s Armor Hunters from Valiant…as the lone survivor of a planet hunting down parasites like those that destroyed his planet, with singular vision and little regard for the consequences beyond killing the parasites.

Thinking of it as the likes of Armor Hunters actually makes me like it all the more. While I wouldn’t care for any sort of dedicated mini-series or ongoing series like this…as a “random” thing in an issue I’m reading anyway, it’s well worth the several minutes of reading and realization!

Sum: Zero part two

Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Frank Fosco
Inks: Ken Branch
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Editor: Neal Pozner

Once more, the final part of the issue is the selling point, the story I read the issue for.

We pick up on Monarch holding Waverider and Hunter in a stasis field. Though he’s able to get them into the timestream, he lacks the control to direct himself, and hopes to have Waverider use his power to do that–and in the doing he’ll learn it for himself. Things don’t go as planned, and Monarch–Hank Hall–learns a new “truth” of his past and what happened at the end of Armageddon 2001, and since he’s more powerful than he’d realized, and his future self had realized, as Time’s been altered, he decides instead of being Monarch, he’ll be Extant! And stealing Waverider’s Linear Men arm-control, disappears into the timestream. Hunter is suitably cheesed-off that the villain now has the ability to time-travel at will, and Waverider suggests that if this villain can uphold his potential, they stand at the edge of a true CRISIS.

Yep, 9-ish years after “THE” Crisis (on Infinite Earths), a new one is about to unfold.

As with the previous issue’s segment of this story, the art works well, if not being completely to my liking. The story also works, feeding us directly into Zero Hour, and revealing that this story was primarily about transforming Monarch (Hank Hall) into Extant, a sleeker and cooler-looking guy than the clunky Monarch was, but without having to “corrupt” any other characters. This also allows the character to come with built-in, already-established “street cred” AS a villain, extremely powerful and a true threat beyond any single hero’s ability to take him down.

Despite this, I originally read Zero Hour withOUT having read this prelude, and had no problem following along (that I recall), and it wasn’t until I read the collected edition that I got to read this…so Sum: Zero is not absolutely essential…but it’s satisfying as a piece of my completist mentality for this reading project.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I’m glad I didn’t pay full price for this back in the day, as I would certainly NOT have appreciated the lead story nor the Pax segment…and probably, honestly, wouldn’t even have appreciated the Zero Hour piece. Reading it in 2016 having paid a dollar or less for both chapters, it’s a very satisfying read and well worth the expense and the time. And for reading the entire issue for both of these Showcase comics, I now have a better idea of the “origin” of the Bat-villain The Ventriloquist/Scarface.

It’s an anthology book, with a mix of creators both known and not, and characters that didn’t headline their own series, and all that, and it feels like one. This two-issue “taste” is much more satisfying than I recall the Batman segments of the two issues that tied into Knightfall, though that could be the more than two decades’ additional life lived and my ability to appreciate stuff as a mid-thirties adult than when I was just barely a teenager. I don’t know exactly when, but I look forward at least to the idea of binge-reading the several years’ worth of Showcase ’90s.

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