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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #28

90s_revisited

starman_0028Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Two/A: The End of a Legend?

Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: Dave Hoover
Inker: Scott Hanna
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Katie Main
Cover: Dave Hoover
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $1.00

I honestly miss THIS kind of crossover/tie-in. Granted, we’re talking over 26 years separating this from being new, but having a random one-issue tie-in to a multi-issue thing in another family of books with a shared creator seems a long-lost thing in many ways. Granted, there’s a slight bit of return to that more recently, especially in the case of DC, but even stuff like Superman: Reborn doesn’t quite have the same feel that this sort of issue did and does.

Starman arrives in Metropolis, and after "wow"ing some citizens who happened to be looking up in the sky, finds his way to Professor Hamilton’s place, where he’s greeted by the professor. Superman soon arrives–much to Starman’s surprise–as he arrives via freight elevator rather than flying in using his own powers. Superman relates to him what’s been going on, and enlists his help. It seems Starman was able to re-charge Superman and his powers once before, so it stands to reason perhaps he’d be able to do so again. Along with some special equipment Hamilton rigs up, the heroes get down to business…though unfortunately, they’re met with failure. A couple other ideas come out, including Starman standing in briefly for Superman, able to pull off appearances to convince the populace–and specifically Luthor himself–that Superman has NOT actually lost his powers. However, Superman is determined to get back into action one way or another, as he can’t just count on Starman as some full-time/permanent stand-in. Meanwhile, Starman subplots are present, but don’t detract from the reading experience, coming into this on the Superman story.

I don’t know the non-Starman/non-Superman-related characters in this book, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of this issue. I read this specifically because of being a tie-in to Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, crossing the Superman family of titles. I associate Roger Stern with his Superman work, and "assume" it was his also working on this book that brought it into the story, as he could easily work things together. And, at this point in the early-’90s, there seemed to be a lot more room for random character crossovers without it being some huge deal. I don’t need (nor for the moment particularly WANT) much focusing on Starman’s supporting cast…I want (and got) an issue of him dealing with the Superman-centric stuff…and yet, with the snippets dealing with the rest of his supporting cast, one can tell that Starman is, himself, not a Superman supporting cast member, and that he’s got his own separate existence apart from meeting up with Superman here.

It’s also a shame to consider a character like this is now so far removed time-wise as to functionally not even need to have existed as far as contemporary characters/stories go.

While this feels like an extension of the story (and rightfully so!) it also feels like its own thing. The story seems like an organic stretch, with the two heroes aware of each other, having interacted in the past and all that, so of course Superman would reach out to another ally, even if it’s not someone he interacts with as regularly as say, Lois or Jimmy. This does not feel like a "forced" or "token" crossover, but one that is driven by story rather than agenda or sales (though I doubt there’d have been much concern with probably boosting Starman with a key Superman tie-in).

Visually, this isn’t bad. I like the art overall, though at times Superman at least felt a little "off," with some nuances separating this from the previous couple of chapters of the story…further marking this as its own thing.

I like the cover…the red and orange makes it both distinctive and yet fits well with the rest of the arc. It’s also very attention-grabbing in the imagery, playing off classic silver/bronze age stuff. Hamilton runs toward a Starman standing over a struggling Superman exclaiming that he needs to stop–he’s killing Superman. Of course, as we find actually reading the issue, the scene is contextualized with Starman using his power to try to recharge Superman, with Superman trying to tough it out until Hamilton calls things to an end.

I’m pretty sure this is not ESSENTIAL to the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story, but it sure fits, and for the cover alone came off as something I very definitely wanted to have, to read as part of the story. The chapter numbering–Two/A–puts me in mind a bit of the Supergirl and Aquaman tie-ins to the 1998 Millennium Giants story that ended the Electric Superman year.

If you can get this issue along with the Superman ones, I definitely recommend it. And despite not having read this story as a whole (or mostly whole) in quite a number of years, I continue to enjoy it, and have actually had to hold myself back slightly from just flying through the reading, as I take time to write up each chapter after it’s read, before going on to the next.

starman_0028_blogtrailer

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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 – Darkstars #24

90srevisited_zerohour

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 – Justice League Task Force #16

90srevisited_zerohour

justice_league_task_force_0016Return of the Hero part 2 of 3: Losers!

Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciller: Greg Larocque
Inker: Rich Rankin
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Dave Grafe
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

It’s kinda odd jumping "back" into an issue of this particular series–I vaguely recall THAT I had the first issue, and reading a 2-issue bit several issues later that tied into Batman‘s KnightQuest stuff…and now another several issues later, this. Given the singular 3-issue "crossover" WITHIN the larger Zero Hour bit, I don’t know how much this issue’s story would REALLY reflect on the ongoing series…but it doesn’t impress me either way.

The story itself–of this guy showing up after years away, having been forgotten while the world’s moved on–came years before Marvel‘s The Sentry, yet because I read that years ago, this feels vaguely like a sort of echo of it; just that I’m consciously aware of it being the reverse-order.

Perhaps part of it is my mood as I type this, but while I’d love to like this–particularly as a Priest book–it just feels a bit scattered and confusing. I mean, I know most of the characters–or at least know OF them–and even Triumph himself is not entirely unfamiliar conceptually to me. I can definitely–at this point, in 2016–identify with Triumph at the surprise of the group he finds here being THE Justice League. Despite the decade or so (at least) that the Justice League was more (for lack of better phrasing) made up of "second string" characters–it was a relatively brief period overall in the history of DC Comics, with most of the last two decades particularly having been refocused and then held to more of a "first string" of big characters.

Even with some familiarity with characters’ existence I’m not that invested in this period, and it holds plenty of blind spots for me detail-wise. As just a nearly-random issue in the midst of a larger run of a single title in a family of titles, this issue alone is clearly not meant for someone like me, especially being read in a near-vacuum more than two decades after it was published.

I’ll chalk this up as yet another tie-in issue that "ties in" to Zero Hour loosely (in the sense of the time anomalies allow for key story elements to happen without separate context/explanation) without being essential to Zero Hour itself. I wouldn’t choose this as an isolated issue to suggest anyone seek out, but if you’re reading the various Justice League stuff from this period, the entirety of Zero Hour, or just this title, it’d likely make for a better read in-context than as part of an event series.

Moving on…

Zero Hour Revisited – Valor #23

90srevisited_zerohour

valor_0023End of an Era part 5: Infinite Valor

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: Colleen Doran
Inker: Dave Cooper
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Dave Grafe
Assistant Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Partners in Time Travel: Mark Waid and Tom McCraw
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Of the books I’ve been least-familiar with and had never read before, Valor #23 does quite well as something I didn’t feel terribly lost in the reading…at the least, it was easier to follow along than the Legionnaires issue, given this has a smaller cast (by far!) to juggle, and I already had a bit of expectation from having read the Superboy issue that referenced this one in a footnote!

We find Valor and his wife traveling to meet up with the Legion, though as they travel they’re dealing with the changing, shifting winds of time, with neither past nor future holding steady one moment to the next. As a sort of "side story" within the issue, we also follow an encounter/conversation between the Time Trapper and Rokk–who was trapped in a cosmic archive, reading for years and gaining in knowledge of all Time. While Valor and Tasmia link up with the Legion and join the ongoing fight with Mordru and Glorith, Rokk learns a great deal from the Time Trapper about the nature of this Legion and the Legionnaires as well as the Trapper himself….and Trapper references his experience from Zero Hour #4, which proved an instigating moment for his actions now in End of an Era. Amidst the Legion’s battle, another figure pops into existence–Superboy–playing into/around/with the Zero Hour stuff as well as general Time-stuff because this is a Legion story. And with the conclusion of this issue, we have the conclusion of the series.

I was surprised to see Busiek’s name on this…I either had never realized or never made the conscious connection of his ever having touched this title. Reading stuff in the Letters pages I saw reference to Mark Waid…and I start to suspect that if it was Waid and Busiek on this book, that could be why I’ve only come across the occasional issue in bargain bins! I recall both this title as well as the Eclipso title "spinning out of" the Eclipso: The Darkness Within Annuals event to a bit of fanfare, but never really seeing much come of them, as neither series quite lasted even two years (yet by modern standards they were actual, FULL runs, on par with anything Avengers or Spider-Man or X-Men related!).

Since the focus in this issue was on Valor, and the Rokk/Trapper stuff, even though I’m not overly familiar with the characters, it was easier to follow along than trying to make sense of numerous characters/relationships and interactions. As such, I definitely enjoyed this a lot more, and there’s something about reading a "Final issue" of something that doesn’t exactly have a hard end so much as it ends individually while leaving stuff open for the character(s)/story to continue elsewhere.

The art is a bit wonky to me in places, particularly the opening page, with perspectives and faces and such seeming a bit inconsistent and proportions a bit "off" somehow. There’s also a sketchiness to the linework that isn’ entirely appealing to me, and gives a much different appearance than other artists. That said, for what we get here, everything’s quite follow-able, and I imagine the visuals are consistent with prior issues and would not be quite as noticeable as they are in this if I was reading the Valor series itself and not an isolated issue at the end of its run.

So far I get the feeling that the Legion side of the DCU is dealing with a double-pronged Time crisis…the Zero Hour related one as well as wonky time anyway due to time travel and such. I’m sort of curious about the actual Legion issue, where-ever it falls now in the Zero Hour month’s worth of books, given TWO of the three chapters of End of an Era fell on the same week. As the final issue of that initial week of releases (based on some checklist I’d used to organize by stack of the complete Zero Hour Event), this provides a lower than ideal point, but definitely not at the bottom of the list. It’s easy to write off events as not having much of an effect on books, but I do recall the JSA and the Legion being quite heavily impacted by Zero Hour, whatever other characters were hit.

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