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Zero Hour Revisited – Robin #10

90srevisited_zerohour

robin_0010Two Birds One Stone

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of the most "iconic" covers for me of the Robin run…as well as (loosely) one of my favorite issues. I’ve "always" enjoyed Tim and Dick’s interactions, and having their ages/experience somewhat reversed here (while playing with Tim’s relative inexperience solo anyway) just makes for an interesting, entertaining story.

We open on Robin (Tim Drake) pursuing a lead, but he encounters another Robin…one that turns out to be a young Dick Grayson. Realizing this is another instance of a time anomaly, Tim invites him along on the case. While pursuing "Weasel," the two bond a bit, and even learn some from each other. As the case wraps up, almost with a positive ending, outta nowhere, things fade to white.

Story-wise, this fits right into stuff with Zero Hour and the Batman family of titles, in that we have a solo Tim/Robin story, set during Zero Hour, that involves something not easily explained EXCEPT for "Zero Hour time anomalies." We see Tim in action, still early in his "solo career" as Robin (defining "solo" with the start of his ongoing series, having had solo adventures in the past across annuals and three mini-series, as well as Dick Grayson Robin having had solo outings years prior in backups and whatnot). We see that he’s still learning, still growing, and get some character development through that as he interacts with Dick. I also find it interesting Tim noting that he has more experience at the point this story takes place, than Dick does for the time he’s from. That’s the sort of thing MY mind does, pulling up such comparisons (it’s been longer now since Tim’s ongoing series ended than the entire time I knew OF any Robin character, prior to Tim’s ongoing).

This issue being part of a crossover/event serves to enhance things, allowing for character development and forward-movement that would not be possible in a single issue without the established backdrop OF the event. Additionally, this is basically a one-shot/done-in-one story, where you really don’t need to know anything about the previous issue nor what comes next…you just get a story of Tim as Robin by himself, encountering a time-anomaly Dick Grayson, and the two go after some criminal. This doesn’t feel like something continued from a prior issue’s cliffhanger, and it ALMOST ends without a cliffhanger.

Yet the cliffhanger ending is the concrete tie-in to Zero Hour, outside of Dick’s appearance.

The art is certainly up to par with what I’d expect from this "era" of the title. I quite enjoy Grummett‘s work with Tim, and find that his style is what I tend to think of when I picture these early issues of the title. While the characters do have similar appearances, and the costumes have their differences, there’s still just enough hint of the physical differences that I could probably tell them apart with little difficulty. Of course, the rest of the art team helps in this regard, and colors make a difference along with the design differences of the costume.

All in all, this is one of the better tie-ins to the event, as well as being a darned good issue of Robin, period. If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth picking up. And if you’re a fan of Tim particularly, that goes extra.

Zero Hour Revisited – Legion of Super-Heroes #61

90srevisited_zerohour

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.

Zero Hour Revisited – Damage #6

90srevisited_zerohour

damage_0006The Burning of Atlanta

Script: Tom Joyner
Pencils: Bill Marimon
Inks: Don Hillsman
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Buzz Setzer
Editor: Jim Spivey
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I’ve heard of Damage–primarily from back during the mid-1990s, and occasionally as a topic since–but have yet to read any issues of the series outside of this one, now. I vaguely recall knowing OF things going on but never firsthand experience actually reading them.

We open on a scene with a couple of college girls–turns out one of them is friends with Damage, and her attention is called to a small tv where news of a superhuman rumble tearing up the city includes an image of Damage in action. The scene then shifts to focus on the superhumans and what’s transpiring with them. While Damage is fighting some green-armored guy named Steelhawk, alongside an injured man (Munro?), the New Titans show up ,and a bigger battle ensues. We learn amidst the battle that Munro was once known as ‘Gladiator One’ as well as the fact that there’s some biological link between Damage and either Munro or Steelhawk…at least according to a Titan named Phantasm. A "dome" appears over the prime combatants that keeps their allies out while they themselves are bounced through time. During the time-jumping, they pick up an extra participant–Phantom Lady–and it turns out that the biological bond was likely with Munro–and that Phantom Lady (pulled into the present from the past) had a relationship with him…and THEY might actually be Damage’s real parents!

This is only the sixth issue–which would be the "final chapter" of only the "first arc" in a modern comic–so the series and character are still quite young, at their beginnings and being developed…so I have not missed out on THAT much that I know of as yet. Other than some loose references, this doesn’t have much to do with Zero Hour itself but certainly draws on the convenience of the event for some mucking-about with Time stuff that would need a lot more explanation without the event.

I recall the title character playing a key part in Zero Hour itself..though it seems that is independent of this title (or at least as it is thus far and tying to the main story).

Along with being yet another issue that doesn’t really forward the story of Zero Hour, this is also another one that isn’t bad to read but also doesn’t really impress me (nor discourage me) in story and art. It just IS. It exists, and adds ever so slightly to my general overall knowledge and context with characters but doesn’t do much to shine a huge light into some blind spots for me.

I recall there being something about Damage’s parentage being a big deal, and might be mixing him up with someone else in terms of some things Geoff Johns did later with the JSA. The reveal here of Damage’s apparent parents seems pretty significant for the title and character himself…just not much on Zero Hour.

Zero Hour Revisited – Darkstars #24

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darkstars_0024A Time for Every Purpose

Writer: Michael Jan Friedman
Penciller: Mike Collins
Inker: Ken Branch
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Steve Mattsson
Asst. Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Darkstars is another series I’ve never before read an issue, and have now for the first time due to the tie-in to Zero Hour. As such, it is also another one where I read the issue "in a vacuum" with zero context of preceding issues and have only this one issue to follow along with…though kinda utilizing a broad, generalized "working knowledge" of the DC Universe in general to keep from being completely, absolutely "lost."

This issue is a relatively quick read despite feeling long-is for my lack of detailed familiarity with things. I had recalled THAT Donna Troy was once part of the Darkstars, but having read so little (overall) with her, this stuff is still primarily a blind spot for me.

The issue runs with Donna–apparently now new to the group–talking of a singular someone named Darkstar, and she and the others in her ship end up fighting an entity named Entropy–apparently the living embodiment of the abstract concept (much like Kismet in the Superman books or several of Marvel‘s "cosmic beings"). They also have dealings with a former Green Lantern of Earth–John Stewart (I suppose this must be after GL: Mosaic). We also get to see an Abin Sur from the past, apparently also pulled through time pursuing an energy signature from stuff going on.

There’s a lot of interesting potential to me here that makes me think I’d probably enjoy reading this series if I had all the issues and could "binge read" at some point. (Truthfully, I suspect that of many ’90s books and regardless of the final verdict I have the intent of doing just that for a number of them…eventually!)

As with a number of other tie-ins, this really has very little to do with Zero Hour itself as far as the main story…it just has events that are loosely "enabled" without further explanation by being a tie-in. Shifting things up a bit, though, this ends on blank pages as other "final week" issues did, with the arrival of "Zero Hour" itself…and yet ALSO ties directly to the first week as we see the Darkstars here get Superman’s messages as led by Metron and guided by Green Lantern.

I’m not blown away by the art…but it’s solid stuff and definitely fits. I’m not at all put off by it. Story-wise, I recognize Friedman’s name as a writer…which actually impresses me a bit with this title.

While things seem to move forward a bit in this issue in terms of what would seem the general plot…it’s not that exciting to me in the moment, and proves to be YET ANOTHER "skippable" issue in terms of Zero Hour itself.

Zero Hour Revisited – Guy Gardner: Warrior #24

guy_gardner_warrior_0024Killing Time!

Story: Beau Smith
Pencils: Mitch Byrd, Phil Jimenez, Howard Porter, Mike Parobeck
Layouts: Jackson Guice
Inks and Finishes: Dan Davis
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Edits: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I expected a lot of this issue, and unfortunately found myself rather disappointed. Guy, Steel, Batgirl, and Supergirl face Extant, and are thrown through time, bouncing from dinosaurs to Guy’s own past with a woman he’d loved but who died in Coast City.

Reading this issue as an isolated thing, it just didn’t do much for me. Now, I’m a fan of Guy, and have read at least a couple issues of his series before (including, I think, some sort of Year One story and a followup to Emerald Twilight–so with this, that’s probably at least 10 issues of this series I’ve read). I’m familiar with the character from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annuals (his appearance in the Adventures of Superman one where he first has the yellow ring) and his being part of the Justice League at the time (Death of Superman stuff), and have gotten a lot more familiar with the character in the 20+ years since.

But this issue just felt like it was all over the place…and all I can REALLY tell is that Guy’s new getup is just that–new–he’s still learning what it (and he himself) can do. That these characters are fighting Extant in this issue, that they’re bouncing around through time–that certainly makes this a nice tie-in to Zero Hour, one that truly deserves that banner on the cover, and serves as a RELEVANT tie-in. So even being all over the place, its "fun factor" is there a bit…though I don’t know that I’d particularly recommend it in and of itself.

Visually, I noticed a mix of art styles–PARTICULARLY toward the end when the visuals went toward something resembling Batman: The Animated Series and Darwyn Cooke…it was not until I keyed out the credits for this post that I realized there were FOUR different pencilers. I’m not sure if it helped having Guice doing layouts or not…except that despite multiple artists it at least kept panels to one vision so nothing was overly "out there" or varying drastically from the others. None of the art singly was bad, but it was a bit jarring going from grittier to simplicity reminiscent of Cooke. Not knowing any behind the scenes stuff regarding this specific issue, I can’t comment on that–but I do definitely appreciate what I know now about comics in general in 2016–where I can "assume" that this issue was running late and so the art was divided up to make sure the issue would be done on time as it is a Zero Hour issue and thus HAD TO be out during Zero Hour, which only lasted one month. And with this ending on the blank pages, that sticks it as intended for the last week of the month…where even a SINGLE WEEK slip would put it out of sync with the event itself.

I don’t care for the cover–I kinda consciously "know" that’s supposed to be Extant’s face…but with the fire effect, just the face looks like this is some other villain or a fire-entity or like some X-Men character or something…show me the image without the Zero Hour banner and I would not at all think "Extant" OR "Zero Hour."

Ultimately, this is (along with Batman #511) probably the closest-tied issue to Zero Hour, making it one that you’d definitely want to read with the main series if you’re going for an all-in experience on the reading. By itself, I would not recommend it AS some destination-issue or to seek out as a single issue. As part of Zero Hour or as part of reading the title in general, I think it fits quite well.

Zero Hour Revisited – Green Arrow #90

90srevisited_zerohour

green_arrow_0090Writer: Kevin Dooley
Art: Eduardo Barreto
Colorist: Buzz Setzer
Letterer: John Costanza
Editors: Scott Peterson, Darren Vincenzo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Well, this was an interesting issue, even if it is–as with too many–yet another issue that does not actually add anything to MY understanding of Zero Hour as a whole, or flesh anything out from the event itself, or meet other expectation(s) I’ve long had for these tie-ins.

We open on a full page, of Ollie clocking some gang-banger, saving a woman and her child. And then the pages go split-screen on us, the top half showing Ollie catching the kid before he makes a getaway, and the bottom half showing him a second slower, having to give chase. Eventually the "dual timelines" converge again, and then we see them split back off again–the top half sees Ollie live, the bottom half, he’s shot to death. Then Batman arrives, saying "We need you," and walks the traumatized archer away…while the police clear a body, and the world fades to white.

I recall Guy (Guy Gardner: Warrior) AND Ollie being closely involved in Zero Hour itself, and being there with the other heroes at the "end" and then also being there at the end of Zero Hour itself (#0) and not off on their own adventures…so I suppose I expected some expansion on things related to that, more clarification or details of their experiences going through the event. With Ollie particularly, I’d always assumed he had some adventure–or at least meaningful extra scene–with Batgirl, to further Ollie’s righteous anger at her loss. So these issues being part of the final week of ZH, ending with stuff going to the white, blank pages–I guess it just doesn’t really work for me.

Story-wise, the issue reads really quickly–far too fast. I’m a words-reader…I appreciate art/visuals, but I tend to take the visuals in "in passing," as part of the experience…very rarely as any kind of FOCUS. (That’s why I don’t mind minimal backgrounds at points, as long as the characters in the foreground that I’m actually seeing are detailed and good looking). Something like this with large panels, "split screen," and largely "silent" have my attention for the novelty, but don’t really do much for me as a reader.

The lack of dialogue, or caption boxes, or anything to really slow me down, and HOLD my attention on any given panel means I breeze through, "taking in" the action as little more than frames of an ongoing scene.

So there’s not "much" story here. "Ollie catches the kid and he gets away, Ollie gives chase, and lives" vs. "Ollie chases the kid, and dies." While the art is solid–indeed, the focus of the issue (to my chagrin as detailed above)–it’s not the sort of work that suggests "Easter Eggs" or stuff–it carries the story, never looks weird (except the blood at the end looks like it’s a victim of censorship, yet I don’t see the Comics Code stamp on the cover), and generally is not something to push me away from the book.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to "get" out of this issue–the cover says it’s the conclusion of a story, but I haven’t read those chapters–maybe this issue would "mean" more if I’d read those chapters. For all I know, this is a three-part story (or two, or 4+) and the entire thing is in this split-screen style.

Whatever the case…in terms of Zero Hour, nothing really here, and as an isolated issue, nothing particular about it to be a draw.

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.

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