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The ’90s Revisited: Zero Hour

I recently (finally) finished covering the entirety of the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time event…DC‘s 1994 event/crossover. While my posts spanned July, August, and September 2016, I’m endeavoring to have several points in this blog to gather them together and keep them accessible. This is one such post. Below is a "grid" of the covers, linking to the Page indexing this. Below the grid are text links to the individual posts (same as indexed).


zero_hour_grid_all


Showcase ’94 #8 | Showcase ’94 #9 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4 | Batman #511 | Flash #94 | Green Lantern #55 | Legionnaires #18 | Outsiders #11 | Superboy #8 | Superman: The Man of Steel #37 | Valor #23 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #3 | Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31 | Hawkman #13 | Justice League America #92 | L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 #70 | Steel #8 | Superman #93 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #2 | Adventures of Superman #516 | Detective Comics #678 | Justice League Task Force #16 | Team Titans #24 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #1 | Green Arrow #90 | Guy Gardner: Warrior #24 | Darkstars #24 | Damage #6 | Legion of Super-Heroes #61 | Robin #10 | Justice League International #68 | Catwoman #14 | Action Comics #703 | Anima #7 | Showcase ’94 #10 | Booster Gold #0 | Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0

Zero Hour Revisited – Booster Gold #0

90srevisited_zerohour

booster_gold_0000Blue & Gold Chapter 1: The Secret Origin of Booster Gold

Written by: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Pencil Art by: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Randy Gentile
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Jurgens & Rapmund
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I probably should have actually tucked this in with the "week 3" issues, as this 1. does not end on white pages and 2. takes place prior to events seen in "week 4." C’est la vie…I put this issue almost at the end of stuff because of it being a "retroactive tie-in" published a decade and a half AFTER the actual series.

This issue sees Booster Gold and the Blue Beetles travel through time, and cross paths in the timestream with Parallax (Hal Jordan) and Extant (Hank Hall) circa Zero Hour, 1994. Parallax damages their time-bubble and they’re forced into the 25th Century (with no need to chase down the time-trouble-makers, as they’ve already been dealt with IN Zero Hour–oops, we’ll see that shortly). Turns out the exact day the group emerges in is the day that Booster "threw" a football game and was caught doing so. While striving to ensure that this timestream is not disrupted, they use resources available to continue their own mission and we learn a bit more about Booster’s background as well as the Blue Beetle (several of ’em!) before things have to be dealt with–like putting Dan and Jaime back in their own times without any memory of this issue or the previous having happened…and Ted’s poised to be another "Hero You’ve Never Heard Of" alongside Booster… it’s Blue & Gold, reunited! Though the two quickly realize there’s a bit of a Brother Eye problem that may end things before they’ve truly begun.

This issue was actually published in 2008, some 13 1/2 years after Zero Hour. We were post-Infinite Crisis, post-52, mostly through Countdown, heading toward Final Crisis. And in the early issues of the Geoff Johns run on Booster Gold, with art by Dan Jurgens–the character’s creator and Norm Rapmund‘s excellent inks. And I recall this being one of the more fun series at the time, certainly one of my favorites.

In fact, I had covered the issue at the time, for comiXtreme (and republished in this blog years later), and rated it quite highly. That particular review was based on the issue in that context rather than as a random issue added to this mix, hence any discrepancies between then and now.

Ultimately (given the 14-year-gap in publication) this issue does nothing for the understanding of Zero Hour itself, moving the 1994 series along, etc. But this makes a fun tie-in and providing a more grounded "time" to touch base with–a nod to older/longer-time readers–while serving its own story.

This issue actually kicks off the second arc in the Booster Gold title, and leaves me quite interested in re-reading it…unfortunately, I don’t believe I have any of the early collected volumes, nor ready access (consolidated) to my singles at the moment.

I don’t recommend this in context of Zero Hour itself, really, but it was a great throwback issue, touching in continuity and playing off the #0 issues concept (this was the seventh issue of the series). But as a Booster Gold story, I very definitely recommend the Blue and Gold arc that this kicks off, as well as the first one, 52 Pickup.

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.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #2

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0002Story and Pencil Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Back in the ’90s, we had a number of odd numbering schemes. It was an age of #0 issues (not even talking about the Zero Month that followed this event)–wherein publishers would put out “origin” or “prequel” issues to something, and gave it a #0 to place it before the #1 issue. Wizard Magazine would create a number of #1/2 issues (think “0.5”) as well. Still others would do goofy stuff like Malibu with their Ultraverse line–doing a 4-issue mini-series numbered #0-3 rather than 1-4. With Zero Hour, here we are at issue #2, and it’s actually the third issue of the series…counting backwards from #4, such that when we hit 0, we’re truly at Zero Hour.

Opening on Vanishing Point, Waverider reacts to Extant’s reveal, and then we shift to Metron and Superman’s group, as they deal with a future city about to settle over New York–something that spells the end for BOTH cities. While that’s dealt with, there’s a moment to mourn, and the JSA is no more. Superman’s group moves to the 30th century to face the entropy there, while Jay plans to confront an old ally, and we get other bits of subplots amidst various heroes. Back in the 30th century, our heroes are attacked by the Team Titans and Extant, and suffer a significant loss. Salvaging the situation, the Entropy rift is neutralized, thereby accomplishing the mission in the future. The heroes return to the 20th century, while Extant rails against the situation unfolding counter to what he–as a time-traveler–knew to occur. Finally, a shadowed figure calmly, casually re-opens the rift.

This was quite the issue for me…particularly in the realm of nostalgia. A lot happens in this issue, there are a lot of references to outside events, as well as stuff that can be expanded on, as well as key, iconic “moments.” The most significant there–for me–was Jay and Alan resigning their roles, becoming the FORMER Flash and FORMER Green Lantern–passing those duties to Impulse (in Wally’s absence” and Kyle as truly THE last Green Lantern.

The torch, held with nobility and honor by the first generation–has been passed. There is no applause. No words of congratulations. The silence screams respect.

That bit of captioning has long been one of those memorable “quotes” to me. “The silence screams respect.” Such simple phrasing, and yet it conveys something huge and monumental…or what sure seemed like it and was intended to–at the time. (Nevermind what’s happened with the characters in the 22 years since 1994).

The story moves along at a fast pace, and as with the previous issue of this core mini, I continue to realize just how “core” this was, keeping the “main” events within the title, as I’ve come to realize that the tie-ins really do seem far more like tie-ins than actual expansions or continuations of the story. Any crucial scene in another book that has any key or significant impact here…is duplicated, such that even with the ultra-“compressed” nature of this story (5 weekly issues instead of some year-long spectacle with dozens of crucial side issues and the like) one does not seem to truly need to follow any of the tie-ins.

The art continues to be fantastic, and it’s rather astonishing to see the overall quality maintained on something like this–a consistent creative team on an entire Event book published weekly with a couple dozen tie-in issues…and this was weekly. (My, how Times have changed…this entire mini had to basically have already been completed before the first issue hit…rather than the Event getting halfway through and going off the rails by a couple months and causing a cascade effect!)

Strong story, great art…everything’s gotten across as it needs to; even a scene I totally misinterpreted the first time I read (I missed that the shadowed entity at the end was NOT actually Extant). At this point–with two issues to follow this as well as a number of tie-ins yet, I definitely would say that if you find these single issues or can get the collected volume–it’s well worth it…and works very nicely on its own even without the tie-ins. And though its impact has faded with time…for 1994, this was a key, crucial, important, impactful event that truly affected the entirety of the DC Universe.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #3

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0003Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

We open with Jay Garrick lamenting the loss of Wally–first Barry in the last Crisis, now Wally in this one. While Waverider, Jay, and the other “elder” heroes prepare to take the fight to Vanishing Point, Superman and Metron arrive at the gathering of the other heroes as they try to properly organize. There’s a brief aside with the Time Trapper, mirroring the Trapper/Rokk scene from Valor #23 (the “key moment” from that issue). Waverider and the Hawks are separated from the rest of the JSA mid-teleport to Vanishing point; where they wind up, Waverider witnesses a merging of “the Hawks,” all the versions of Hawkman over the years settling into a single entity. At Vanishing Point, Extant takes the older heroes apart, outright killing or aging all of them (removing what had kept them physically young), save Green Lantern/Sentinel (Alan Scott). Unable to  get through his powers, Extant de-powers Scott’s ring. Waverider and the “merged” Hawkman joined the “other heroes” before Waverider sensed things and disappears to Vanishing Point…where he’s too late to prevent Extant’s attack on the JSA, and the villain reveals a stunning secret to Waverider–that of who and what he truly is (beyond what we saw in the prelude story).

I’d almost swear I’ve “always” read this story in one close-together chunk…the only exception being that summer the issues were originally being published, where I’d read them the week they were put out and then had to wait until the next week for the next issue. With that in mind…it’s rather weird getting to this issue, having forced myself to read EIGHT OTHER issues between. This main story was thus majorly disrupted for me, so much that I could–in a manner of speaking–almost say that I’d forgotten what happened in the last issue.

Of course, one gets back up to speed (no Flash pun intended) pretty quickly as we get back to that plot point–a Flash has died, and it’s the “older generation” of heroes that remains once again. Though I might have argued the point reading the previous issue–that the story could only be enhanced reading the tie-ins–actually having read some of them now and been largely underwhelmed, I’m that much more convinced that the core Zero Hour story truly does stand on its own. This gives a reader what they need just in the core title withOUT being REQUIRED to read tie-in issues. There’ll surely be some exceptions to that, some rich pieces that truly make full use of the crossover, but with stuff like the Legionnaires and Outsiders issues and even Green Lantern being business as usual with only the loosest connecting tie, I’m quickly convinced they’re far from necessary.

As with the previous issue, both the story and the art are very strong, giving us quick bits on several situations, definitely moving things forward and setting up plot elements both for the rest of the event as well as character points for DC continuity going forward. This both looks and feels like the previous issue, like it’s the next chapter of the larger story–as it should!

The aging of, and deaths in, the JSA are quite memorable and iconic for me–this was my “introduction” to most of the characters and the generational concept in the continuity of DC Comics. I didn’t know who all of them were–and I’m still not familiar with all of them, though I at least RECOGNIZE them all now. Within this issue, Superman references recent events in his own book, which leaves me thinking either there’s no absolute, good order to read these in…or whatever I was working from was more than a little off.

Obviously this is not an issue one would jump into cold, and as the second issue of five, of a WEEKLY Event series, I doubt anyone would expect to. We get the continuation of the core story, key elements from other books (Rokk/Trapper) are drawn into the core story as applicable, and we have events that’ll presumably be touched on in other tie-ins for the next round of books.

All in all, after the first round of books I’d have to say I don’t feel like I missed anything by not having really read outside the Superman and Batman titles originally…and it remains now to be seen if I find more tie-ins that are suitably crucial to the core Event in the next round of tie-ins.

Didn’t Know Then What I Do Know Now

I “returned” to comics in 1992 based partly on an American Entertainment or Entertainment This Month catalog as well as a friend discovering a store that was just for comics (as opposed to a spinner rack in a bookstore or grocery store). 1992 ended with stuff like The Death of Superman, Batman: Sword of Azrael, Robin III: Cry of the Huntress, and Spider-Man 2099 (to name a few). Throughout 1993 I expanded into Marvel after Uncanny X-Men #300, followed the core Fatal Attractions event (at least to Wolverine #75)…and what had been a heavy dose of “dabbling in” comics became a truly actual “thing” for me, in my life.

By 1994, comics were my thing. I was primarily following the Superman and Batman books, as well as having gotten into Green Lantern (with Emerald Twilight and the introduction of Kyle) and a decent run with Archie‘s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.

But everything was pretty isolated within the given characters’ realms. I knew there was a shared universe (well, the TMNT were their own thing!) but I hadn’t ventured that far out into the deeper waters of continuity and the like.

So ads like the following were lost on me “in the moment” at original publication.

end_of_today_01

I certainly was not “put off” by the ads or anything…but I didn’t know what this ad was for, as it didn’t directly/solely impact anything I was reading. Crisis on Infinite Earths was at best something that I had heard of and read about; and even including the time between my initial, brief run with comics in 1990-1991 and getting back into them in 1992, when this ad was new, I had barely–if even–5 years of “history” with contemporary comics.

So for me, there was no huge hype driving the pending crossover…and though I was aware of it and bought it and such, I don’t recall any particular anticipation for it.

I got the main Zero Hour series, and then basically “just” the tie-in issues in the Superman and Batman titles as well as Green Lantern–stuff that I was getting anyway.

That I’m finally getting around to reading the entirety of the crossover–the core series, the issues I’d read back then, plus all the other tie-ins I’m aware of/can find now–is something 22 years in the making.

Like my issue-by-issue covering of the original X-Men: Age of Apocalypse stuff… I’ll soon be launching into the Zero Hour equivalent.

As I stare down the barrel of a major change to my personal status quo–the largest such in nearly a decade–Zero Hour‘s tagline fits.

The end of today…

Booster Gold #0 [Review]

Quick Rating: Great!
Story Title: Blue & Gold chapter 1: The Secret Origin of Booster Gold

Booster and the Beetles encounter Parallax mid-Zero Hour in the timestream, and Booster confronts his past as the heroes are stranded in the future…

boostergold000Written by: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Pencil Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Norm Rapmund
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Randy Gentile
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Jurgens & Rapmund
Publisher: DC Comics

You know a book’s good when your primary complaint is a total fan-boy nit-pick with the issue’s cover. As a Zero Hour tie-in (complete with replacing "#7" with "#0"), I had honestly hoped to see the Zero Hour logo on the cover, making the cover fit in with the old 1994 zero issues. We do get the sharp silver coloring in the logo, which keeps it from being a complete bust.

As Booster and the Beetles discuss where to go from here, they encounter fellow time-travellers Parallax and Extant, circa DC‘s Zero Hour: Crisis in Time story from 1994. After a battle with the villains, the heroes find themselves stranded in the future–specifically at a day Booster remembers all too well. They scramble to salvage their mission, while Booster contemplates his role in affecting Time, and an even larger threat quickly becomes apparent.

The story itself here is very good–it keeps things moving forward in a believable way, also allowing the characters to interact with events in a nearly-fourteen-years-old story without seeming implausible (and if you’re not familiar with that story, you’re still in great hands as all you NEED to know is given to you in-context, without coming across as totally cheesey recap-conversation/thoughts!)

Visually, the artistic team–Jurgens, Rapmund, and Hi-Fi on the colors–deliver an excellent product. The Blue Beetles, Booster, even the Zero Hour villains all look spot-on, and really look just about the best I’ve ever seen ’em.

Right now, I’d have to say that Booster Gold is by far my favorite super-hero book out there. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s serious…it builds off established continuity without being slave to it, and still has plenty of room to keep pushing the characters’ stories forward and open up new territory.

This issue kicks off the 2nd arc of the title, and makes a good jump-on point if you’ve been considering whether or not to pick up the book. Both as something "new" to check out or as a continuing purchase, I highly recommend this issue, and the title in general.

Ratings:

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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