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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

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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.

Doomed: Price/Variants/Scheduling

While I am certainly guilty of “enabling” or such in this case by buying along, the current crossover/”mini-event” Superman: Doomed makes for a bit of “case study” for why I will probably avoid the Futures End stuff and other future “mini events” or such from DC (to say nothing of Marvel‘s pricing, variants, and events).

weekly_haul_080614b

Price

I initially allowed myself to be sucked into Doomed because firstly, it’s Superman; secondly, Doomsday (even though I really do NOT like the revised visual of the character); thirdly, an ad/checklist indicated 4 chapters, so I figured why not? Only 4 issues…sure.

What I had not realized was that this was a 4-month, several-title saga or I would have simply awaited the collected volume…get the whole story in one book, all at once, in one place, no variants, cheaper than the singles, etc.

As far into things as I’ve gotten, I intend to finish this one out, and then I will be far more hesitant with any future such stories.

So far this has been a mix of pricing. As of this typing, we have 12 chapters. 1 was $2.99, 8 were $3.99, and 3 were $4.99…round the penny up on the cover prices and we’re at $42 so far. An ad in the latest issue gives an August checklist showing there are 3 more chapters, and unless I’m completely “off,” that’s 1 each at $2.99, $3.99, and $4.99. Meaning the $17ish story I thought I was getting into has become a $54 investment for 15 issues. (I paid about $55 for my Death and Return of Superman Omnibus that has about 40 issues’ content). And if I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that the hardback will be $29.99 to $34.99 cover price.

doomed_week_01

Scheduling

I no longer pay the attention to “late books” that I used to…probably because I’ve been primarily sticking to Valiant and TMNT comics, and those have been coming out in the months they’re supposed to. I’ve not particularly paid attention to which week of the month, so if there’s been a bit of slidage I’m not particularly conscious of it.

julydoomedchecklist01That said, it’s long been frustrating–if only passively so–the way books seem to “cluster,” rather than be more spread out. Valiant would seem to skip a week or two and then have multiple books out the same week…and I think the last couple months, both the main TMNT book and the Animated Adventures have been out in the same week rather than spaced out. Maybe they have different audiences, but there are some people (like me) who buy both, so instead of spreading the cost through the month, when they both show up the same week, I’m out $8 instead of only $4 that week.

I noted my issue with this when Doomed STARTED, and the issue came up again a couple weeks ago with a $14 3-issue cluster that EASILY could have been spread out–and should have, as both of the $5 annuals were on a July checklist, not August. (In fact, 3 out of the 5 Wednesdays in July had NO new chapter! Superman/Wonder Woman #10 hit July 9th, and there was nothing July 16th, 23rd, or 30th).

julydoomedchecklist02

Variants

That $54 mentioned above actually translates to $62ish for me, as I wound up re-purchasing two issues. I didn’t even KNOW there were variants, and thus WOUND UP WITH variants for Superman #31 and Action Comics #32. Since this story has a trade dress and numbering, I sorta want all my single issues to look like they belong together, PARTICULARLY with the added expense and hassle OF buying this as single issues.

superman31variantsThe other week, I actually had to go to TWO shops just to get the NON-variant edition of Action Comics #34, as there were several variants left but the ‘regular’ trade-dress cover was sold out (and I got to the first shop maybe 2 hours after they opened?).

It’s one thing to have a variant as an actual SPECIAL thing…and on “key” issues (like a #1 or anniversary or such), and on very FEW titles. But when they’re so frequent and common and such that it’s the VARIANT that’s left and the REGULAR issue that sells out, it’s just a little ridiculous. (and it’s not like I’m grousing that a 1st print sold out before a 2nd print or any such).action33variants

I’m not going to blame the shop on the earlier issues: there was only the one cover there, the covers were not MARKED as variant (by the publisher), so I had no reason to suspect they were (perhaps I SHOULD have suspected due to how MANY variants are constantly being pumped out…but that’s another topic for another post). Of course, I wised up thanks to those, hence leaving my usual shop with one less otherwise-in-the-bag sale and went to another shop in seeking the regular edition.

*     *     *     *     *

So, a few more issues to complete this story that I’ve gotten this far into…and I’m done. Again. There are plenty of “classic” stories I’ve yet to read, many I’ll enjoy re-reading, and given my enjoyment of bargain bin hauls…I don’t need the hassle of things like I’ve experienced with Doomed.

And I’m not even getting into any of the issues I have with Marvel events this time around…

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