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Zero Hour Revisited – Batman #511


90srevisited_zerohour

batman_0511The Night Before Zero

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Mike Manley
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I definitely remember this issue’s Batgirl. I remember the fact OF her showing up, I remember her appearance in the main Zero Hour book, and I especially remember the impact she had toward the end of that book. But it’s quite likely, having re-read this issue, that this is the first time in nearly 22 years THAT I’ve read it…because I sure did not remember the DETAILS.

We’re only JUST past the Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend stuff…like, I think that wrapped with the previous issue, and then we’re dumped straight into Zero Hour. We open with the same scene that we got in Zero Hour #4–of the Joker “discovering” he’s being chased by Batgirl and wondering if it’s a joke. Even though Batman and Robin quickly arrive on the scene, the Joker escapes, leaving the heroes to try to figure out exactly what’s going on. Also on the trail of the Joker, the GCPD arrive, and their presence elicits a surprising reaction from Batgirl–fear. Then they open fire, surprising Batman and Robin (as ANOTHER Robin watches from somewhere out of their sight). Eluding the police, Batman demands answers, and things begin to come together. That horrible night years earlier saw Jim Gordon shot instead of Barbara, though he died. When the new PC–Harvey Dent–took office, he issued a shoot-to-kill-on-sight order against the masked vigilantes. Of course, though this is “normal” for Batgirl, it’s NOT the way Batman and Robin remember events unfolding. Meanwhile, the Joker decides to dispatch PC Harvey Dent, and digs up Gordon’s grave for extra theatrics, but Batman intervenes. Time continues to go wibbly-wobbly, and elements shift–reality returns to normal, though the “other” Batgirl remains…and Batman must seek answers outside of Gotham City.

As may become frequent in these posts, I’ll touch on the art first…because that’s quicker and simpler. Namely…this IS “my” Batman. This is the visual style I recall from when I was a kid…because this is an issue that was published and originally read when I was a kid. The familiarity raises more than a little nostalgia, which contributes hugely to the momentary enjoyment of rereading this quasi-isolated issue. It just fits, and IS the art I remember. It also conveys events of the story itself quite well, performing to my expectation, with the added bonus of just looking really darned good. I would not have been able to cite a name and tell you that it was Mike Manley’s art I loved, but loving the art in this issue and seeing his name…well, there you go.

Story-wise, this is jam-packed, and kinda jumps around a bit. I’m certainly bringing extra baggage to the reading experience, and using some of that to plug any holes in plot or depth or explanation–I know time is wibbly-wobbly here. I know that anomalies are popping up all over the DC universe, and that this is just the start of it. I know that there was confusion at the start of all this, and that things get put right “in the end.” But there are multiple Bat-books, each partaking in Zero Hour, so there are that many more incidents for Batman to encounter in this single month, as the main event unfolds. While I’ve been “conditioned” to a harsher modern Batman, this one can still make mistakes–such as getting distracted enough by the presence of a healthy, non-crippled Barbara Gordon that the Joker can get away. Similarly, this Batman is willing to leave the Joker for later, while other events take precedence…where nowadays, half the country could fall into the sea and Bruce would leave that for “others,” while HE continues tracking down the Joker.

batman_0511_comparison

This is also firmly rooted in continuity, and whether it was the writers coordinating, or (far more likely) Editors doing the editorial thing and coordinating stories between numerous writers), we see stuff in this issue that’s touched on elsewhere, giving us slightly different perspectives (we have Jurgens/Ordway on art for the opening scene where it touches in Zero Hour #4…and then Manley and Rubinstein giving us the exact same scene in this issue). It’s a bit repetitive in the sense of having several pages of the exact same action playing out in two issues read back-to-back…but it’s also quite welcome, because you do not HAVE TO have read Zero Hour #4 already to enjoy this issue, and you get what you need of this for the core Zero Hour story in that issue. This issue simply expands on the situation, playing out the larger situation and filling gaps.

The significance of Batgirl here would probably be lost for modern readers…this was 1994, just a few years (but enough for it to be firmly rooted in continuity) after Barbara was shot, paralyzed, and Batgirl was no more. Of course, with the coming of the New 52, a quarter-century of continuity was wiped out (and a couple “legacy”/successor Batgirls) in order to put Barbara back in action.

Opening on action, seeing characters’ reactions, resolving some of that and setting up other bits makes this at once an issue that can stand on its own (as much as any one issue of an ongoing series can/will) but plays extremely well in the shared sandbox of continuity and the universe-spanning Event series.

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One Response

  1. […] ’94 #8 | Showcase ’94 #9 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4 | Batman #511 | Flash #94 | Green Lantern #55 | Legionnaires #18 | Outsiders #11 | Superboy #8 | Superman: The […]

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