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The ’90s Revisited: Eclipso #1

90s_revisited

eclipso_0001The Count

Plotter/Breakdown Artist: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Bart Sears
Scripter: Robert Loren Fleming
Inkers: Ray Kryssing, Mark Pennington
Letters: Gaspar
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editors: Michael Eury, KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November, 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

Though I was aware of The Joker and probably Catwoman and the Penguin, as well as Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and Mr. Mxyzptlk to name a few comic book villains…MY first wide-spread, "universe"-threatening villain was Eclipso.

Yeah.

See, I was introduced to comics in 1988, began "collecting" comics myself in 1989, and was just starting to "get back into" comics in the summer of 1992. While hanging out one day, a friend shared with me a couple new comics he’d gotten–including "a" Superman #1. With Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, I was introduced to Eclipso, and the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story that was taking place in the various annuals that summer.

Get to the end of that crossover, and I remember an ad for Eclipso and Valor–two series "spinning out" from the "event."

Nearly twenty-five years later, I’ve finally READ Eclipso’s first issue!

I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly–perhaps some extension of The Darkness Within, but with newer or lesser-known characters, given the "big event" was over with. Perhaps I expected some loose-knit "team" to have been assembled, perhaps Bruce Gordon gathering folks together to go after Eclipso. What I GOT, though, was a story of Eclipso possessing an outcast and slaughtering a village, essentially reminding himself that he was capable of this, particularly when not hampered by super-heroes. Later while checking out the slaughter, a black diamond is found and taken–with the hopes that its value will make up for the loss of the village and prevent some Count from shooting the messenger. Of course, this being Eclipso and that a black diamond…well, Eclipso feeds on the Count’s anger and possesses him…and slaughters the Count’s household. When the police arrive to investigate this…Eclipso is ready. The black diamond is flipped to a sergeant who is goaded to anger…and thus Eclipso has another minion with whom to continue to kill. And for him…it’s a good day to be a villain.

While we have a narrative story here, the issue is particularly interesting to me as the issue is "hosted" by Eclipso himself, essentially venting to the reader about stuff and showing off to the reader–as he’s got no one else to do it with. He shows us where he came from, what he’s capable of, and lets us in on a bit of his thinking and reasoning and plans for the future…namely, he’s learned from recently-transpired events and is trying a different means of getting whatever he wants.

Story-wise, I really dug this issue. As said, it took me nearly 25 years to get around to reading this, and where I’d expect it to be a letdown for so many years of NOT being disappointed by it to actually read the thing…I really enjoyed this quite a bit, in what it is. Not for the slaughter and casual taking of lives, but as a first issue about a villain that sets him up for his own series. This isn’t making the villain into an anti-hero…it’s the villain BEING a villain. He doesn’t even need a super-hero to fight to do nasty stuff, to be vile and dark and all that. He’s just that regardless of a bright foil. And having the character talking to the reader, aware of us following him through these pages…it’s like a dark take on the usually-lighter way I think many think of for Deadpool, She-Hulk, or Harley Quinn. Plus there’s the nostalgia of the notion of the "hosts" of the House of Secrets books, and here’s Eclipso "hosting" his own book. I later realized that it makes sense, too…the character first appeared IN House of Secrets!

Visually, I really liked this issue. This is Eclipso as I think of the character by default…perhaps because this issue has Bart Sears as the artist, and I believe he was the artist on the bookend Eclipso: The Darkness Within #s 1-2, which adds a great consistency from that mini-series/event into this ongoing series.

Story and writing, I think I really enjoyed that there were no heroes here. It gives room for the Eclipso character to be shown–if not at his WORST–then at his default. And bad as that is, it at least hints at how bad he can be if he’s actually worked up or challenged.

For years, I’ve thought that an Eclipso: The Darkness Within omnibus would be fantastic. Now I’m even more convinced of that…but adding to it the wish for an Eclipso omnibus for this series, and perhaps other appearances through the years. It’s also interesting to note that this was a first issue of a brand-new series, spinning out of an EVENT, with high-end talent creatively…yet it is a standard-sized, standard-priced single-cover first issue. No variants, no fancy gimmicks, no extra-pages to lure someone in or jack up the price…it’s just a comic, that happens to be a #1, that gives a good start to a new series coming off an event.

I won’t say this is by any means a "happy" issue…but it stands alone quite well, and is worth snagging if you can get it for $1 or less, just to read this issue, regardless of anything else read of the character…provided you’re interested in Eclipso. As for me…this has me psyched to read the rest of the series, as well as increased interest in finally going through my Showcase Presents volume and perhaps hunting down some other Eclipso issues.

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Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour #0

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0000Zero Hour

Story and Layout Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink 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

Here we are, at last–the final issue of Zero Hour itself. We’ve seen time anomalies pop up, and worsen. We’ve seen heroes discover time is being destroyed in the past and the future, working toward the present. We’ve seen the emergence of Extant, and the fall of the Justice Society. We’ve had dozens of tie-in issues where few have directly been part of this core event, though a fair number have danced on the edges. We’ve seen Hall Jordan–former Green Lantern, now Parallax–revealed as the sentient, actual manipulator of things as he seeks to wipe the slate clean after his own trajedies. The heroes have failed, all time and space has been destroyed, and a handful of heroes pulled outside it all, while another small handful remains with Parallax.

Hal prepares energies for the re-creation of the universe, of all existence. His way will see many worlds, and all wrongs will be set right. There will be the Earth everyone knew, minus stuff like the Coast City disaster. There will be a world that Batgirl remembers, in which she was never assaulted by the Joker. Even Extant will have his own world to rule over. Everyone will be happy. This is opposed–how can Hal be God? Waverider and his group of heroes attacks, disrupting Hal, and ultimately–after quite a scuffle–the universe IS reborn…but it unfolds "naturally" withOUT any one entity controlling it, tweaking it. As such, events unfold mostly as remembered, but here there are no alternate timelines, so everyone, everything is folded into one single chronology. The potential time-loop is closed, and all it costs is Hal Jordan and the young Kyle Rayner…while Green Arrow is wracked by the guilt of losing (having had to try to kill) his best friend.

For some reason, the phrasing "the universe is born old" sticks out to me, reading the issue. That may be random or personal and get into stuff I’m not really going to get into in a comics blog, but it’s a key phrasing to my reading.

A lot happens in this issue–look a couple paragraphs above, and that feels like scratching the surface. And yet, it’s a simplistic issue. Time is restarted; Hal wants to tweak it his way, but he’s stopped and so it restarts and unfolds naturally, so it’s similar to before, with small adjustments that functionally "explain away" continuity glitches and timing and such; shuffling a few events here and there to mash into one specific timeline.

We’re left with the notion that anyone that died via entropy or the time fissures has been restored…while anyone who died "outside of Time" (such as the Justice Society) remains dead. Victory, but at a cost.

The art and visuals remain excellent here with clean, crisp pages and dynamic layouts and (to me) iconic scenes playing out.

I don’t know if I’d recommend this as a stand-alone issue out of context of its other issues, but in a way it does work as a singular thing. You open on nothingness, and from that, Hal and his group; the opposing group, we see the FINAL final battle, the villain defeated and the universe restored…and a hint of what’s to come, as well as a fold-out timeline laying everything out for now and moving forward into the rest of 1994 and beyond. So it works as an artifact of sorts, as seeing the end of the story. And if you’re actually going to read it–whether re-read or you’ve never before read it–it’s definitely worth getting if you come across it. But it’s even better if you can snag all five issues–4/3/2/1/0–and read this core story even without any of the other tie-ins!


Going beyond the issue itself and expanding on stuff…

This is a really effective issue and makes me think. There’s a part where Hal smiles, explaining he just wants to make everything right, he wants everyone to live, where I wonder if the intent was to go for a "creepy" smile, or a "mad" smile, as if Hal’s insane. Personally, I have always–and again this time through–found myself wondering ok, why SHOULDN’T he be able to fix things? He’s not talking about recreating a universe that he RULES, or subjugating entire populations, or ending his actions with half the living entities dead, or stuff like that. He’s not targeting any particular people to wipe them out–he’s not even talking about killing Mongul. He just wants a universe where wrongs are set right, and Coast City never blows up.

Yet the argument opposing him makes sense–who is HE to singularly dictate events? Things happened for a reason, and need to remain that way, or Time WILL be altered. So really, my heart hurts for the guy, on the surface, and without considering that he was willing to wipe out the entire universe (he was gonna put it back…). And in the end, all the ramifications and little detailed points are far too numerous to address in a blog post.

I buy into this. I didn’t get into comics until about 2 1/2 years after the original Crisis. While I’d read a couple issues of Armageddon 2001, and a number of Eclipso: The Darkness Within and eve more of the Bloodlines stuff…and of course Doomsday/Funeral for a Friend/Reign of the Supermen, as well as Knightfall, KnightQuest, and KnightsEnd…this was my first DC Universe-wide event of this scale. This story ironed out details I didn’t even know at the time were issues. But it did solidify for me the notion of everything being in one single timeline…and the issue even provides a timeline, concretely laying out where/when major things happened (at least as relevant to the publishing schedule of DC in 1994!).

This was epic, and really set the standard for me of what great events could be. Of course, I’d mainly read only the core series, the Superman chapters, and several others, so it wasn’t until my current reading project of going through the entirety of the event–every single tie-in I’m aware of–that I saw the major cracks in that, and how so many issues were only loosely connected.

Looking back on this current reading experience vs. 22 years ago, I don’t feel like I actually DID "miss out on" anything back then. I did not find anything in these various issues that expanded my understanding of the story or filled in any gaps that I’d truly wondered about or that truly impacted the story…and I was disappointed at some that I’d expected would be expanded on/filled in that really were not. It seems like the issues I’d read back in the day–the Superman titles, Batman, Green Lantern, the core mini–were very much a complete enough experience.

That said, this has provided me a "survey" of a month’s worth of DC titles from July 1994, basically sampling over 30 different titles (though several "families" of related titles are in that).

There’s a lot more that can be discussed on Zero Hour itself–as a story, as an event, on ramifications and implications in-story and on a meta level. Structurally, I found this to be a solid event, and going back the 22 years, it really "set the standard" for me, and I truly MISS when even a universe-wide MAJOR event would "only" take up one publication month–with a WEEKLY core series and just one issue of tie-in per TITLE (though related titles could expand to have larger arcs tying in).

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 – L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 #70

90srevisited_zerohour

legion_94_0070Down to Zero

Writer: Tennessee Peyer
Pencillers: Arnie Jorgensen, Derec Aucoin
Inker: James Pascoe
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Peter Tomasi
Editor: Dan Raspler
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $2.50

This is yet another issue that I “missed” in 1994 and never have gotten around to reading until now in 2016…at least that I can recall. I had a slight sense of deja vu reading this and though I don’t remember reading it…it’s possible I paged through and read part of it somewhere along the way. (Or at the least, I must’ve read ABOUT it, being curious about how this series ended). I jumped on to R.E.B.E.L.S. ’94 with #0 and followed for a handful of issues, though right now I can’t even recall any of THAT.

LEGION (Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network) is not in good shape, apparently, as we begin this issue. The leader of the group–Vril Dox–laments the loss (or apparent loss) of several members of the team, as well as stuff perpetrated by his (apparently) infant son. His reminiscing is interrupted by coming across the freshly-murdered body of a man he’d murdered years ago, giving him pause. Meanwhile, the mother of his son chases after an apparent imposter impersonating Lady Qark (There’s a name I remember but don’t think I really knew appeared in this title post-COIE!); we also see another member with a time-travel buddy preparing to take her “back” to the future….and on learning recent events he freaks out, knowing only something HUGE happens, the details of which are lost to history but not its impact. Also meanwhile, Lobo and Borb arrive at Garv and Strata’s wedding…we eventually learn that Lobo expects a great party–the reception–so he’s none too pleased to have to stand quietly by for something mushy. Plotlines unfold, somewhat converge, and ultimately Dox loses LEGION–usurped by his son. And things will never be the same.

Unlike, say, Valor #23 that appears to be “just” another issue but ends that series, this is an extra-sized issue, basically double-sized…but not quite twice the price. In an age of standard DC comics being $1.50 with some titles at $1.95…this issue was “only” $2.50 with 40-some pages. And the extra pages do service to the story–allowing it to be longer, to involve more events, wrap some stuff up and set other things up for going forward, without requiring an extra issue. It’s like the two-hour series finale of a show that’s usually only got an hour.

While I’m aware OF many of these characters, I’m not all that familiar with them. I remember being loosely aware of this title, though it was well into its run before I learned of it…but it was that awareness that led to me particularly jumping into REBELS–that was a fresh start, a jumping-on point, a continuation of something with a bit of history, but that I could get in on from #1 (or #0, as the case was).

While undoubtedly cheesy by contemporary standards, the story does quite well, letting events unfold, characters move around, the status quo shifts…but there’s ALSO enough context for me to FIGURE OUT what’s going on even not having read any of the issues immediately prior. I was not–am not–all that impressed with the art, though characters that ought to be familiar are, and I was able to follow what was going on without having much problem.

The visuals just aren’t all that appealing to me…though perhaps a part of that is that this is [1.] not a typical superhero book and [2.] these characters are largely unfamiliar to me. I realize as well that visually, this puts me in mind of pre-Annihilation stuff with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The issue is a solid enough read, but only tangentially tied to Zero Hour. Dox seeing the body from years before is presumably a result OF the Time-stuff going on; beyond that, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Zero Hour nor any expansion/development of the core story. If you’re reading LEGION stuff or REBELS, or trying to read every tie in (as I am) this would be worthwhile; otherwise, nothing much here for a random/casual reader.

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.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0004Story 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

As a weekly, core event mini-series, there is a LOT that happens in this book. Also, though this is the first issue of the series, it was numbered as 4–because we’re counting down TO Zero Hour, and go from #4, to #3, down to #0.

This was my first DC Universe event that I got in on from the very beginning. While I count Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines as events, those played out in Annuals and thus were a separate thing from the actual titles. Zero Hour played out across actual issues of a bunch of different series throughout July 1994, and was truly an Event, capital-E.

We open on the Time Trapper being killed. Knowing the end of this story and 20+ years of DC history since, it makes total sense who the villain of the piece is from these pages, though I recall being entirely clueless at the time. We then jump around quite a bit as pieces are moved into place, both for this core series and to set things up for tie tie-in titles for the first week of the event. Metron finds Darkseid and urges him to act. When that fails, he leaves on his own to seek allies elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Joker finds himself facing Batgirl, and then an equally-surprised Batman and Robin who don’t know who this young woman is. The Linear men become aware of a disturbance in Time, so Waverider and Hunter (with no reference at all to Sum: Zero–the Prelude to Zero Hour from Showcase ’94 #s 8-9) are dispatched to investigate. They arrive in the far future just in time to see The Flash–Wally West–die trying to shut down the rift eating through Time itself…they escape into the past. Back in the present, Superman meets up with Batman for the first time since before their respective “big events” (Superman’s death/return and Batman’s broken back/healing)…just as Metron shows up. Waverider and Hunter then encounter a young Hal Jordan, himself displaced in time, and try once again to stop the rift, but this time only Waverider gets out, though Hunter is able to tell him to look up a “crisis.” Back on Earth in the present, Hawkman confronts Vandal Savage, and then splits into numerous iterations of himself, confusing Savage. Metron and Superman locate Kyle Rayner, the current Green Lantern, and broadcast a message to the heroes of Earth, informing them of the situation. Metron then confronts the Spectre; Hawkman re-merges with himself as the Justice Society shows up; Vandal Savage disappears, and Waverider appears, bearing the horrible news of this crisis having already claimed its Flash…and Extant gloats.

Given its relative quick point, I’ll touch on the art, first. It’s Jurgens…with Ordway. Fantastic stuff, some of my absolute favorite, particularly given their involvement with the Superman books, this was a line-wide event, but helmed by “the Superman guys” I was already familiar with, AND Superman’s involved, so when this came out, it seemed a natural extension–or expansion–for me, and fit perfectly. Even now in 2016, I love the art, and it just IS. This being my first such event, and these guys on the art, their work became instantly “iconic” for me, and a standard I often hold stuff to even after another 22 years.

Story-wise, this also fit into the Superman books of the time–my core anchor to the then-DC Universe. His involvement here brought me into it (Ditto Waverider), and though at the time I wasn’t all that familiar with many characters, there were enough that I WAS familiar with that it never turned me off. I understood–even then–that this was bringing together a ton of different characters, so I followed along, getting more out of the characters I knew, and rolling with those I did not. Some of the scenes that unfold in this book remain iconic to me both in the visuals as well as story beats–particularly the Flash’s big moment.

We get just enough in this issue itself to grasp the core of what’s going on–rifts in Time are eating backward from the End of Time as well as the Beginning, causing anything from those periods to cease to exist, both ends moving toward the late 20th century. We see characters experiencing chronal anomalies, as everyone is affected from humans to gods and everyone in between.

This issue virtually ignores the prelude bits from Showcase ’94, without even a reference or footnote pointing readers to it, so I certainly didn’t miss it back then, though it gives context for the panel Extant appears in here. Other than that, we’re introduced to the situation, see how it’s affecting things, see various characters face the situation while others notice its effects, a call to action goes out, and though this issue alone provides a lot of story, it also shows us glimpses of things that are expanded on in various tie-in issues. I only remember reading several of the Batman and of course the Superman tie-ins, and this core series and getting plenty from the Event. This time through, I’m reading every tie-in that I’m aware of, hopefully lined up with the weeks they were originally released in (corresponding to the core mini’s issues).

The core series was a 5-issue WEEKLY book…with the entire event, start to finish (outside of the prelude) taking place in ONE MONTH. Blink, and you miss it. Blink twice, and you missed the Zero Month as well. Drastically unlike modern events that can take six or more months to a year to play out, chewing up entire ARCS in a title or filling entire mini-series if characters’ involvement can’t interrupt something in their individual titles. Zero Hour, then a bunch of #0 issues for Zero Month, then the DC Universe continued on.

That I’m about to dive into all of the tie-ins along with the core series and Superman/Batman books is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And as a self-proclaimed Official Reading Project, I’ll be sharing my experience in writing, as I intend to cover every issue (including the Booster Gold issue from Geoff Johns).

The clock is ticking…

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