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The ’90s Revisited: Iron Man #12

90s_revisited

iron_man_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 3 of 4: Matters of the Heart

Plot: Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Script: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed Benes, Terry Shoemaker, Mike Miller
Inks: JD & Homage Studios
Colors: Wildstorm FX
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Inspiration: Special Thanks to Scott Lobdell
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4 was in Fantastic Four (1996) #12  |  Heroes Reunited part 2 of 4 was in Avengers (1996) #12 ]

This felt like the most "standalone" issue of this 4-parter so far, and felt a lot more tied to previous issues than the other chapters. This issue has several references to the previous issue, beyond simply THAT a conflict had begun or stuff come before.

We open on Tony Stark being brought into a meeting involving The Fantastic Four and the "Hulkbusters." As he gets up to speed on the overall situation, a fight breaks out between the Thing and Hulk, eventually interrupted by Invisible Woman separating them in invisible force-shield bubbles. Cosmic readings are picked up, and the group finds several entities headed to Earth. Tony cuts out–leading the others to think maybe he hasn’t changed as much as thought…but we find that he’s actually checking in on Happy and Pepper–actually caring about others beyond himself. The FF went into action against the heralds of Galactus while Tony’s (separately) kidnapped from Happy’s hospital room by Dr. Doom…while Pepper frets over this, Happy seems fine, figuring it’ll all be resolved within the day. Doom takes Stark to the Helicarrier; meanwhile, Liz gets past security and interacts with Hulk–who reverts to Banner. On the Helicarrier, Stark suits up as Iron Man and confronts Doom before they’re joined by Fury, who lays things out before assembling other heroes, and breaking the news that the Fantastic Four have been (by then) killed in action. The remaining heroes head out to make true their name as "Avengers" and engage the heralds in battle, before Hulk and Iron Man attempt to take on Galactus himself. As he sees them fail, Doom activates his device, and armed with the new knowledge of this latest go-round, disappears back in time for another attempt at stopping Earth’s destruction.

As said, this issue feels the least connected to the overall story/pattern. Doom is there, and we have reference to stuff, but that’s almost incidental. This feels like it probably could read pretty well without the first two chapters, and only earlier issues of this very series (Iron Man) for context. I both like that and yet don’t at the same time. The story title of the issue and the title/credits page don’t even have any reference to Heroes Reunited, unlike the first two chapters; almost like this story was written with a few story-beats required but otherwise completely independent of the overall 4-parter.

heroes_reunited_03

With the art, there are multiple pencilers…but that again didn’t bother me as nothing really seemed to jump out at me or have any jarring differences in appearances. Simply reading the issue, I’d only know there were multiple pencilers because of looking at the credits. I’m a reader-first, so when the art is at least "similar" enough that I don’t really notice it change–that is a good thing. I suspect at least part of that is also due to the consistent inks, colors, and lettering; perhaps heavier handed inking and no huge variation of colors can well hide the different pencils. All that said, I enjoyed the art on this issue! I don’t know how I’ve gone all these years without noticing it, and I didn’t notice it on the interiors, but the EAR on Iron Man on the cover just looks extremely odd and "off" to me and is really the only thing that totally "threw" me off with the visuals. Also as said with the previous two chapters, I’m quite glad the cover can work as it does on its own, yet is part of a 4-part image; as opposed to any one of the chapters having 3 extra variant covers to make up the singular image. Get all four chapters of this four-chapter story and have 1 full image; get any single issues and you have a cover that has the characters in the issue and can be its own thing.

As with the Fantastic Four and Avengers issues of this story, this works well enough as a one-off issue…it’d be worth getting even by itself if you found it for 25-50 cents or so; even up to $1ish. Any more than $1-$2 and I’d recommend definitely getting it as part of a set of the four issues of Heroes Reunited. Despite working alone, I’d recommend this more as part of a set for the "experience." I’m glad to have read it, and somewhat surprised at the details I remembered from whenever the last time I read this was–possibly only back in 1997!

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The ’90s Revisited: Fantastic Four (1996) #12

90s_revisited

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4: Doomsday!

Plot: Jim Lee
Script: Brandon Choi
Pencils: Ron Lim & Brett Booth
Inks: Mike Miller, Tom Mcweeney & Homage Studios
Letters: Richard Starkings/Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear
Colors: Wildstorm FX w/Jessica Ruffner
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s probably been a good 20 years since I last read this story, but as I’ve yet to actually do a solid read-through of the entirety of the HEROES Heroes Reborn thing, so the sense of familiarity I had in the reading was a very welcome thing.

The cover itself hit me with all sorts of deja vu…and seems like something that in some ways could qualify as a favorite or “iconic” cover…at least because hey–you have the Fantastic Four in full-on attack mode against a distressed Galactus, who is quite recognizable as the giant purple Kirby-entity that he is. I’d actually forgotten until looking at the other issues in this 4-part epic that the cover joins with the other 4 chapters to forma larger 4-part image. Which, of course, would virtually never happen today, 20-some years later, when any potential for such things absolutely MUST be used all on the same exact issue as variant covers, instead of a fun “bonus” or “reward” of getting one copy of an entire story!

After the front cover itself, the next thing to immediately grab my attention was the fold-out nature of the cover. This is from a brief period when Marvel utilized the cover to provide both a page giving the premise of the title and a list of core characters and another page to recap what’s come before as one heads into the issue. Though Marvel has since gone through other things and seems to primarily at present do a “page” with this sort of info as just a text piece, I can definitely say I’d prefer this overall…at least by comparison.

In a way, this issue is rather simple, despite its extra length that allows quite a bit of detail to unfold. Dr. Doom returns to New York, and the final piece of a device he’s been working on is finally in reach. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four continue a standoff with the heralds of Galactus, before their master summons them away, and the FF are picked up by SHIELD. Nick Fury has also gathered Iron Man and Captain America–Avengers–as things are bigger than they appeared. Probes that had been launched earlier penetrate Galactus’ space and reveal his ship, and the release of devices to several points on Earth. This leads to the various heroes splitting off, each to attend to the building situation in different places. Johnny Storm–the Human Torch–goes to the Himalayans with the Inhumans to face Firelord and one squad of Avengers goes to Monster Island to face Plasma (and by extension of being on Monster Island, the Mole Man). The fight with Firelord winds up falling to Black Bolt, who is able to destroy the device, but its energy emission on destruction kills the Inhumans and Human Torch. Meanwhile, Namor sacrifices himself to neutralize the device guarded by Plasma. As the fight moves to Galactus himself, now on Earth, the SHIELD Helicarrier is compromised…and after it’s evacuated, Nick Fury and the Countess steer it into Galactus’ ship, giving their lives. Unfortunately, Galactus survives. In the ongoing battle, we get surprising twists and turns…and deaths. The Thing and Black Panther are killed, and as the situation deteriorates further, Doom enters the fray, determined to gain the Power Cosmic for himself…and his interference screws things up further for the heroes. As Reed appeals to Doom’s better side, it becomes apparent that the situation is hopeless. As the world dies, Doom alone escapes via his device.

heroes_reunited_01

This issue alone would in present-day terms be an entire event in itself, at least for the most part. I know where things go, and why this is “only” part 1 despite the deaths and then destruction of Earth itself. The extra size to the issue, with plenty of dialogue and captions and such certainly gives us more in a single issue than we’d likely feel we got in an entire event in the present.

The story seems to mostly be its own thing…there are “moments” and plenty of references that would probably mean more to me if I’d read the previous few issues, or the entire series so far; but I felt comfortable jumping in here and just seeing characters behaving largely to form, regardless of their depth.

The art is excellent–for the most part, I felt like Lim and Booth gave some of my favorite appearances to characters throughout the issue. Overall I didn’t notice much of a change between the two…the only point I really felt like I noticed an actual/major difference is in one panel having a large, majestic Captain America, and then another panel with him looking maybe half the size and pretty much TOO “lean.” The entire visual team seemed to work quite well together here, at least in my reading: I enjoyed that this did not feel like it had multiple teams on it.

As series go, this is “functionally” the last issue of this version of the Fantastic Four. There is a 13th issue, but due to its crossover with the then-part-of-Image Wildstorm universe prior to Wildstorm‘s being bought by DC Comics, that issue has not (to my knowledge) been reprinted or the story “acknowledged” in-continuity/etc…making it a sort of one-shot and curiosity.

While I’d initially checked out the first issues (as of this writing, I honestly don’t recall if I’d followed the next few issues of FF or not but recall #7 or so for sure) I was quite a bit “behind” by the time of this crossover. I imagine that I was aware of things coming up, thanks presumably to Wizard Magazine, which was probably part of my getting this story as the issues came out…gearing up for the end of Heroes Reborn and the return of the characters to the main Marvel universe.

This issue more or less works on its own, though it ends on quite the bad note if read in isolation. If you can find all four of the #12s for Heroes Reunited, though, they make quite a set, and just from this first chapter, I’m eager to get into the rest.

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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

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Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

Zero Hour Revisited – Justice League International #68

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justice_league_international_0068Triumph

Writer: Priest
Penciller: Phil Jimenez
Inker: John Stokes
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Assistant: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I really WANTED to like this issue, and the story, given Priest‘s the writer and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed other stuff he’s done. But particularly for this final chapter, I’m just left rather underwhelmed.

We basically pick up with the pieces from the first couple chapters of this Return of the Hero story, and a mashup of scenes ultimately results in defeat of the enemy, and the group(s) making up with Triumph, some subplots touched on for later, and finally the Zero Hour final-week fade-out to white.

I suppose this simply was a product of its time, to say nothing of having the FEEL of a random "filler" story thrown in to bridge whatever had come before and whatever was coming next, providing some filler story that could tie in to "time travel/time anomalies" and serve as the three Justice League titles’ entries in the Zero Hour event.

The story in and of itself isn’t horrible or anything, but just isn’t much to my taste; perhaps largely for being in the middle of a major "blind spot" for me with the League and the characters involved–this is not the Justice League that was "current" in 1992 tying into the Death of Superman, nor is it the Morrison-era League from when I branched out more in the later ’90s.

The art also isn’t bad, but it doesn’t blow me away, either. It fits the story, and has the "feel" of the era.

Perhaps there’s more depth to be found, but I’m reading from the perspective of "just read and enjoy the entirety of Zero Hour." From that angle, this is filler that fits better than a lot (it involves time anomalies) but doesn’t really seem to directly affect anything with the "core" Zero Hour story itself and so is ultimately passable. I would not recommend this issue by itself as a sole, single issue…but if you can find all three chapters of Return of the Hero! in the 25-cent/50-cent bins and you’re interested in a Priest-written Justice League story set firmly within its 1994 context, this’d be worthwhile enough.

All in all, I’m ready to move on, and have actually kinda burned myself out on these such that it’s getting to be a bit of a slog to get through all these tie-ins…especially as I’m itching to get to Zero Hour #0 itself.

Zero Hour Revisited – Justice League Task Force #16

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justice_league_task_force_0016Return of the Hero part 2 of 3: Losers!

Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciller: Greg Larocque
Inker: Rich Rankin
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Dave Grafe
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

It’s kinda odd jumping "back" into an issue of this particular series–I vaguely recall THAT I had the first issue, and reading a 2-issue bit several issues later that tied into Batman‘s KnightQuest stuff…and now another several issues later, this. Given the singular 3-issue "crossover" WITHIN the larger Zero Hour bit, I don’t know how much this issue’s story would REALLY reflect on the ongoing series…but it doesn’t impress me either way.

The story itself–of this guy showing up after years away, having been forgotten while the world’s moved on–came years before Marvel‘s The Sentry, yet because I read that years ago, this feels vaguely like a sort of echo of it; just that I’m consciously aware of it being the reverse-order.

Perhaps part of it is my mood as I type this, but while I’d love to like this–particularly as a Priest book–it just feels a bit scattered and confusing. I mean, I know most of the characters–or at least know OF them–and even Triumph himself is not entirely unfamiliar conceptually to me. I can definitely–at this point, in 2016–identify with Triumph at the surprise of the group he finds here being THE Justice League. Despite the decade or so (at least) that the Justice League was more (for lack of better phrasing) made up of "second string" characters–it was a relatively brief period overall in the history of DC Comics, with most of the last two decades particularly having been refocused and then held to more of a "first string" of big characters.

Even with some familiarity with characters’ existence I’m not that invested in this period, and it holds plenty of blind spots for me detail-wise. As just a nearly-random issue in the midst of a larger run of a single title in a family of titles, this issue alone is clearly not meant for someone like me, especially being read in a near-vacuum more than two decades after it was published.

I’ll chalk this up as yet another tie-in issue that "ties in" to Zero Hour loosely (in the sense of the time anomalies allow for key story elements to happen without separate context/explanation) without being essential to Zero Hour itself. I wouldn’t choose this as an isolated issue to suggest anyone seek out, but if you’re reading the various Justice League stuff from this period, the entirety of Zero Hour, or just this title, it’d likely make for a better read in-context than as part of an event series.

Moving on…

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.

Zero Hour Revisited – Flash #94

90srevisited_zerohour

flash_0094Reckless Youth chapter three: Just Do It!

Story: Mark Waid
Guest Pencils: Carlos Pacheco
Inks: Wayne Faucher and Jose Marzan Jr.
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Colorist: Gina Going
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Well, that explains a bit, on multiple fronts. Some early Wally/Bart interaction, as well as (now) confirming [1.] that yes, that was “the” Wally in Zero Hour #4 and [2.] How he wound up in the future with no real context provided.

We open on Bart, with Wally’s narration…Bart’s not familiar with his own power/abilities, and Wally’s job is to keep an eye on him. Iris Allen–Barry’s wife–is present, and plays coy on details of Wally’s future. Meanwhile, Linda’s got a guy named Argus involved in some current investigation (I think he’s the Bloodlines character introduced in the Flash 1993 Annual). Wally’s none too happy about being pressed into responsibility for Bart…and takes full advantage when Argus phones in a tip. Wally investigates,and finds himself about to get some really good intel on Kobra when Bart rushes in, spoiling things. Resigned, Wally joins the fight, but soon finds himself facing Kadabra…and then he’s pulled into the far-future, Kadabra’s own time…and while still trying to get his bearings, Waverider appears.

The credits list Pacheco as a guest penciller…which explains my relative (but only slight) surprise at this not being a Weiringo-drawn issue. Though some panels come off slightly more cartooney than I’d prefer, with an odd sort of simplicity to them, on the whole the issue is quite good-looking, and not bad to see. I can mostly follow stuff, though I’m mentally piecing together context, as this is listed as part 3 of a story, but I’m reading it because it’s a Zero Hour tie-in. We get plenty of linework to suggest Flash’s speed, but nothing special or surprising. I “get” that Flash is fast, but there’s no particular creative styling to suggest the speed in a way that the very layout of the page does it, and the art style in general isn’t something drastically different from other contemporary books. It’s “just” superhero art, works well, and fits the issue.

Story-wise, I’m a bit lost, with not knowing where the story began (if this is part 3, I can assume #92) nor how long it should go (six issues from this would be #100, though there’s the #0 yet between). Similarly, given the tight continuity, I spent most of the issue wondering how Wally’s here doing this stuff when in Zero Hour #4 he’s in the far future, apparently having just captured someone (Kadabra). That does get addressed at the end of this issue, and perhaps my expectations were thrown by the Batman issue: that one shared several pages’ worth of story with Zero Hour #4…this one basically a panel. I’d “assumed” we’d get something a bit more detailed in this issue on Wally’s actions trying to shut down the Time Rift…but apparently that was “uniquely” contained to the Event Book itself.

I’d half thought/assumed over the years that Bart–Impulse–first appeared in Zero Hour itself, that this story shoehorned the character into the Flash mythology…but it would seem that I was wrong…and that has me all the more interested in getting up to speed (no pun intended) with the Flash book. This was a first-time-through for me with this issue…I didn’t read it back in 1994, nor had I ever read it prior to this reading project…so it’s actually rather cool to get this taste of the Flash’s own story, knowing the exact point it’s taking place in relation to a bunch of other ’90s issues…namely, during July 1994, and the Zero Hour event.

As this issue is part of the earliest stage of the story, the Time Anomalies are just being discovered, the wibbly-wobbly-ness just started to get noticed, so the bulk of the issue really IS “just” a typical Flash story, just any issue of the Flash book.

I enjoyed it, and look forward to the #0 issue, and eventually/someday getting fully caught up contextually with Wally’s time as the Flash.

The ’90s Revisited: Flash #79

flash0079The Once and Future Flash

Story: Mark Waid
Pencils: Greg Larocque
Inks: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Colorist: Gina Going
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

I snagged this issue for 25 cents…the primary reason that it caught my attention was that it felt as thick as an annual…spotting the price, I saw it was priced as one also. Looking at the cover a bit closer, then, I realized it was an issue by Waid, and had the Reverse-Flash on the cover…a dynamic more interesting to me now as a fan of the tv series than any time previous. Plus, it has a nice “old-style” feel to it with the Flash’s speech balloons on the cover getting me curious. “You messed with my memories, threatened my city, and hur tmy friends…now you’re gonna pay!!”

Turns out…this issue seems to cap off the The Return of Barry Allen story that I’ve heard of, but never yet read for myself. So coming in, I’m at a loss of specifics to this story…but still felt like I was able to follow along without much issue, given my prior knowledge of Wally as the Flash, and stuff I’ve read about the character’s development aside of what I’ve actually read OF the character through stories.

Eobard Thawne–Professor Zoom–the Reverse Flash–apparently was posing as Barry Allen. Or rather, for a time he THOUGHT he actually WAS Barry. He stands revealed here, and ready to rumble–as he and Wally collide to fight out who gets to be THE Flash. We learn how Thawne wound up in the position he did, how he came to hate Barry, and so on…this is a younger Thawne, before he ever actually met Barry. Given the history that’s unfolded, he must be returned–alive–to his own time, that events might unfold as they’re known. This puts the entire timeline at risk, meaning that Wally can’t just kill him. In the course of the story we see the damage Thawne has caused, as well as the allies by Wally’s side, and it seems this is “the” issue where Wally fully, truly came into his own, getting out from under Barry’s shadow, etc.

Visually, this was a very solid issue. I read through it pretty quickly, and it wasn’t until I reviewed the first few pages that I really caught on to a nifty element: that we’re seeing Zoom’s fist get closer and closer until he and Wally collide–but interspersed between the fractions of time, we’re given flashbacks and context to bring us up to speed as things then jump to “real time.” On realizing this, it seems extremely cinematic–at least TV-cinematic. And that alone works very well for me. While my mind wants to compare this to the tv series, there are obvious elements that do not sync on a literal panel-to-screen basis…but the tone itself does. Leaving aside the visual differences to the tv show (which came some 20-21 years after this issue was published), the art is quite good and I have no problem with it at all. Given the size of this issue–at least double, if not TRIPLE–there was room for a lot to be packed in, as well as other moments spaced out…which allowed several full or double-page splashes to be VERY effective in a way that seems like a lost art in contemporary comics.

Story-wise, this had plenty of context–it’s from an era when it was NOT “inevitable” for everything to get a collected volume–so even coming in on the final chapter, I picked up readily on the overall “core” story beats related to this issue as I read. There’s plenty of detail, certainly some great moments and such that went over my head or that were in other issues so not even in my realm of awareness–but this felt like a season finale that I jumped in on, and didn’t feel LOST.

The prime drawback to me of reading this issue isolated and now lies in the fact that it illustrates to me–in one issue–just how deserved Waid‘s reputation on the book is and leaves me interested in the rest of the story, as well as more Flash (comics) in general.

I still know very little regarding the other speedsters outside of Jay and Wally…but I appreciate their presence, recognize them by name at least, and enjoy seeing the “Flash family” united, with a great sense of history and development. Though this issue leaves me interested in more Flash comics, it’s an interest tied to this era, to this particular incarnation of the series, emphasis on Wally…as opposed to much from the final several years before and thus far in the New 52.

I enjoyed this on reading it…and in typing the above roughly as stream-of-consciousness, I’m left simply feeling this was a fantastic issue, very well worth my time and money. Consciously knowing it is the end of a larger story, I’m hesitant to recommend this solely as a single issue…but if this one issue is an indicator of the quality of the entire story, I’ll “blindly” recommend that for now, containing this issue.

Justice League America #69 [Back-Issue Review]

Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens

This issue opens with the Justice League already in action, rescuing people from a huge fire. As we get some context, we discover the Justice League has responded to a distress call out of their usual stomping grounds, with reports of a monster tearing up the place. While the League searches for the creature and helps those it can on the way, Superman is appearing on the Cat Grant show for an interview being televised at high school students. About the time the League finds the monster, the creature hurls debris through their transport, stalling them. Once the League deals with that mess, they began taking on the creature and finding it to be no easy chore. As the League is torn apart, Booster Gold is punched away into the sky–surviving solely because of a force field raised just in time–and caught by Superman.

I originally picked this issue up discovering it to “tie in” to the Doomsday / Death of Superman story–though at the time I knew little else. I recognized Maxima from an appearance years earlier in a Superman comic, but everyone else was unfamiliar to me. With sixteen years’ further experience with comics, everyone’s familiar to me upon the current read-through, as is plenty of context around various characters and even the creative team of the book.

The story is basically one long fight scene with the heroes either looking for or trading punches with their quarry. Juxtaposed with the action is the interview with Superman–with some nice segues back and forth between the League’s fight. The interview provides some great context for where Superman stands in regard to his fellow Justice Leaguers, as well as some nice continuity nods to recent events in DC Comics at the time. The issue’s end is one of those “oh, YEAH!” moments–cliffhanger, sure, but has one itching to get to the next part of the story. While there are no “previously” pages (there IS a note to go read Superman: The Man of Steel #18 first, though), it’s not hard to follow along with events in this issue. Given the nature of the issue’s story–contextualizing the destructive power of the creature–it does not seem at all important exactly WHO any of the Leaguers are, just that they ARE the Justice League.

The art is very much a classic–Jurgens has been one of my absolute favorite Superman (and related) artists precisely because of being one of the main artists involved in this story. To me, the depictions of the characters found here are THE standard–I have zero real complaint with the art (save that given the nature of the story, it’s rather toned-back and wounds suffered appear far less devastating than the text makes ’em out to be).

This is a great issue–perhaps largely for being the first real battle with the doomsday creature in the overall story–but also has seeds sown that play out not only in the Doomsday story but also in this title for awhile after the death of Superman. The story is good–I especially enjoy that interview/tussle structure, and the art is top notch. One probably wouldn’t be reading this completely out of context–and it’s included in the Death of Superman collected volume–but not a bad read if you come across it in a bargain bin somewhere.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

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