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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…

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

Booster Gold #14 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part 2

Booster and a questionable ally seek the point in time at which to stop the Starro infestation before the whole of Time can be infected…a feat that may have a large cost to accomplish.

boostergold014Writer: Rick Remender
Penciller: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Chris Batista and Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue begins with a Booster Gold trapped in a sea of malevolent starfish intent upon taking control of the hero. Showing some smarts some don’t credit him with, Booster quickly escapes, but finds that his challenge might just be insurmountable–Starro has (through Rip Hunter) gained access to the Timestream itself and is taking over, eradicating from existence anything and anyone who might be able to stop him. Finding an unexpected ally, striking a (figurative) deal with a lesser of the two evils, and utilizing access to the Timestream, Booster fights back, risking not only his life but the whole of free-thinking reality to try to save Rip Hunter and set time right.

While certainly not my favorite Booster story, this issue certainly wades in deep with the sort of adventure the "All-New" (as opposed to "Pre-Infinite Crisis") Booster Gold is meant for. The story has some decent moments, characters are believable (even if I didn’t know before who a certain villain was prior), and shows that while maintaining an ongoing story it is very possible to have stories done in less than six chapters. This is a solid story, and well worthwhile for Booster Gold fans (or fans of Starro).

The art is of strong quality. I have no real complaint with it, as characters are all unrecognizable and distinct, there’s a good amount of detail (especially if you look closely at points), and the story comes across nothing but enhanced by the visuals. A panel on the last page in particular–while perhaps not entirely true to that character–almost made me laugh as my mind fills in the blanks from what we’re shown.

I’m sure you could find issues better than this within this series and others. But honestly? You could do so much worse than this issue. If you can find the previous issue to go with this, I recommend snaggin’ both for a good, simple two-issue read.

Ratings:

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

Booster Gold #13 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part I

Booster & Michelle vs. Starro-Rip in a battle with huge consequences.

boostergold013Written by: Rick Remender
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Chris Batista & Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

We open this issue with an image of Superman being punched to the ground, as Booster and his sister move in to save a life Superman (would have been) unable to save. Booster explains why they can’t just save everybody, and the two return to Rip’s lab, only to find Hunter with a starfish…er…Starro Spore hugging his face. The possessed Rip heads into the timestream, and it quickly becomes apparent that Starro has taken over Everything. Booster and Michelle head into the timestream themselves, set on preventing Starro’s takeover. The two find out how the Starro Spore came into contact with Rip, as well as just what it means to face a world that Starro has conquered…and Starro reveals something rather personal to Booster.

This feels like a pretty "standard" sort of issue for this title. The story fits the characters: we have an opening that showcases Booster & Michelle in action doing their time-travel set-things-right-one-life-at-a-time thing. We’re then introduced to the beginning of the primary story, and thrown into the action. This is what Booster’s supposed to be doing, at least as the premise of this title as set up over a year ago, so no problems there. On the whole, this feels like an issue of Booster Gold, the Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of.

The art’s good, as well–no real complaint there. It’s not quite a match for Jurgens‘ art…but it’s darned close, and having had a few weeks since reading my last issue and not thinking about it going in, the difference was not particularly noticeable–which I feel is a good thing. Visually, this book certainly holds its own in terms of definite quality. I also have to give it credit for consistency, as I did not once think to myself anything or anyone looked funny or out of the ordinary.

On the whole, though, this feels like a so-so issue. It’s good, don’t get me wrong–but it’s not quite up to what I’ve come to expect of this title. There weren’t any scenes that made me smile, or wax nostalgic, or any of those things that have made so many of the other issues such great reads. Though I’m familiar with the existence of Starro, the character is not a character I’m all that familiar with in particular. Nor am I at all interested in the character. Having such a character as the villain of the piece lessens my emotional investment in the story–as does knowing that this is only a two or three part story, and then I believe Jurgens returns to do both story and art…which leaves me very confident not much of consequence will happen in this story (except perhaps Booster figuring out what was revealed to the readers at the close of Johns‘ tenure on the book).

I certainly will not recommend against this issue…but it’s not an example of what’s made me so enjoy the previous issues thus far.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

The Power of Shazam #48 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Adventure Comics #4 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Overall: 2.5/5

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Justice Society of America #27 [Review]

Ghost in the Darkness

Script and Pencils: Jerry Ordway
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Hi-Fi Designs
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Rachel Cluckstern
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jerry Ordway
Publisher: DC Comics

As the various JSA members go about their lives after the latest incident with Black Adam and their membership issues, a new threat shows up. First, Alan Scott’s son traps several members in the house, forcing the team to act against him, despite his claims of just trying to protect them. It’s quickly discovered that there’s more at play than first suspected, and that it is yet another “ghosts issue” for the team.

I passed on this issue when it first shipped last week–I wasn’t interested in sticking around post-Johns, and was content to go out on the high note Johns left this book on. But guilt at being in a comic shop and otherwise walking out empty-handed, I chose this issue as my token purchase…based largely on noticing Ordway’s name on the cover.

I was definitely correct in my assumption that the visuals would be top-notch for the issue, given Ordway’s being the artist. This is beyond a passive “no complaints” about the art–this is an active recognition that the art is very strong top-level stuff that I greatly enjoyed.

The story on the other hand feels rather…generic. I’m not a fan of generic “ghosts” stories, and actually avoided the Gentleman Ghost arc that closed out the previous version of this series around Infinite Crisis.

Though the characters here all seem familiar, and I want to like ’em with OR without Johns…there’s still a shift all around, and I can’t honestly say one way or the other whether I’ll be picking up the next issue or letting this title go.

Recommended for the art and for the die-hard JSA fans. Those following the book specifically for Johns’ writing may be disappointed–at the least, don’t leap into this issue thinking it a seamless change from Johns’ tenure on the series.

Story: 6/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Justice Society of America #25 [Review]

Black Adam & Isis part three: Family Feuds

Story: Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway
Pencil art: Jerry Ordway
Ink art: Bob Wiacek & Jerry Ordway
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Jerry Ordway)
Publisher: DC Comics

We resume the story with “Black Mary” asserting influence on Billy–creating “Black Billy” and illustrating an interesting point of the nature of the Marvel Family’s use of the power that flows through them. While the Marvels clash with the JSA, Jay Garrick accompanies Billy’s father as things race toward pivotal “Marvel family” events.

The art on this issue is fantastic, and for me works perfectly with this story. In addition to being high quality art, the fact that it is Ordway–who has more than just passing familiarity to the Marvel family–is icing on the cake.

The story itself is accessible to me as a reader who never paid much attention to any of the Marvel family characters until relatively recently, and yet it is so obvious that this draws on continuity put down over the past couple decades (Ordway’s involvement is testament to that!)

As part three of an only four or five-chapter story, this isn’t the best point to simply jump in exactly, but as a whole if you’ve any interest in the Marvel family, this is a story you ought to be reading. And if you’re looking for a crash course or playing some wikipedia-catchup and the cover intrigues you, give this a shot!

Highly recommended.

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

Justice Society of America #23 [Review]

Between a Rock and a Hard Place part one: The Power of Shazam

Story: Geoff Johns & Jerry Ordway
Pencil art: Jerry Ordway
Ink art: Bob Wiacek
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Jerry Ordway)
Publisher: DC Comics

Having survived the Gog ordeal, the team finds itself picking up the pieces left behind. We see Hawkman reprimanded for initiating a divide in the team, as well as seeing where several of the characters are at present, post-Gog. The latter part of the issue focuses on the Marvel family in its current incarnation, and sees Isis returned to her husband a changed woman, and the stage set for much trouble to come.

Given the emphasis on the Marvel family, it’s great to see Ordway involved with the writing alongside regular series writer Johns. Together, they compose a story that is quite compelling and interesting–and despite coming off a year-long saga, this issue is fresh and interesting, dealing with ramifications while also ramping up the new story in a great blend of the two points. Though I’ve not read The Trials of Shazam nor The Power of Shazam, I have no real trouble following along–and am actually interested just from this issue in tracking those down to read.

The art is quite good…I enjoy it in and of itself, as well as for the fact that Ordway’s had a significant hand in the Marvel family in earlier stories and thus is a very appropriate artist to take things on now.

As the first issue in a new arc, this is a great point to jump on to check this series out…and honestly, if you’re not reading this series, you should be. If you enjoyed Black Adam in 52 or elsewhere the last few years, and have any interest in the character, this is not an issue to skip.

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

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