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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.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #50

supermanmanofsteel050The Trial of Superman! / Part 1: Split Personality

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Duffy & McAvennie
Editors: Carlin & Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: 2.95
Cover Date: November, 1995

This was another issue I pulled from the quarter-bins not too long ago: it caught my attention because of having revisited the issue’s cover when complaining about the newest DC Superman title, Superman Unchained and lack of explanation to the “unchained” part. But seeing the issue handy for only 25-cents, I re-bought it in order to easily re-read it…far easier to pay 25-cents than have to shift a number of heavy longboxes around and root through at least 2 boxes to find my original copy.

This issue begins the Trial of Superman arc…one of the larger arcs of this era of the titles, crossing through about 3 months’ worth of all the Superman titles at the time. Yet, as typical of the era, the story as a whole is an ongoing narrative, so this picks up with an ongoing plot, and sort of merges into what becomes the main plot for The Trial of Superman.

We pick up with a grossly weakened/decayed Superman, virtually powerless, barely skin-and-bones from an ongoing fight with a new incarnation of the Parasite. While some of the details played out on-panel in a previous issue, here we get context and figure out along with the characters what the present status quo is of the Parasite, which makes him all the more dangerous. Things don’t end with putting down the threat posed by the Parasite, as Superman is captured and faces an alien tribunal seeking to hold him accountable for the destruction of the planet Krypton…and things are not pretty.

While I like the cover quite a bit, I’m not all that thrilled with the interior art. I don’t remember having much of an issue with it “at the time,” but taking this alone and pretty much out of context–and being much more used to the last several years’ worth of interpretations of Superman–it’s not to my liking. And while explained in-story by the Parasite draining him, Superman just appears rather “off,” and impossibly skin-and-bones to even have survived any of what he’s put through in the issue.

Story-wise, I’ve never–that I can recall–been any fan of the Parasite character. I’ll be one of the first to want to see villains who are a physical danger to Superman (as opposed to businessman Lex Luthor, or the likes of the Toyman or Prankster) but I’ve just never been interested by Parasite, and have a particular dislike for the round-mouthed “parasitic-worm” look the character was given in the mid-’90s.

This issue boasts plenty of cliche in the villains…but works decently enough overall. I got a definite sense of how overwhelmed Superman was here–dealing with the Parasite and mid-battle being kidnapped into space, and the shock of this alien tribunal wanting to make him accountable for the destruction of a planet gone before he was technically even born.

I enjoyed re-reading this…and it certainly has me contemplating re-reading the entire arc…which I believe I have a collected volume, which would make said undertaking far simpler than trying to dig single issues out or tracking down new copies.

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