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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #472

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0472Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Two: Clark Kent–Man of Steel!

Story: Dan Jurgens
Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Art Thibert
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover: Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This is another very nostalgic issue for me…from the cover on in!

We open on Superman hanging upside-down, tangled in a rope, while a hulking behemoth–Mammoth–postures about being the one to take him out. Flashback to the day’s start–a visit with Emil Hamilton as well as (separately) Lois and her family, where Clark learned that they’re indebted to Lex Luthor for Mrs. Lane’s survival. In the present, Superman bluffs his way out of being squished by Mammoth, and barely survives the SCU’s attempt to take the villain down…which leaves Superman to play a harrowing game of "chicken" with the rampaging brute–essentially staring him down without powers. After making his way home and reflecting on the day, Clark realizes his days as a hero may be done, unless he can get some help…and places a phone call.

While I’d read a handful of issues prior–and this issue itself is some 20 issues after my first of the title–this is still one of my "earliest" Superman comics that I owned, in my "initial run" with comics. And though I didn’t know it at the time, this is largely by one of my all-time favorite creators–Dan Jurgens! It’s reasonable for me to assume that this early issue was quite influential–as well as other issues he was on–in both setting him as one of my favorites, and "imprinting" his take on the character as a sort of "default" or such in my mind.

That said, nostalgia certainly swings my opinion of the visuals very much into the positive…though I’d say they’re quite good anyway. It’s not hard to follow the story, everyone looks recognizable…and something TO the art, I felt like I could SEE Superman’s physical vulnerability here. Sure, he’s in-costume, but I "bought" that he’s powerless.

The story is very solid as well, advancing the overall story of this arc while functioning nicely as its own issue…complete with a fairly obvious (to me) formulaic structures (starting on action, flashing back to earlier, catching up to present and resolving that initial high point, then giving us a bit of drama to end on). We get to see Clark as himself and as Superman; we have a villain; we have interaction and story advancement of supporting characters/subplots. Superman literally in a bind against a villain, surviving, and ready for whatever the next step of his adventure is.

All those years ago, this was the sole issue of the story that I had and read: I came in on Chapter 2, never having read the first chapter, nor getting to read the latter chapters until some time after the fact; in their initial run, I didn’t even know about the "event" within the "event" that ended this arc until some time much later. And I was not put off by getting an isolated chapter of a larger story.

As such…this is a good issue as a random one-off: there’s plenty of "continuity" that it draws from and sets up, and the ending hints at stuff to come, and we have no resolution to Superman’s powers, but we still get a story in this issue. It’s a "middle chapter" without feeling like it’s wholly incomplete, unlike many contemporary comics.

The only "complaint" I’d have is that the cover is a BIT misleading–it pertains to the story within in that we see Superman in trouble with his rope-and-grapple gear, but not falling helplessly toward a street. Still, as covers go, it’s a great piece–eye-catching and conveys the "heart" of the situation–without being context-lessly generic, "iconic," or vague. Best of all, this IS the cover. It is THE cover. No variants, no collector’s editions, no enhanced editions. To my knowledge, it’s this issue, or the collected edition.

I’d definitely recommend this as a simple, fun-ish read if you can snag it for under $1, and certainly worthwhile if you can snag the whole story!

adventures_of_superman_0472_blogtrailer

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 – Team Titans #24

90srevisited_zerohour

team_titans_0024All Good Things…

Writers: Jeffrey Jensen & Phil Jimenez
Penciller: Nigel Tully
Inkers: Andrew Pepoy, Rus Sever, Dan Davis
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Assistant Editor: Chris Eades
Editor: Rob Simpson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

This is another issue I’d never read before, and really had very little expectation going in. It’s also one that didn’t truly engage me…other than Garth (Aqualad), I don’t even know who any of the characters are. I know the NAME Terra but not the character (despite knowing OF Titans history, they remain yet a blind spot in my comics experience). So while I could literally, physically "follow" the story, page after page…this was much as I’d imagine tuning into a semi-popular tv show’s final episode without ever having seen prior episodes and only having commercials to go on for the past.

Given that this really is not at all intended as any kind of jumping-on point (it’s actually the end point, kinda-sorta-maybe-somewhat wrapping things up) and seems to dovetail into Zero Hour itself (with the final, ultimate payoff coming in that and not even in this 24th issue of its own run!), this is yet another tie-in that does not seem relevant nor important to Zero Hour. It fleshes stuff out for me a bit in that it’s more content I’ve now read, but does not change any of my understanding or identification with any of the characters and such.

The writing is satisfactory for my experience…but not having read any prior issues, not being familiar with the characters and story, recognizing the intent is not to have someone jump in cold, etc. I cannot really judge it and really have nothing to compare it to. I got what I "expected" out of this, I guess.

Visually I wasn’t blown away by the art. It’s a bit "off" from what I expected, but really not bad. As with the writing, I don’t have much of anything to compare it to, so it really just IS.

Ultimately…I’m really only glad to have read this for the sake of having read it; checking off another box in my read-through of everything I can find directly involved in Zero Hour. Unless you’re reading this series itself, all you need to know about the Team Titans seems to be played out in Zero Hour itself and if you try to go on this issue alone, you won’t really have much more context with the issue than without.

Zero Hour Revisited – Adventures of Superman #516

90srevisited_zerohour

adventures_of_superman0516The Hero of Metropolis

Writer: Karl Kesel
Guest Penciller: Peter Krause
Inker: Jackson Guice
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is one of those quasi-forgotten issues–one where I remember in broadest strokes the events but it’d been so long since reading it that it was a lot like reading a new comic.

Amidst all the other time-stuff going on, Superman finds himself in an alternate timeline, with many similarities but some rather disconcerting differences. Of course, some of these are things he picks up on as he goes along–realizing, for example, that here, Lois doesn’t even know him, period–let alone know his identity or have feelings for him. And despite the familiarity of Superman, this world’s hero is the Alpha Centurian–a character we’ve apparently seen before but this was the first meeting between him and Superman personally. By issue’s end the situation is revealed and the two are allies, off to dive back into the whole saving-all-of-time-and-space thing.

I think when I saw Alpha Centurian in a previous issue of Zero Hour itself, I assumed he’d already been introduced…my mind just didn’t parse out the details or question anything. And yet, I knew this was where the character comes into the Superman stuff–"that issue with his name on the cover over top of Superman’s." I suppose not having looked ahead to the covers, conscious memory failed me and all that.

Anyway, this is another solid issue that plays firmly into the stuff that Zero Hour is about–that is, Time is mucked up and allows for a bunch of anomalies and parallels and alternates and the like. In this case, we get a new Superman ally…one that (as I recall) becomes a recurring member of the supporting cast for a time–much as a one-season character can be close and important for a single season of a tv show.

At this point, 20+ years after the fact, this issue having a "guest penciller" means little to me, particularly for this specific title. The art’s just the art–neither phenomenal nor bad. It works for the issue, gets everything across, and I’m perfectly fine with that. The story itself is cool, revisiting this "moment" in the history of the Superman story and seeing (again) the first meeting (officially) between the two characters and being thus able to cast my mind back to that summer and the following year or so as this Alpha Centurian was a recurring cast member NOT from Reign of the Supermen, yet I was there "from the beginning."

Superman is front-and-center in Zero Hour itself, so his having time for not just one "side story" but multiples is a bit of a stretch in general…but then, he’d had four ongoing series at this point, all of them tying into Zero Hour (given especially the ongoing/weekly nature of the four Super-books). This was a pleasant read, if not terribly contributative to the ongoing Zero Hour saga. Other than being a sort of first-appearance/first-meeting, it’s not singularly stand-out in a way that screams "go out and read this to thank me later" or anything. Still, if you find it in a bargain bin, it’s worthwhile.

Zero Hour Revisited – Hawkman #13

90srevisited_zerohour

hawkman_0013Godspawn (Conclusion): Into the Dark Aether

Script: William Messner-Loebs
Pencils: Steve Lieber
Inks: Curt Shoultz
Letters: De Guzman
Colors: Webb
Editors: Archie Goodwin & Jim Spivey
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I’ve long been aware of this incarnation of Hawkman, but have yet to consciously have read any issues of Hawkworld, or this series prior to the Zero Hour tie in in this issue. I clearly recall the “merging” of the “numerous versions” of Hawkman into a singular entity, and then eventually the (Geoff Johns, I believe) Return of Hawkman story…and read a few issues of the series around Infinite Crisis. Outside of that, this is all new to me.

But I enjoyed this issue, even as I cruised through it mostly clueless…kinda recognizing some names, even if not spellings, and my imagination ran a bit wild with it (settled somewhat by scanning a Wikipedia article for some clarification on this “present” version of Hawkman). That I was interested enough to do “research” speaks volumes, as I tend to prefer NOT to “have to” in reading comics. But this being a 22-year-old comic and all, I can make the exception.

The story basically involves the current Hawkman preparing for facing a god-entity and eventually facing it, before being merged with other Hawk entities in a fashion a bit different than the scene we got in Zero Hour itself. Details didn’t stick with me, and I’m ignorant enough of supporting characters and context to do any significant/proper recap. Suffice it to say that for being admittedly “lost” I still enjoyed the issue, anticipating what it had to be leading to.

Along with tying into Zero Hour directly, this is also a concluding chapter of a multi-part story Godspawn; seemingly capping off stuff prior in readiness for the post-Zero Hour status quo.

I’m not all that familiar with the art team–off the top of my head, I’m not truly at all familiar–but I enjoyed this issue’s visuals. Nothing stood out in a negative way or threw me off…I was just reading this to read it, so all the art had to do was NOT SUCK…and it exceeded my expectations as such. This is another issue read only and specifically because of tying into Zero Hour…and that definitely piques my curiosity and interest toward (eventually, hopefully, someday) reading the series at length.

This doesn’t really seem like any one-off issue…so while it’s not a horrible read if you’re trying to read the “complete” Zero Hour, the parts that truly matter to the Event are covered in the core book, leaving this as an issue to be read to expand, or if you’re already reading this run or at LEAST are reading more than just the one issue.

I’m definitely glad I never paid full price for this, though it was not a waste of time to read. Since it expands on events touched on in Zero Hour, I definitely rank this up there as one of the “better” tie-ins. This also sticks out as a bit of an oddity from 22 years later when there’d be an entire 3-6 issue “bannered” tie-in mini-series to get things across, rather than just this issue amidst already ongoing continuity. A solid issue, worthwhile, but not worth going overly out of one’s way to acquire or read just on its own.

The ’90s Revisited: Armageddon 2001 #1

armageddon_2001_001Dark Time

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Dick Giordano
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Kelley Puckett
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1991
Cover Price: $2.00

One up-front problem with reading this issue now: I know who Monarch is…who he was supposed to be…and how stuff’s developed over the quarter-century since this issue was published. So there’s no true wondering, curiosity, nor concern to me about that…nor does this issue hold any particular story/continuity significance to me outside of being the introduction of Waverider. Which–honestly–is the reason I picked it up this time around. I wanted to revisit that character’s introduction, given the name appears only as homage in the current DC’s Legends of Tomorrow tv series.

The issue opens on someone being saved by a hero pulling him out of some rubble…though he doesn’t seem to remember which one…it could be any of a number of heroes active in the late 20th century (1991). We then move to the year 2030 (when this issue was published, that was nearly 40 years in the future. Now…it’s a mere 14 years!). Matthew Ryder is a scientist, working for the government…which itself is under this Monarch–a super powered being who rules over all, providing order and peace. Or as Ryder sees it…”order” and “peace.” Though he has a family, he sees even family time as a mere intersection of four lives drifting apart from each other. At work, one day, there’s a breakthrough, and time travel becomes a reality…at least to some degree. Ryder volunteers to be a test-subject, but is turned down: he simply won’t conform and blend with society. One way we see this is with his visiting a small shop for black market disks on turn of the century history (REAL history, not the stuff force-fed from the top-down). Events come to a head and Ryder stakes his life on a risky endeavor that brings him to the attention of Monarch…and ultimately “earns” his place in the time travel testing. Ultimately, this leads to his rebirth as an energy-being with temporal abilities–at a touch, he can see one’s most probable future. This is an ability he plans to put to use to try to determine which of “the heroes” becomes Monarch…as Matthew Ryder (now Waverider) seeks to change the future.

As said above–I already know the resolution to “who is Monarch?” so there’s no particular significance/drama there for me personally. Though I’ve also read this very issue at least once in the past, I didn’t remember much detail, so in many ways this felt like a first reading for me. The issue also felt a bit dated with its technology references that are now 25 years old. I’d forgotten that this entire issue was basically “the origin of Waverider,” to give us background on who he was, how he came to be, the time-travel stuff, the Monarch question…basically to set the character to then move through the various Annuals with a lot more context than could reasonably be set up a dozen times. The story in no way blows me away–it’s ho-hum in that regard–BUT it is absolutely not bad, either. It failed to excite me now, 25 years after its publication, some 24 1/2 years after its story was fully wrapped up…but as a piece of its time, it worked.

Visually, I quite enjoyed the issue…which did not surprise me, given the Jurgens art, and having so thoroughly enjoyed his work on Superman in the ’90s. With most of my ‘experience’ with Waverider and the Linear Men coming from the pages of Superman and Zero Hour (art by Jurgens on both titles) and the Superman/Doomsday Hunter/Prey mini (again, Jurgens art), character designs and such in this issue felt extremely familiar in a good way, lending to a visual continuity I always enjoy.

As best I can recall at this typing, my earliest exposures to Waverider were the Adventures of Superman Annual that took part in the Armageddon 2001 story as well as the 2nd/bookend issue to the event Armageddon 2001 #2. Those were followed by his appearance in the Legacy of Superman special and then certainly Zero Hour. He also appeared in an issue of Superman shortly before the Doomsday! story, but I missed that and I recall the issue being a hassle to acquire.

Which all gets back to: I don’t recall much “fallout” from this series outside of it having obvious effect on another title of the time and the way elements were picked up (yet again: by Jurgens) for Zero Hour, or Waverider’s place in the DC Universe for a few years. I know there were a couple of follow-up mini-series, but I’ve never heard anything particularly good about those nor had any inclination to make time to read them myself…but I imagine if even those had had a lasting impact I’d’ve known about it by now.

All told, as a “4/$1” “clearance” issue at a Half-Price Books…this was certainly worth my expense and time to read. It also has re-ignited my interest in tracking down the entire story to actually read…especially since it’s “only” 12 annuals plus the two-issue bookend mini.

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

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