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Zero Hour Revisited – Legion of Super-Heroes #61


legionof_superheroes_0061End of an Era Finale: Borrowed Time!

By: Waid, McCraw, Immonen, Boyd, Pinaha, McAvennie, Carlson
Special Thanks to: Kurt Busiek
Dedicated with Respect and Admiration to: Binder, Siegel, Shooter, Levitz, Giffen and The Bierbaums
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

OK…now THAT is the sort of thing I was expecting!

This issue sees the remaining LoSH members and Legionnaires united, and learn the truth of the Time-Trapper. It’s not just their "now" and such being threatened by the time issues…it’s all of Time itself! And it’s revealed that there’s nothing that can be done here/now to STOP entropy from engulfing everything…but for there to be ANY chance of Time being put right, a duality, the existence of both the older and younger Legion folks–must be resolved. This is by having the young doppelgangers "merged" with their older, original selves…even as the older selves are also about to fade out. And so it ends…lives given, a heroic sacrifice, for even the CHANCE of an eventual positive outcome.

The story is rightly called End of an Era, and this felt enormous.

Unlike the other Legion tie-ins to Zero Hour that were also chapters of End of an Era–this one I felt the enormity, the significance, that sense of this being a pivotal moment–not just for what it has to do with Zero Hour (not much, directly) but also for what it is to the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion is a definite blind-spot for me…but I’ve often been "aware of" their presence with occasional interactions with other stuff I’m reading. And I know there have been a number of "reboots" and such, just as I recall the "5 Years Later" and the younger Legionnaires…because even though I didn’t follow the series, I DO recall getting that first issue–Legionnaires #1–because hey, it was the ’90s, it was polybagged with a card, and most importantly–it was a #1 (then still a rare thing compared to modern comics).

I actually enjoyed this issue. I don’t know all the names–but most were "familiar," both in general and from earlier chapters read recently. And I recognize Thom as a character who was involved in JSA stuff during Geoff Johns‘ run–at least around the time of Thy Kingdom Come, a few years back. Though this was read in a vacuum (if somewhat LESS of a vacuum for reading the Legionnaires and Valor chapters already, plus stuff in Zero Hour itself), it was enjoyable and worth reading. I’m genuinely interested in at least "looking into" more Legion stuff (if only via Wikipedia), and curious about how long both this version of the Legion title and Legionnaires actually ran…but not quite enough to look it up while typing.

I’m a bit mixed in feelings on the visuals…I’m not entirely thrilled with them, but the art worked well here. Particularly seeing Immonen‘s name, I feel like I should enjoy the art, and there’s that part of me that wants to say something proactively positive about it, but flipping back through the issue, I’m not really struck by anything overly stand-out about it. It is not bad, but it’s–as with most comics–not one that blows me away with some sense of singular awesomeness. The story is definitely gotten across, and here perhaps more than on other related issues, the fade-to-white is extremely effective both visually and in serving the LoSH story while also tying it concretely to Zero Hour.

Though this does not directly move the plot of Zero Hour forward, it is certainly a worthy tie-in, and one of (continually, surprisingly) few to carry the crossover banner that seems to have been justified in doing so.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #3

final_night0003Keeping Hope Alive / Week Three: Shallow Graves

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

Well…that’s grim. And a bit disappointing.

This is the third issue of four under the Final Night title, though there are numerous tie-in issues. And yet, this issue–The Final Night #3–is continued in something else: a special, Parallax: Emerald Night #1 that was apparently on sale simultaneously with this issue.

As things worsen for Earth–the sun-eater’s drawing heat and energy from the sun but not its actual mass–Luthor (with a tip from Ted Knight) realizes that means the sun will soon go nova–incinerating all life in the system, and certainly on Earth. Amidst this, we see Warrior (Guy Gardner) and new hero Ferro getting help for a badly-injured Wildcat, and the Phantom Stranger gives Dusk a tour of humanity, showing sides other than the mob that had attacked and blamed the crisis on her. Etrigan–The Demon–proposes a bargain with humanity, that he and his kind will save the Earth, if a unanimous decision is made to embrace hell; while the Spectre protects Gaia, and Zatanna and Fire save Ray. Not stopping there, the two then enlist Firestorm to bring momentary light to the village, while Jade and Obsidian reunite with Sentinel and Superman visits his parents. Back at Warrior’s, Guy laments what things are and used to be, and then glimpses something Green.

And that “cliffhanger” leads us into the Parallax issue.

Story-wise, this issue seemed a bit more packed, and while I’ve figured stuff with The Ray would play out in his own series (thinking his series was still going on at this time), it seems that it’s been something to play out in this core series instead. I appreciate touches like the Phantom Stranger showing up and helping Dusk to see other sides of humanity–not just the bad–even though it’s a rather cliché thing. It also reminds me that the character exists and was used like this in events of this sort. Similarly, we see the Spectre acting on a global scale while remaining apart from things going on…a difficult character to handle by its nature in the face of something like this.

The art team does a good job, and everything is gotten across pretty well…I have no real complaints visually.

This third issue pushes things into dark territory, as things are looking impossible for the Earth and its heroes. The sun is being consumed, and where the Earth faced being frozen, now it faces incineration…neither condition supports life beyond a few more hours. Even Superman is at a loss–deriving his power from the sun, he’s virtually “normal” at this point, denied the sun’s energy himself. I’m convinced that Dusk does play a role in the end of this story…there’s been enough done with the character (superficial as that’s been) that it would seem a waste to not have something planned.

I’m less than thrilled at the realization that there’s the direct continuation into a side issue: while I know full well there are numerous tie-ins, numerous details going on outside this core story that are relevant to the story–thus far the core mini has technically only continued directly into itself. My satisfaction at scoring all 4 issues for $1 is diminished now, realizing that I missed the fifth issue that would make more sense to have now.

Of course, I have read that issue (though I don’t recall much detail consciously) but it would be much more satisfying to read it now and not have to go on memories from several years in the past.

For 25 cents, this was a good issue, reading in context of the mini-series as a whole, and I’ll be diving into the fourth issue shortly.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #2

final_night0002Darker Grows the Night/ Week Two: Chaos

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

We open on a page of exposition via a news story to bring us up to speed on the current situation, leading into the new stuff for the issue. Lex Luthor turns himself in by way of offering his genius to help overcome the current crisis. Around the world, heroes do what they can for the general populace, assisting where their powers and abilities allow them, overcoming challenges to conventional services–such as fire trucks being unable to get to fires due to gridlock. Implementing a design from Luthor and modified by Brainiac 5, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner gets a probe into what remains of the sun, gaining valuable data. Meanwhile, the Ray and Dusk come face to face with ground-level reactions to the crisis, and we see new figures emerge.

While my initial reaction to Immonen‘s art with the previous issue was less than stellar, moving into a second issue of the art, building from that first, I found it more appealing here, perhaps for a bit of “normalization” of a growing context and expectation of it. The visuals continue to be solid, and I really was not taken out of the story by any weird/odd art…and I’ve noticed as well that despite being a “core event mini-series,” this has been seriously lacking in full/double-page shots despite the enormity of stuff going on…and that is a great thing, to me! We get a full-page image at the beginning, emphasizing the major moment of Luthor and Superman (which also serves as a credits page), and then we get a full page at the end for the “cliffhanger.” Even something as huge as Kyle Rayner descending into the Sun/being in outer space does not get itself a solo full-page. Which basically means there’s more room for story, for moments, to get development, without stuff being padded out.

The same applies to the story itself–there’s simply more content TO the issue for not falling back on several pages of little to no words and just massive imagery. We get bits with the various heroes, their interactions with each other and the world, as well as what I take to be “hints” of stuff sure to be expanded on in relevant tie-in issues. I don’t think I was ever consciously aware (and even if I was, I would not have been able to tell you so prior to this reading) that Kesel had headed up a DC event like this. I like that despite the larger role of “the trinity” we also have involvement from other heroes, and that this isn’t “just” a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman thing with near-useless cameos of other characters.

As with the first issue, this is very much part of something larger–firstly in itself as only the second issue of a four-issue series, as well as serving as a generalized narrative impacting the bulk of the DC Universe of its time of publication. So this definitely does not stand alone (where one could sample the first issue and go from there, this isn’t even that) so there’s really no context-less point to get this issue by itself. If you’re interested in the entire mini or event, and it’s one you’re missing, it’s certainly worthwhile, but I suspect as a lone single issue one would be far more satisfied simply reading some other title’s tie-in issue to the event.

For my part, having acquired the entire mini in the same week for 25 cents an issue, I’m thoroughly enjoying the chance to read this, and find myself eager to acquire the tie-ins and get to read those as well.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #1

final_night0001Dusk / Week One: Armageddon

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

I’m quite sure I’ve read this before…but I’ll be darned if I can remember it. This actually felt like I was reading it for the first time. Knowing I’ve bought the entire series at least once before in bargain bins or as a cheap set, I can’t imagine I didn’t read it…though that’s entirely possible. I know I’d read the Superman tie-ins, as events from this led to the electric-Superman saga.

This issue sees an alien arrive on early, bearing grave news: an entity that consumes all heat/energy is approaching Earth’s solar system and will destroy the sun, and in turn rendering Earth a lifeless iceball. The heroes–around Superman–gather, and launch a two-pronged plan to repel or distract the sun-eater…but this wouldn’t be the start of an event if things worked out right away, would it? The heroes’ plan fails, and Earth is left in darkness…a final night from which nothing will survive more than a few days.

I can’t say I’m overly enthused at the art. I should like it–I usually enjoy Immonen‘s work–but there’s something a bit "off" about it here. Perhaps it’s reading this out of context, or expecting something different, or just seeing a number of no-longer-currently-familiar characters that doesn’t quite do it for me. The art is hardly bad…it’s just not what I "expected" or thought I remembered. Still, we have numerous characters and multiple super-teams represented in this issue, and things move pretty quickly from introduction to action to result in what I would (by contemporary standards) consider an "ultra-compressed" story.

The writing is good, solid stuff, and certainly makes sense for what’s going on. We have the introduction of a massive threat, a gathering of heroes and plan to confront it, the execution of the plan, and the result. Given this event is one month long, and its core is this 4-issue mini-series while more generalized action plays out in other titles, I am ok with the lack of detail to stuff here in favor of moving "core events" along. It also has me very interested in reading the various tie-in titles to see far more detail to the unfolding crisis.

While it certainly benefits by way of 1990s comics being so cheap these days, this is also the sort of "event" I would love to have today in 2016: instead of having to invest in 3, 4, maybe 6 issues of every single tie-in title as well as an event mini-series or few, the event plays out in a single mini-series as well as just one issue of any given title tying in. I almost wish I’d held off on reading this issue, solely for the fact that I’m ready to dive into the rest of the mini, yet have no idea when I’d actually get around to hunting down all the tie-ins to the event.

I snagged 3 of the 4 issues from one set of quarter bins, and the missing issue from another at a different shop a day later–so I have the benefit of scoring the entire mini for $1 total without putting any particular effort into getting it. As such, this issue is very much worthwhile to me FOR my twenty-five cents, as I can move straight into the rest of the series without waiting. However, I do suspect that taken as a singular issue completely apart from issues 2-4, this wouldn’t be all that great an issue in and of itself.

I enjoyed the reading, and look forward to the unfolding story, and continue to dig in on this run through fun back issues and nostalgia.

Uncanny X-Men #600 [Review]

uncannyxmen600Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez, Frazer Irving
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin
Colors: Marte Gracia, Jason Keith, Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington, Xander Jarowey
Editors: Mike Marts and Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: January 2016
Cover Price: $5.99

Winter Carnival

Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Penciler: George Perez
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Cover Art: Paul Gulacy
Associate Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor: Dennis O’Neil

The first X-Men comic I clearly, consciously remember getting is Uncanny X-Men #300. The costumes, the characters, the cover–it fit the then-current animated series on tv that I was getting familiar with, and had a nice shiny cover to draw extra attention (to say nothing of being a thicker cover physically, making for a durable, high-quality issue to hold).

Several years later I picked up #400, and then years after that 500–though I hadn’t kept up with every issue of the title.

So again now, I bought #600 despite not being entirely current on the title (and overlooking the multiple reboots between the last legitimately-numbered issue and this) because of having bought the last several 100-issue round-number issues when they came up. Some 22 years after getting #300, here I am with #600.

My understanding is that this is Bendis‘ final X-Men issue, as far as being the driving force behind the main X-books. Despite catching up a fair bit on Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men recently via Marvel‘s Digital Unlimited, I’m still a bit out of the loop on whatever’s transpired between where I left off there and stuff immediately prior to Secret Wars and the Last Days stuff. But I do know the characters and the bulk of recent stuff in the most general of terms.

This issue finds Beast (Hank McCoy) experiencing an “intervention” by his teammates, forcing him to confront what he’s done of late–with emphasis on having time-traveled to bring the original X-Men into the present where they’re now stuck. Amidst the intervention/confrontation, we get some flashes to a number of smaller interactions–“original” Jean wants to leave the group for awhile; “original” Bobby confronts current Bobby on repressed feelings; Kitty, Colossus, and Illyana catch up with each other, and so on. Meanwhile, we also see Scott Summers’ recent dream to fruition…and it proves to be just a bit different than we’ve been led to believe.

We also get a lengthy “backup story” by Perez, a solo Iceman thing, that while it looks good does not feel particularly relevant nor current. It seems set in the early 1970s, though it feels like a more recent piece. The art is very good–I usually do enjoy Perez‘ art–though I don’t entirely appreciate the black-and-white instead of color. Perhaps it was intended this way, maybe it was a stylistic choice, but that contributes to it not feeling like it belongs in this issue.

The main feature’s story is solid enough, and though it doesn’t feel like an ongoing issue but more like a one-shot, it works decently enough as itself, as what it is. At the same time, I’m not thrilled at what appears to be Bendis trying to cement several key points just before taking off, like he has to solidify or shoehorn in some stuff to force subsequent writers to address things or leave Bendis‘ work to be an absolute character element. I do definitely approve of the supposed conclusion of the Cyclops arc, and hope to see stuff picked up on, that it’d “redeem” the villanous element applied to the character over the last several years.

Visually…while I appreciate the CONCEPT of letting a bunch of artists work on the issue as “the” big anniversary issue…I can really do without it. The shifting visual styles is distracting and draws attention to stuff in a way that takes away from the otherwise-natural shifting nature of the story, giving us some smaller character moments while addressing the larger overall confrontation with Beast.

I definitely enjoyed Perez‘ work on the Iceman story…but it’s such an unrelated thing that I’m honestly resentful at its inclusion, at this issue being over-priced at $6 over the “standard” $4 just for the story’s inclusion. Better a $3.99 issue without it than $5.99 WITH. That said, the story would work as some bonus/extra cheap attraction, as it really has nothing to do with current continuity, and has no likely/obvious ongoing elements to contribute to stuff, other than being a ’70s-looking/’70s-sounding story.

The main story’s art was distracting…and I was reminded how recognizable and unwelcome (to me) Bachalo‘s art is amidst it all…especially for the cover. It’s also very disappointing that the cover looks like it’s half of or one of several “panels” of a larger image, without even a wraparound…only a bunch of variants.

I bought this issue personally for being the anniversary issue, being the actual high-number or “legacy-numbered” issue. That’s for the personal element of having got #300 off the shelf, and each subsequent 100-numbered issue. In and of itself, if you have followed Bendis‘ X-work, you’ll want to pick this up. Otherwise, this is quite skippable for whatever will be ‘current” moving forward. Outside of whatever closure you’d get having followed this series, and/or All-New X-Men, I’d suggest skipping this and waiting for whatever nearest #1 most directly follows and grabs your attention.

All-New X-Men #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Fear Itself #3 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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