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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 – Guy Gardner: Warrior #24

guy_gardner_warrior_0024Killing Time!

Story: Beau Smith
Pencils: Mitch Byrd, Phil Jimenez, Howard Porter, Mike Parobeck
Layouts: Jackson Guice
Inks and Finishes: Dan Davis
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Edits: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I expected a lot of this issue, and unfortunately found myself rather disappointed. Guy, Steel, Batgirl, and Supergirl face Extant, and are thrown through time, bouncing from dinosaurs to Guy’s own past with a woman he’d loved but who died in Coast City.

Reading this issue as an isolated thing, it just didn’t do much for me. Now, I’m a fan of Guy, and have read at least a couple issues of his series before (including, I think, some sort of Year One story and a followup to Emerald Twilight–so with this, that’s probably at least 10 issues of this series I’ve read). I’m familiar with the character from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annuals (his appearance in the Adventures of Superman one where he first has the yellow ring) and his being part of the Justice League at the time (Death of Superman stuff), and have gotten a lot more familiar with the character in the 20+ years since.

But this issue just felt like it was all over the place…and all I can REALLY tell is that Guy’s new getup is just that–new–he’s still learning what it (and he himself) can do. That these characters are fighting Extant in this issue, that they’re bouncing around through time–that certainly makes this a nice tie-in to Zero Hour, one that truly deserves that banner on the cover, and serves as a RELEVANT tie-in. So even being all over the place, its "fun factor" is there a bit…though I don’t know that I’d particularly recommend it in and of itself.

Visually, I noticed a mix of art styles–PARTICULARLY toward the end when the visuals went toward something resembling Batman: The Animated Series and Darwyn Cooke…it was not until I keyed out the credits for this post that I realized there were FOUR different pencilers. I’m not sure if it helped having Guice doing layouts or not…except that despite multiple artists it at least kept panels to one vision so nothing was overly "out there" or varying drastically from the others. None of the art singly was bad, but it was a bit jarring going from grittier to simplicity reminiscent of Cooke. Not knowing any behind the scenes stuff regarding this specific issue, I can’t comment on that–but I do definitely appreciate what I know now about comics in general in 2016–where I can "assume" that this issue was running late and so the art was divided up to make sure the issue would be done on time as it is a Zero Hour issue and thus HAD TO be out during Zero Hour, which only lasted one month. And with this ending on the blank pages, that sticks it as intended for the last week of the month…where even a SINGLE WEEK slip would put it out of sync with the event itself.

I don’t care for the cover–I kinda consciously "know" that’s supposed to be Extant’s face…but with the fire effect, just the face looks like this is some other villain or a fire-entity or like some X-Men character or something…show me the image without the Zero Hour banner and I would not at all think "Extant" OR "Zero Hour."

Ultimately, this is (along with Batman #511) probably the closest-tied issue to Zero Hour, making it one that you’d definitely want to read with the main series if you’re going for an all-in experience on the reading. By itself, I would not recommend it AS some destination-issue or to seek out as a single issue. As part of Zero Hour or as part of reading the title in general, I think it fits quite well.

The Weekly Haul: Week of May 04, 2016

Outside of several pretty hefty recent book purchases, actual comics made for a big week this week…and probably my widest, most “diverse” (publisher-wise) such haul in ages!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160504a

In my main/regular/new issues, I have five publishers represented. I was not going to buy the Thunerbolts issue…while I’d greatly enjoyed the late-1990s/early-2000s and somewhat tried again with the series with Marvel Now, I’d trailed off. Something about this cover, though, just REALLY triggers the nostalgia factor for me. While I’d prefer the title be at the top of the cover, for the image they went with, it works…sadly, I am certain this “main” cover is hardly the only cover…thus it lacks the iconic status of the original 1997 Thunderbolts book.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, Thunderbolts (2016) #1 is only $3.99! I have been so extremely put-off by Marvel‘s high prices and the seeming stream of $4.99+ #1s that I’ve written ’em off as too expensive for my interest. I’d far prefer $2.99, but at this point I’ll “support” $3.99 OVER $4.99 for #1 issues, regardless of size (standard or extra…short me on size and the complaint’s renewed!)

weekly_haul_week_of_20160504b

I’d picked up the first two issues of X-Men ’92 recently to “check them out,” having bought the series last year with the Secret Wars stuff…seeing the third issue, I decided to take a chance and buy this one so I’m “caught up” for the reading. I’d been quite surprised that the first couple issues were “only” $3.99 apiece…that #1 was not $4.99 was a major selling point for me!

A $1 issue from IDW, and a catalog of Marvel collected volumes round out the “normal” stuff for the week.

Which brings us to issues of timing, with their release falling on May 04.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160504c

Star Wars Day seems to have become an official Thing, May 4th each year. As in “May the Fourth be with you.” So rather than stagger them across the entire month…Marvel threw us ten $1 reprints of #1 issues. For the price, I’m cool with them; they were pulled for me as part of my “$1 and under promo-priced stuff” part of my pull-list. In addition, I snagged an extra copy of several issues to give to coworkers.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160504d

Given the relative (I believe) “recency” of several of the issues, I’m quite glad I waited. As is, I’m a bit miffed at these now-$1 copies of the $4.99 Star Wars #1 and Darth Vader #1 from last year…ditto on the Vader Down issue. Still, these give me a first-issue jumping-in point to help determine if I want to buy the trades…

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I also hit the quarter-bins, where I snagged several random-ish issues. The Wolverine issue brings back definite memories from when it was originally released, so I grabbed that on the nostalgia alone. I snagged the Captain Marvel because it was #1, did not have the other issues in the bin, and I wanted an ‘even number” of books. Turns out the Generation X/Gen13 books are variants of the same issue. I’m disgusted on principle but can’t be too upset…they’re wraparound covers, and I’m only out 50 cents for a double-length story.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160504f

I totally forgot several weeks ago to follow up on an offer on the Guy Gardner issues–the store owner was planning on clearing them out “soon.” While I think I “missed out on” several early issues in the run, these issues are mostly what I recall being present at the time, so it all worked out in the end. I’m pretty sure somewhere in the Abyss that is my collection of longboxes I have the first 20+ issues–at least the bulk of the run before the book became Warrior…so I mostly passed on those for now, as I’m hoping to get the entirety of my comics collection sorted sooner than not…and I’m trying to exercise a bit of restraint in this regard (though adding 30 25-cent issues ($7.50) to an already cringe-inducingly large week on top of other expenditures may not be the most intelligent thing to do.

Chasing Back Issues: Guy Gardner: Warrior #29

There was a time that I figured I’d never be one to dig through back issue bins and multiple shops just looking for a random issue. Years of great quarter-bin finds and other bargain-bin acquisitions had somewhat numbed me to the notion of paying more than $1 for any given ’90s comic, having come to see most as merely 25-cent fodder.

More recently, I’ve specifically sought out an issue of Adventure Comics because of an ad for it in an issue of The New Adventures of Superboy. I bought a DC Comics Presents Annual due to some talk of the series on a podcast. I’ve sought out "random" issues of a couple other titles due to podcast discussions on them. I tracked down Green Lantern #81 for never having seen it in a quarter bin and wanting to finally read it. And so on.

And really, it’s been awakening this suppressed "joy" of the search (and finding) of certain issues. Thus far, it’s been more success than not, and really is very enjoyable to go into a week with a specific issue of a specific series in mind, and with a single trip through a handful of shops I frequent, find that issue. No ordering online and paying shipping and waiting; just finding the issue, being quite agreeable to the asking price (and it’s right there on the issue, no taking it to a counter and someone looks it up in a "price guide" NOW THAT someone is actually interested in purchasing it).

And in a post on his blog, covering the issue, Chris really piqued my interest in a Guy Gardner: Warrior issue the other day. If I already have the issue somewhere, I don’t recall it, and being intrigued, I went into a nearby shop over the weekend not truly expecting them to have the issue.

They had about half a dozen issues from the entire run…including this one, #29, that I was specifically interested in. And while I was thinking I’d prefer the newsstand cover, finding the "deluxe" "collector’s edition" for under $4 was quite pleasing.

back_issues_guy_gardner_0029

The price was all the more agreeable as it’s only 55 cents more than the cover price…and even adding in TAX, I only paid $3.75 for the issue.

To put that into perspective: I had a specific issue of a specific series in mind, that was published more than two decades ago, with a typical-’90s "enhanced cover," and I was able to walk into a comic shop and buy it–bag and board included–with tax–for 25 cents LESS THAN a modern 20-page Marvel or DC comic.

Instead of "just" "the latest issue" of something, I specifically sought this out, wanting it…and that wanting it, knowing it would NOT "just" be available at any/all comic shops on a rack prominently displayed…well, that just adds to the satisfaction of the purchase.

Yeah, I may still hold to EXTREMELY RARE exceptions to not paying more than $10 for any given comic, period…but I’m certainly more thoroughly enjoying back issue hunting than I would have thought, and continue to find myself enjoying back issues much more than most any new comics Marvel or DC are currently publishing.

Booster Gold #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Excellent!
Story Title: 52 Pick-Up, chapter 2: Leggo My Ego

Booster vs. Sinestro…for the fate of Guy Gardner?

boostergold002Written by: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Layouts by: Dan Jurgens
Finishes by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Jurgens & Rapmund
Variant cover by: Art Adams
Booster Gold created by: Dan Jurgens
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue’s mission for Booster? Stop a determined Sinestro from making contact with Guy Gardner. Should he fail, the Sinestro Corps. would come about years sooner than it should, and would lead to Sinestro’s successful conquering of the universe. As Booster attempts to keep the two men from meeting, Rip goes on a field trip, and a figure from Booster’s recent experiential past returns, promising significant trouble.

This is another fine issue of this still-young series. We get a "complete" story in Booster being told what his "mission" is, the context surrounding said mission, and Booster diving in to attend to business, with the conclusion of the mission impacting what’s to come in the next issue, all while several sub-plots (awesome–they still exist!) advance and promise to emerge to the forefront before too terribly long.

As such, it seems that the writing team is in great form here, providing us with an entertaining story, but also laying foundation for the meta-arc that will likely be at least the first TPB…establishing an ongoing story that works in larger form, while making it feel worthwhile to be reading the short-form single issues as they’re released.

The art team is also in great form, providing visuals that convey the story and character emotions in a clear, detailed way without being hyper-detailed nor so realistic one might be tempted to forget that this is, in fact, a comic book.

Blended together, this is another very enjoyable issue that is well worth being picked up. And even if you didn’t nab #1…I would gladly argue that this issue justifies tracking down both issues of this series-so-far to get in on an engaging, enjoyable read!

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Green Lantern Corps #45 [Review]

Red Dawn

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inkers: Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Gleason, Buchman, Mayor
Editor: Adam Schlagman
Published by: DC Comics

For the most part, this issue is Red Lantern Guy Gardner fighting against his friends, trying to kill them. As a Red Lantern he’s enraged at the Green Lanterns. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) for Guy, the very planet he stands on is a member of the GL Corps, and where the other Green Lanterns fail to stop Guy, Mogo is–at Kyle’s persistence that Guy not be simply killed–is moved to provide a solution for his miniscule-by-comparison comrade.

The story here is fairly simple, but it’s effective. A couple issues back, Guy was possessed by a red ring when his rage flared at what he thought was the death of his best friend. Though Kyle was brought back, Guy remained a Red Lantern and did some nasty stuff to wipe out a bunch of the Black Lanterns threatening Oa. With the immediate threat of the Black Lanterns taken care of by Mogo, the remaining threat became Guy himself, who was in possession of both a red and a green ring. Tomasi uses this issue to give us some serious Guy time, as we see the battle for his heart play out. The writing and art blend particularly with a double-page spread that shows us moments from throughout a lotta years of Guy’s history.

As usual, I’m not a fan of Gleason‘s visual style, but with that spread particularly, scenes are recognizable and that is definitely a good thing. The final page of the issue has a fairly iconic sort of image that works fairly well despite my not liking the style.

This issue feels fairly epic despite its localized setting and there really not being any Black Lanterns. We have the “redemption” of Guy, and a solidification of some important elements to the character. Though this could just as easily have been a send-off, it is more a celebration of the character, firmly establishing him (if there remained any doubt) as one of THE Green Lanterns. Mogo’s solution to deal with the red ring seems to be Tomasi providing a bit of retconning of Guy’s character…but in a way that keeps the past intact while fully freeing the character to move on without being tethered to the past.

Overall, a nice character-driven issue, and well worth getting–particularly for fans of Guy Gardner.

Recommended.

Story: 8/10
Art: 5/10
Overall: 7/10

Green Lantern Corps #44 [Review]

Red Badge of Rage part 2

Story & Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inkers: Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Gleason
Colorists: Randy Mayor & Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Gleason, Buchman, & Mayor (Variant by Greg Horn)
Editor: Adam Schlagman

We left off in the previous issue with the arrival of Mogo at Oa. Mogo, of course, being the Green Lantern that “don’t socialize,” due to…well, being a planet. Gravitational pull and all that. Of course, the Black Lanterns devouring will, intent upon destruction of the central Green Power Battery, seems to be enough of an emergency to bring Mogo. While the GLs deal with the arrival of their largest representative, they also have a rage-fueled Red Lantern Guy Gardner to contend with…and the fact that Guy is currently filling the role of the Red Lantern he and Kyle initially sought to unleash upon the Black Lanterns. Though one problem gets at least a temporary solution…the GLs are left with the other problem, which is ready to do them great bodily harm.

The story here is interesting enough, if not entirely entertaining. I certainly appreciate Tomasi’s keeping focused on the events of Oa–while other Blackest Night books focus on Earth and other individual characters, much of the battle at Oa unfolds in this series. If the Sinestro Corps War applied significant change to Guy and Kyle, Blackest Night will certainly leave a mark on them, and the potential–at the very least–is exciting.

Unfortunately–as I seem to be commenting on with every single issue I review of this book–the art is not to my liking. It’s not bad in and of itself, but it is very stylistic, and I just don’t care for the look. A double-page spread of Guy flying at the reader, for example, seems so much like a caricature that I have to remind myself that it is supposed to be Guy Gardner.

Important as the issue’s events are, this is hardly the best chapter tying in to Blackest Night. Obviously if you’re following the event as a whole, this’ll be worth picking up; ditto if you’re following the series itself. As a new entry point, though, I definitely cannot recommend this issue.

Story: 7/10
Art: 4/10
Overall: 5.5/10

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