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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #14

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0014Yesterday’s Sins 4 of 4: Guys and Draals

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on narration from Guy talking about his opponent–his decidedly duplicitous Draal duplicate. He and some fellow Draal prisoners–Green Lanterns–are acting on an escape attempt, but find themselves facing the newly powered-up evil duplicate of Guy Gardner! As the battle rages, Guy-Prime recognizes a notice from his stolen ring…it’s about to run out of power. This leaves the dupe on even terms with the original, and Guy lays into it. He’s eventually taken down by the Draal, who realize they still need more from him, and so once more, Guy faces the brain-drain Xanagryph critter. Flashback-wise, we pick up with Guy in the hospital with his older brother Mace–who’s been shot. His parents are there, lamenting their favorite son. While there, they learn that Mace wasn’t "on the job" when he was shot–he’s dirty, and even if he lives, he will no longer be a cop. Soon after, when he does wake up (and learns he’ll never walk again, let alone have a career as a cop) he kills himself. This sends the parents into a downward spiral that Guy can’t do anything about…so Guy gets out. He graduates from college, works with disadvantaged kids, and even winds up involved with the Green Lantern Corps. Injuries end that for a time, but then a great Crisis led the Guardians to heal him, and Guy does become a Green Lantern, becomes a part of the Justice League, and gets to be an actual super-hero! Eventually the Guardians take his ring, though, and he winds up seeking out the yellow ring that once belonged to Sinestro, and currently gives him his powers. Back in the present, the Draals are mostly defeated, the prisoners control the ship…but the Evil Guy is on Earth, and Guy himself isn’t presently sure how to defeat it…but knows that going to face it will also force him to face his past in-person.

As is so often the case, there’s loads of potential built to, so much expectation I can build up based on the opening chapters, that it’s rare for a conclusion to be truly satisfactory anymore. And that applies here to this 24-year-old story as well. Some part of me was hoping the conclusion would be more memorable, more DEFINITIVE, more CONCLUSION-Y. Instead, the issue basically ends on a cliffhanger, as well as a note to check out an issue of Justice League, to boot! And that’s rather annoying for an issue billed as "4 of 4."

BUT.

But, this issue is #14 of an ONGOING SERIES. This is NOT the final/fourth issue of a four-issue MINI-series. This is the latest monthly issue of a monthly series. So of COURSE it’s not gonna be close-the-book, total finale, that’s all that’s wrote, absolutely concluding possible events. So this actually does well for itself: we get conclusion on the IMMEDIATE story: the Draal are defeated, Guy is no longer their prisoner, they’re no longer using the creature to access his memories…we’re done with the flashbacks and such with the present day being like a framing device. Story-wise, we’re good…some of my expectation is SURELY from subconsciously latching onto the YEAR ONE, even though I’d consciously noted that to begin with as being tacked on and NOT applicable here in the way it was with other stories.

And this issue is definitely a success in that, even all these years later, re-reading it right now, I want to read that Justice League issue. I want to track down and read Guy Gardner #15. And isn’t that a sign of a good comic? That a reader wants to read the next issue? That there’s enough story hook, enough investment in the character(s) to want to know what happens next? I mean…I have the long-view; I know what comes shortly when the title gets re-branded, and Zero Hour, and then stuff a few years later with Our Worlds At War, and a craptastic story in one of the Superman titles not long after, and then Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the whole Johns run and New 52 and all that. It’s been 24 years. But I don’t REMEMBER #15. I don’t remember that Justice League issue (a bit of deja vu so I’m sure I knew OF it). And I want to read those, even though they might not have any singular significance at present.

Dixon finishes giving us some key "backstory" of Guy, fleshing the character out and enriching who he is, why he is, and so on. Whether it’s the "brand new as of 1993" detail I think it is or not, this being Guy’s first solo series, and being relatively fresh off Crisis on Infinite Earths and his being "just another member" of the Justice League title, it makes sense to me that this’d be where a lot of this was either inserted into his mythology, or fleshed out and expanded from basic, broad details.

Staton‘s art continues with consistency, and nothing stands out as wonky or weird to me about human anatomy, everyone continues to be recognizable and familiar, and I have no trouble following the action. It’s just good art.

So ultimately, as a concluding chapter of a specific story within an ongoing series, I think this does quite well. It wraps up key points of the main story, but opens the door on stuff to come, having set stuff up and contextualized and built more drama for the main character to deal with. And though I only "signed on" to read a four-issue arc–had no intention of "caring" to go beyond this arc–I want to read more.

I also had mis-remembered the timing in part of this arc, and was thinking things were already a bit past Emerald Twilight somehow, not realizing that this is still a few issues before that point in the continuity, which also reminds me of another story in this title that I was AWARE OF but not certain if I actually read years ago or not (if I read it, I read it around the same time I read this, previously).

I think on the whole, I definitely would recommend this arc if you can find all four chapters to read in one go. It adds a lot to Guy’s character, makes him a lot more sympathetic and well-rounded as a character…it makes him likeable, so help me. Whatever the case…I enjoyed it, and I now have a couple other comics to seek out in the near future.

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #13

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0013Yesterday’s Sins 3 of 4: Inside Out/Outside In

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue takes the introduction/cliffhanger of the previous issue and fast-forwards a bit. Or in tv terms, we come back from the commercial a bit further in. Adult Guy and Teen Guy are bustin’ heads at Scotty’s, and we come to realize that after popping into the car with Teen Guy, Adult Guy has come along with his younger self to save him from getting his butt kicked. Having taken care of that, Adult Guy moves on to explaining his plan–since he can stop the Draal’s memory-siphoning Xanagryph’s accessing his memories, perhaps he can at least exert an influence over what gets programmed into his double…like a codeword that’ll make it go nuts, revealing itself as NOT the true Guy Gardner. Adult Guy is ripped out of the memory before that can happen…busted! Of course, the Draal still aren’t done, but having disrupted Guy’s plan, they have another go at him–this time we see a still-older Guy who has just turned 18. He’s nabbed by the police…but instead of being given a slap on the wrist or taken to jail, his older brother Mace–who has pulled his own life together–roughs Guy up a bit to set him back on a path for good. Guy gets a job, gets his high school equivalency, and even gets into college–where he redirects his anger at life into football. And at the height of his "glory," where he should have won his parents’ attention and praise at last…it turns out that Mace has been shot. Back "in the real world," Guy and the other Lanterns manage to execute their "plan B" escape plan…but the ‘element of surprise’ they’d counted on is turned on them as they meet…Guy Gardner!

The further I’ve gotten into this story, the more certain I am that I’ve read this before, and that the feeling is not merely deja vu. As of this issue, I feel like I AM re-reading something. And it is something I’m enjoying. I’m also realizing that whenever it was that I read this, it must’ve been at least early during the Johns run on Green Lantern, because I’m pretty sure this did "color" my view of Guy, and actually make the character likeable. For years, the character had been largely some caricature or 2-D ’90s roughcase, but either this story or at least this story’s influence carried into other stuff that made the character much more a well-rounded figure that could be identified with and understood–not just some jerk anti-hero or such.

At this third of four chapters, this definitely feels like a Dixon sort of story, fitting right in with Batman, Robin, Nightwing, etc. in getting details of a backstory that influences the character’s present and all that. While I can see DC having an issue at present with re-presenting certain comics headlined by Gerard Jones…I’d certainly love to see a modern collected edition of Dixon‘s Guy Gardner, or at least of this particular story! It could even be re-branded somehow to fit whatever status quo for present…but having the content brought back would be great.

I’m also somewhat amazed at the consistency–this is the THIRD ISSUE in a row with the same creative team! In 2017, I’d swear that’s practically unheard of! Maybe you keep the same writer on for a number of issues, perhaps an inker or letterer or colorist…but the entire team remaining the same for three issues? At this point, that just SCREAMS "high quality!" to me. That I’m enjoying this story as much as I have been adds to that as well. That said…not much else to say about the art except to reiterate that it’s clear, consistent, and recognizably the characters involved, with no wonky silliness or abstraction/experimentation/etc. Just forthright art that conveys the visual aspect of the story and doesn’t take me out of the story by anything weird.

As also said previously–while the first issue of this story seems a great jump-in point that one can do so "cold," as the third chapter of a 4-part story, I’d highly recommend starting with that first chapter, and not merely jumping in here. At the same time, this IS a ’90s comic…back when every issue COULD be someone’s first, and there’s a hint of context and such where even AS a third-of-four chapters, this is not MERELY a third chunk of pages that collectively make up some seamless whole–this is still a comic book, an issue, and reads as such…this is years before the serialized graphic novel.

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #12

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0012Yesterday’s Sins 2 of 4: Dream a Deadly Dream

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on a scene of an "evil" Guy Gardner taking on other familiar heroes: Batman, Flash, Hawkman, with already-defeated Aquaman, Sentinel, and Blue Beetle on the ground around him. Narration lets us see that this is actually Guy considering what it might be like for the other heroes to see what he’s TRULY capable of, when the Draal unleash his double on them. That he–the REAL Guy Gardner–has held back and kept himself in check, though they haven’t treated him with the respect duly his for that. In the "present," Guy begins to form a plan with the other Lanterns…while in the course of a couple more encounters with the creature siphoning his memories, we get two scenes of Guy’s past: first, seeing that his brother Mace is still his father’s favorite, to Guy’s exclusion; and then that Big Brother Mace isn’t nearly as perfect as his father or younger brother believed him to be. Then, acting on the start of an escape plan, Guy and the other Lanterns fight, which brings the Draal in to "protect" their star resource–Guy himself. Of course, this gets him put back under for more memory-siphoning…but he aims to use it to his advantage. As we see a young Guy (though a few years older than the previous glimpse) driving a stolen car and picking up a police tail…the younger Guy is surprised when the present-day-Guy pops into the seat beside him…having inserted his present self into the memory!

Dixon‘s story begins to feel particularly formulaic, and the Guy-gets-captured-by-memory-viewing-aliens can be rather cliché. It becomes a framing device for isolated flashbacks…rather than our just simply being given an entire story set IN the past. But this is Dixon, this comic is from the ’90s, and for as clichéd and caricature-like I’d seen Guy initially…this story is quite "deep," really grounding and humanizing the character, inserting this detailed backstory that really helps explain Guy’s cockiness and attitude and driving need to seem like the best, and so on. That the "current" story is largely a generic framing sequence adds to the accessibility of this story–it’s not particularly drawing on continuity points that’d be overly important to the understanding of the story. You just know that Guy is in a fix, and while he and fellow prisoners seek escape, we’re seeing glimpses of his past as the alien creature sucks the memories from him to feed into the duplicate Guy that’ll be the Draal’s "sleeper agent" on Earth.

Visually, this is again a solid, consistent take on the characters. Everyone looks fine as they are, and familiar and distinct, with nothing weird or out there or such that takes me out of the story while reading. This is simply ’90s Guy, embodying the character as he was at the time.

I continue to enjoy the story as it unfolds, and though I somewhat knew it was coming, I either didn’t recall or know for sure that Guy (present day) would pop into his own memories to interact with his past self, so that’s got some fun potential, to say nothing of loosely firing up my own imagination on the topic in general beyond just this comic or its story.

Once more, a solid single issue and well worth getting as part of this four-part story (Yesterday’s Sins aka Guy Gardner: Year One). While the previous issue could be picked up "cold" and be relatively accessible, as the second part of the story, this one’s less so. However, this adds to my feeling overall that one can pick up this story arc by itself or as a first introduction to the ongoing Guy Gardner and do quite well with it!

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #11

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0011Yesterday’s Sins 1 of 4: Back in the Days

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

Picking up this issue is like picking up a piece of history–literally and figuratively, as well as some shades of variance on the meaning for me personally. My earliest conscious recollection of Guy is one of the Eclipso Annuals back in 1992 (Adventures of Superman Annual #4, I believe–as I learned after the fact, the ‘transition’ for the character back from his prestige-format limited series where he GOT the gold ring to begin with). And his #1 issue–the first of this very series–was one of several issues I got at a Waldenbooks while out with a friend and his mom, using money my dad gave me (though I got 6 or so comics and had some change left, I recall his being a bit surprised he didn’t get MORE change…but that’s a story for another time).

Getting to the issue itself–the branding is given the Year One treatment…at the time, very much cashing in on the likes of Batman Year One, but still this was one of the earlier instances of the "branding," when it was still rather distinct and not a line-wide shorthand.

Despite the cover branding…the story itself is actually titled Yesterday’s Sins, and though it FITS the Year One stuff, it is not simply a story told entirely with the early version of the character…it just happens to touch strongly ON his past!

We open on the capturing by some other aliens of an alien Green Lantern–Graf Toren. Graf’s grabbed by some ugly Beholder-looking aliens that are very much aware of the Green Lanterns’ weakness to the color yellow. We then shift to Guy Gardner fighting minions of Kobra with General Glory. (I have some vague recollection of the character in relation to Guy…from a previous reading of this story or some Who’s Who or some other mash-up of prior DC half-knowledge). The two emerge victorious…the younger Guy showing off, while the older General is stricter and trying to get Guy to keep it closer to the book. The aliens that got Graf are watching, and teleport Guy to their ship, where he is left highly disoriented by the suddenness and surprise of it all…as well as what he sees! Before long, the stunned Guy finds himself with some de-ringed Green Lanterns, and learns he’s a prisoner of the Draal. The aliens are apparently replacing Lanterns with replicants…but need to capture the original and siphon their memories in order to enable the duplicates to pass muster for whatever mission they’re being sent on. Guy gets a short taste of the memory-siphoning process…which basically provides us as readers a look back to Guy’s life as a kid. An insight into his early life and (frustrating to say the least) childhood. (This is where the Year One designation apparently kicks in/earns some appropriateness). As would be expected, Guy’s none to thrilled at all this, and is not about to just roll over and take what the Draal are giving out, whether or not any of the other Lanterns are with him on the matter.

To me, Guy was always largely a caricature of sorts…a character I was loosely familiar with, but never particularly a fan of, nor overly knowledgeable about. He’s just some cocky jerk that happens to do the "right thing" even if he’s not the "typical" do-gooder hero-type.

Here, we begin to see him made a bit more human, given more of a backstory and motivation, elements in a past that (especially to the adult me) really would "explain" a lot about the character’s "present-day" self. That this comic is from 1993 kinda screws with my perception of time-frame for Guy’s flashbacks. I’m not exactly sure the character’s "present age," but would assume he’s at least late-20s or early-30s. Which in 1993 would put his childhood in the ’60s…while in 2017 present-day my mind "naturally" wants to put 20-some years in the past as 1980s!

I’m pretty sure this is the first issue of the series written by Chuck Dixon…and his name is very much a selling point to me, especially on ’90s material. And in what feels (to me) like typical fashion…this has a certain level of high quality to it FOR his writing. I’ve read a few issues of this series over the years…years after publication, not necessarily in order, and never the complete series, and this just feels like a solid Dixon ’90s story from this first issue.

The art is not bad, either. Nothing about it really stood out as some glaring weirdness, no wonky anatomy, and nothing that just stunned me with horribleness. Which is my way of saying that I didn’t notice the art all that much…I just enjoyed the story as I read the issue. The visuals are rather familiar, as I HAVE read some of this series in the past, and there’s no overly fancy attempt to be "experimental" in depicting Guy or any of the other characters.

This just makes for a single, solid issue that can largely be picked up cold, and one can figure characters out as they go along. I get something extra out of it for being aware of the character, his ’90s depiction, and all that. But in this particular reading, I jumped in cold–no reviewing prior issues, no covers of other issues to scan past to refresh myself. Just happened to have the four-issue arc this starts off, and jumped in to see where it takes me!

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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 – Green Lantern #55

90srevisited_zerohour

green_lantern_0055Assault & Battery

Story: Ron Marz
Pencils: Daryl Banks, Derec Aucoin, Craig Hamilton
Inks: Romeo Tanghal, Craig Hamilton, Ray Snyder
Colors: Steve Mattsson
Letters: Albert DeGuzman
Assists: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is a pretty simple issue. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) is getting his butt handed to him in a fight with Major Force. Of course, it’s Major Force that deserves the beatdown–he killed Kyle’s girlfriend and stuffed her remains in a refrigerator…but that’s more a story and topic for some other post. As the hero takes a beating, refusing to give up his ring to the villain, it looks like it’s all over…but then MF wants one final answer from Kyle regarding a chunk of green rock found in the alley where he got his ring. This turns out to be the key to recharging Kyle’s ring, and he quickly defeats the villain…before the battle is cut short by the intervention of the LA Special Crimes Unit. Refusing to stick around for questioning, Kyle flies off. Waiting at his apartment, though, is another man who’d been known as Green Lantern–Alan Scott. Scott fills Kyle in on the basic background of the former Green Lantern Corps. As Kyle processes what he’s just learned, Superman and Metron show up to recruit him.

As tie-in issues go, thus far I’ve far preferred the Batman issue, feeling like it actually took place in the midst of the unfolding event. The Flash issue only just barely–at its end–touched the event, and now basically the same thing for this Green Lantern issue. I’d actually consider this almost a "Red Skies" tie in–that is, you DON’T actually need to read this to get anything extra, really, pertaining to the Zero Hour event. Having the context allows for a bit of empathy later in that story from what I recall, but for right this moment, I’m a bit disappointed by how un-connected this issue was.

I read this issue back when it first came out–after Green Lantern’s involvement in Reign of the Supermen and learning of new goings-on with the title, I jumped in with #50 (Hal’s villainous turn) and then followed the title from Kyle’s FULL premiere in #51 (which was functionally a #1, but in an age when titles didn’t get rebooted just because someone blinked)…so I was getting this issue anyway, it just happened to be part of Zero Hour.

The art isn’t bad, though there are a few more names involved with the art than I’m used to…whatever the case, if I didn’t see the list in the credits I don’t think I would have actually noticed…I just kinda flew through the issue, consciously trying to remember other details from this early, early part of Kyle’s run to contextualize. Story-wise, this is essentially a #5 issue, so Kyle is still being established, and there’s no real feel for him quite yet…so this works well, tossing the rookie hero into things as part of his initial journey.

As the issue of Green Lantern that this is, it’s worthwhile, and definitely a meaningful issue in the early development of Kyle…but as a Zero Hour issue, it’s tangential and really not needed (though I recall the #0 issue of the title being VERY tightly tied to the events of Zero Hour!).

Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #9

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0009The Secret Origin of Scarface part Two – Call Me Scarface

Script: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Art & Colors: Teddy Kristiansen
Lettering: Ken Bruzenak
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Neal Pozner
Cover: Shawn McManus
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Much as with the first chapter of this Scarface story, the art’s rather simplistic…but expecting it this time and looking past it not being ‘great’ and just taking it as it is, it works very well here getting everything across that needs to be, at least in not taking me out of the story AS I read, and leaving me satisfied with the story at the end.

Wesker and Woody make good on their escape–though it involves a brick-to-the-face and then hanging of Donnegan, and the murder of a couple of guards. We see Wesker falling prey to whatever madness Donnegan had–as the dummy seems to be the lead and the Ventriloquist following. We also get a sort of explanation for Scarface’s speech thing–his “B” having a “G” sound–as Wesker isn’t that great a ventriloquist.

The story is fitting, and I’m definitely quite satisfied with this “origin” of Wesker as The Ventriloquist, and Scarface, how they came together and all that. I can certainly visualize this being summarized in a one or two page origin–perhaps that’s been done elsewhere already (in Countdown, perhaps?) but that’s mostly irrelevant for now. As a lead feature in an anthology title, it works, was an enjoyable read, and after the first chapter in the previous issue I was actually looking forward to this and trusting that it was to be a 2-part story and nothing longer.

A Story

Writer: Terrance Griep, Jr.
Penciller: Kyle Hotz
Inker: Pav Kovacic
Colorist: Mike Danza
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Editor: Neal Pozner

This “middle story” is a brief one, but interesting. Like the Wildcat piece in the previous issue, it’s singular and self-contained; a slice of life sorta thing. We meet Pax, a man bent on revenge against the alien parasites that slaughtered his people–the entire population of his world except he himself. As he narrates his story, it comes to light that the parasites can look like anyone, and we see him take on a group of them, killing them…and moving on. When he’s picked up by a group of “police,” he begins his narration again as we see that his hunt-and-kill mission continues.

I had absolutely no idea what to think of this story at first. At the first page, I thought MAYBE this was Vandal Savage or someone of that nature, given the name “Pax,” but obviously I was quickly proven wrong in my assumption. The parasites appear to be the sort that we saw in Bloodlines–the Annuals event from 1993, which would make sense given this story would have been out just a few months after the end of that event in Bloodbath. And for a one-off story, seeing someone hunting the parasites would kinda show them to be a bigger deal than just the few that made it to Earth and caused the trouble they did.

The lack of expectation going in, of even knowing what the segment was to be about, worked in its favor. The art fits, gets stuff across quite effectively; and has little to be compared to on this read-through. The story itself is ultimately forgettable, but still worth having read it. Reading this in 2016, though, it puts me in mind of 2014’s Armor Hunters from Valiant…as the lone survivor of a planet hunting down parasites like those that destroyed his planet, with singular vision and little regard for the consequences beyond killing the parasites.

Thinking of it as the likes of Armor Hunters actually makes me like it all the more. While I wouldn’t care for any sort of dedicated mini-series or ongoing series like this…as a “random” thing in an issue I’m reading anyway, it’s well worth the several minutes of reading and realization!

Sum: Zero part two

Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Frank Fosco
Inks: Ken Branch
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Editor: Neal Pozner

Once more, the final part of the issue is the selling point, the story I read the issue for.

We pick up on Monarch holding Waverider and Hunter in a stasis field. Though he’s able to get them into the timestream, he lacks the control to direct himself, and hopes to have Waverider use his power to do that–and in the doing he’ll learn it for himself. Things don’t go as planned, and Monarch–Hank Hall–learns a new “truth” of his past and what happened at the end of Armageddon 2001, and since he’s more powerful than he’d realized, and his future self had realized, as Time’s been altered, he decides instead of being Monarch, he’ll be Extant! And stealing Waverider’s Linear Men arm-control, disappears into the timestream. Hunter is suitably cheesed-off that the villain now has the ability to time-travel at will, and Waverider suggests that if this villain can uphold his potential, they stand at the edge of a true CRISIS.

Yep, 9-ish years after “THE” Crisis (on Infinite Earths), a new one is about to unfold.

As with the previous issue’s segment of this story, the art works well, if not being completely to my liking. The story also works, feeding us directly into Zero Hour, and revealing that this story was primarily about transforming Monarch (Hank Hall) into Extant, a sleeker and cooler-looking guy than the clunky Monarch was, but without having to “corrupt” any other characters. This also allows the character to come with built-in, already-established “street cred” AS a villain, extremely powerful and a true threat beyond any single hero’s ability to take him down.

Despite this, I originally read Zero Hour withOUT having read this prelude, and had no problem following along (that I recall), and it wasn’t until I read the collected edition that I got to read this…so Sum: Zero is not absolutely essential…but it’s satisfying as a piece of my completist mentality for this reading project.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I’m glad I didn’t pay full price for this back in the day, as I would certainly NOT have appreciated the lead story nor the Pax segment…and probably, honestly, wouldn’t even have appreciated the Zero Hour piece. Reading it in 2016 having paid a dollar or less for both chapters, it’s a very satisfying read and well worth the expense and the time. And for reading the entire issue for both of these Showcase comics, I now have a better idea of the “origin” of the Bat-villain The Ventriloquist/Scarface.

It’s an anthology book, with a mix of creators both known and not, and characters that didn’t headline their own series, and all that, and it feels like one. This two-issue “taste” is much more satisfying than I recall the Batman segments of the two issues that tied into Knightfall, though that could be the more than two decades’ additional life lived and my ability to appreciate stuff as a mid-thirties adult than when I was just barely a teenager. I don’t know exactly when, but I look forward at least to the idea of binge-reading the several years’ worth of Showcase ’90s.

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