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Zero Hour Revisited – Justice League America #92

90srevisited_zerohour

justice_league_america_0092Return of the Hero part 1: The Program

Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciller: Luke Ross
Inkers: Cramer, Banning, Faucher, Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letters: Clem Robins
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This issue was a bit confusing to me at first…though it was a very pleasant surprise to see Christopher Priest listed as the writer of the issue…whatever conscious knowledge I had of his work on this book was lost to Time, given my genuine surprise.

The confusion for me began with being dropped right in the middle of the story, not knowing what was going on…all the more because unlike the End of an Era story in the Legionnaires/Valor books, this one is labeled as part 1, so “should” be more setup than not. We see an older version of the Justice league–led by a guy apparently named Triumph. He’s calling the shots, guiding/coordinating them as they take on an alien menace. Though they have some initial success, things fall apart rather quickly, and it finally comes down to Triumph himself having to save the day…and then we jump to the present, finding that this has been a story Triumph himself has been sharing with the “current” Justice League, unaware of the status quo–from his point of view he’s been trapped outside the normal flow of Time until now…but if he’s now free, so are the alien attackers.

This isn’t a bad issue by any means…and I look forward to getting more of this 3-part story for more context and seeing how stuff develops. As-is, the story itself doesn’t impress me…it’s just another story of an older version of the Justice League “before.” Before the “bwa-ha-ha” era and whatnot. I’m certainly soured by stuff I’ve read in the past 10-15+ years…I’m not a fan of “previously unknown or forgotten” individuals showing up, essentially being “retconned” into the story(ies).

And yet, ultimately this WORKS, because with Zero Hour going on, Time anomalies popping up all over the place…that means somewhere “out there” is a universe where this guy DID work with the Justice League. Just not in the timeline that I–as the reader–have read about in this version of the DC universe.

The art’s not bad, though it’s kinda run-of-the-mill for me. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something about the visuals just SAYS “early/mid 1990s!” to me…perhaps knowing I had a several-year “blind spot” between the late-’92/early-’93 JL stuff and Morrison‘s JLA. That that particular blind spot was this era would explain why I associate it there.

While this issue doesn’t engage me all that well–it’s not something I’d want to pay much per issue for, and if I was paying $3.99 I would certainly NOT be happy with it as a standalone–it’s the start (apparently) of a story, and does it kinda creatively, and definitely in a “classic” non-linear way that I associate with Priest thanks to Black Panther (some 4+ years later than this) or Quantum and Woody (perhaps around the time this came out).

As a Zero Hour tie-in, I like this… it may not tie directly to ZH itself, but does make use of the event to tell a story involving a likely Time anomaly that does not have to be the focus of the story itself…instead, the focus can simply be on the anomalous agent. in this case, Triumph.

That name is interestingly familiar to me, though I can’t quite place the character…whether it’s deja vu and/or I’ve seen the name on this cover before, or because there’s more to do with Triumph in the DC Universe in general. I guess this begins shedding some light on that dark spot in my DC knowledge.

Captain America #45 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 3 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencilers: Luke Ross with Butch Guice
Inkers: Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington and Butch Guice
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Irene Lee
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (well, Captain America) continues his battle with Batroc and a mysterious assailant with ties to the past. By the time all’s said ‘n done, Cap finds himself facing an even bigger threat than he’d initially thought.

No real complaint on the art here for me. Art duties are shared a fair bit according to the credits, but nothing on-page took me out of the story or got me to pause and think about having seen different art–which is credit to the team for keeping a consistent enough style to not jar me outta the experience. (Which is not to say one can’t find the differences).

The story’s solid as usual for the title, and we’re really seeing all the more a tonal shift from the “super-hero” stuff to the spy/espionage stuff. The costume, shield, and title of the series are Captain America…but with a diferent man under the mask and different relationships with supporting cast, this is beginning to feel like a much different character and title.

There’s a fairly decent ending to this issue, closing out this 3-parter; but we’re still left with a to-be-continued note, as this story “cliffhangers” into the next.

As 3-parters go, this is not a bad initial post-Steve, Bucky-actually-IS-Cap-now story. However, having been brought on-board with the Death of Cap back in #25 and following that and checking this out, I get the feeling that this is going to read much better in collected format, and so plan to discontinue purchasing the monthly issues and wait for the collected volumes to follow this. Brubaker’s story is fairly deep, layered, and well-done…but I’m ready to break from his single issues and wait for full stories.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Captain America #44 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 2 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Luke Ross
Inkers: Fabio Laguna & Rick Kagyar
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Joe Sabino
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (Captain America, really) and Black Widow decide to split up to tackle their “problem” from two different angles–each taking the angle their strengths play to. While “Captain America” might get some results, Bucky is able to fall back on his reputation as the “Winter Soldier” to get answers, and eventually get his rematch with Batroc…and then face a figure from his past.

I’m not terribly familiar with Luke Ross–by name–in terms of prior work; but what we have in this issue, I really like. There’s a very realistic feel that lends something extra to the story. Though this plays in a world with super-spies and super-heroes, it feels like it takes place in a real world much moreso than a comic book world.

Brubaker continues to provide a strong story that goes beyond “simple” super-hero vs. bad guy, and exploring the world he’s crafted with Captain America now as a “legacy character.”

Despite this, I find myself checking out a bit. There was a certain excitement and interest locked up in the epic The Death of Captain America, and now that that story is behind and there’s no imminent sign of Steve Rogers returning, I feel like we have a new status quo that is interesting conceptually, but more well-suited for collected volumes. Barring learning something particularly engaging about the next story, I’ll likely finish out this arc, then let this title go for a bit, and possibly just wait for a collected volume of the next arc.

On the whole, definitely a solid issue of the title, and well worth getting if you’re interested in seeing the new Captain America in action, with the status quo left by the end of the aforementioned epic. This is, after all, the first “original” story OF the new Cap.

Especially if you can find the previous issue, this is well worth picking up–this is part 2 of just a 3-part story (a nice break from the 6-issue “acts” of an 18-issue epic).

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Captain America #43 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 1 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Luke Ross
Inker: Fabio Laguna
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production: nthony Dial
Associate Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting

This issue opens with a flashback to one of Bucky’s adventures with Steve/Cap in China in 1942. We’re then in the present, which is a month after the prior story (and apparently post-Secret Invasion as well), as James finds himself restless and so heads out to clear his head. In typical fashion, though, the hero can’t catch a break and he finds himself facing one of Steve’s old foes…rather unprepared. In the aftermath of the skirmish, we see both further difference in Bucky’s Cap compared to Steve, and learn that a an old foe who knows James as the Winter Soldier is preparing something…and is intrigued to realize that the man Batroc scrapped with is the man he knows as the Winter Soldier.

In a way, this reads like a first issue. Which is good–it IS a first issue, of an entirely new arc that presumably has nothing to do with the Red Skull, and is the first issue/first arc not part of the epic Death of Captain America saga. We see our hero in his down time, we get to see a bit of what drives him, what’s in his head–and that he does not operate in a vacuum, nor is he some “traditional” super-hero. His actions and motivations are much different than those of Steve Rogers, and that helps sell James/Bucky as his own character. The writing is strong, and totally fits the tone I’ve gotten used to on this series–this being my 19th issue since returning to it with the now-infamous “Death” issue #25.

The art is by a different artist–but I don’t think I even noticed that until I looked at the credits to do this review. The art is similar enough that there’s nothing particularly jarring to it from the previous issue–especially for being the start of a new arc and weeks having passed since I even read the previous issue. It maintains a rather realistic tone but keeps to the familiar looks of the characters from earlier issues. In looking back over it, perhaps it’s not quite up there with the prior team…but it works just as well in this issue, and I have no problem with it.

This is (as much as any) a good point to jump in if you’ve been holding off on reading the title. At the same time, as we’re now beyond the 18-issue saga begun with #25, this could also be a jumping off point. Steve is not (yet? if ever?) back, and this story is very much the new Captain America. I’ve been along for the ride for this long, and I plan to continue awhile yet.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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