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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #49

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0049Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part One

Art & Script: Jerry Ordway
Inking: Dennis Janke
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Lettering: John Costanza
Associating: Jon Peterson
Editing: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Glenn Whitmore
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This issue grabbed me rather recently, going through bargain bins. The cover got me, with its distinctive red border/trade dress for this story. It both sets this issue apart from earlier issues, but the trade dress unites the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story as a whole in a way that still calls it out for me nearly three decades later, one of its chapters being amongst my earliest-ever comics in my collection.

The issue opens on Perry and Alice white at the grave of their son Jerry, who has recently died. We also get a bit of context, that Lex Luthor is the biological father. Luthor, too, laments the loss…and while he stands over the grave, he’s assaulted by an odd red rock…seems Mr. Mxyzptlk is due again, but is having too much fun where he is. As such, and not wanting to let down his good buddy Superman, he figures he’ll kill two birds with one stone, letting his quarterly mischief manifest via the red rock–Red Kryptonite–to mess with Superman. Meanwhile, Lois and Clark are out and about when they bump into an old friend of Clark’s–Pete Ross from Smallville. The two friends catch up briefly, and Pete obtains Clark’s "blessing" to pursue Lana. Not long after, Luthor figures out how to get things moving with Mxy’s magic rock, as Superman saves the day from a villain named Barrage. As the magic goes into effect, instead of granting Luthor power to be equal to Superman…Superman’s powers are taken away…making Luthor equal to him. Magically summoned to Luthor’s presence, and still in shock at the loss of his powers, Luthor gives Superman quite a beating before having him thrown out. Back at home, despite not being up to the visit, Clark finds himself in position to be a rock himself, as Lois is going through a rough time.

Though it was a number of years after I’d first read any part of this story that I got to read the rest of it (including this opening chapter), this brings back a lot of memory, of this era of the Super-titles. This issue has the very familiar visuals of Jerry Ordway that I’ll likely always associate with my earliest days reading Superman comics. The characters are all familiar and distinct and look quite good.

The story itself is strong, as well–painting a picture of what’s going on in general at this point in the Super-titles without being overly-obvious about doing so. (I’m reading this story "out of context" but there’s enough to remind me of where things were continuity-wise at the point this story takes place). We’re introduced to the setting and characters, given some clues as to recent events even while we see current stuff unfold, and the driving conflict of the story–Superman losing his powers to a chunk of red rock–is set in motion. Rather than leave us on some cliffhanger proclaiming that his powers would be gone or such, we actually get that in this very issue, as well as immediate after-effects. In that regard, this issue probably has two or three issues’ content by modern standards, neglecting to be highly-decompressed or drag stuff out.

The issue’s by no means some absolute stand-alone thing, but there’s enough, I think, that one could enjoy it on its own without having read much of this era previously, and the reader can figure out in general the current situation. That said…this works pretty well for me "jumping in" and not having to page through a bunch of issues to re-familiarize myself with the story. This was quite enjoyable in and of itself, even as I look forward to issues to come–including the sole chapter I read during my initial period being into comics.

I’m definitely enjoying diving back into this era, however briefly…and while this issue by itself isn’t necessarily anything all that special, the story as a whole is, and if you can score it for around $1 an issue or less, I definitely recommend it, as of re-reading this issue alone.

superman(1987)0049_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Green Arrow #101

90s_revisited

green_arrow_0101Run of the Arrow

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Rodolfo Damaggio
Inker: Robert Campanella
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October, 1995
Cover Price: $2.25

I’ve wanted to read this for years…maybe 20-21 (it came out some 21 years ago). I’d known THAT Green Arrow had died; that Superman was there, that it was a plane explosion; that his son took over, etc. But until this reading, I’d never actually read the actual issue. Not too long ago, battling insomnia, I bought/read (for the first time) #100 to "finally read the issue where Ollie died." Imagine for a moment my surprise that it DID NOT HAPPEN IN THAT ISSUE…yet had you asked me any time up until then, I would have simply told you, from "knowledge," that Ollie died in #100 and his son took over in #101.

But that leads us to the story of the issue: We open off the cliffhanger from #100 with Ollie pushing buttons on the device he’s trapped in. Remove his hand/arm, and it detonates, and lots of people die. Superman’s solution would be to amputate–save Ollie’s life. But Ollie’s having none of that, and so (knowing Superman would survive because hey, invulnerable!) Ollie detonates the device. Superman finds no remains…and the rest of the issue ties up loose ends from #100 and the story leading into that, apparently…while setting up Ollie’s son Connor to take over.

Really, there’s a lot going on in this issue (and the explosion is a 2-page spread as pages 2 & 3!) so the bulk of the issue is the aftermath (#100 was already a larger anniversary issue…not sure why it didn’t just get the extra pages to have the explosion happen there and repercussions pick up from the "cliffhanger" that would’ve been). I’ve not read a lot of stuff with Connor, but I knew of the character; I even connected a supporting character with an antagonist in the earliest issues of the Mike Grell run that kicked off this title. I didn’t care much for most of this development (so most of the issue), and felt that Ollie really got a crummy send-off…though I have to admit I appreciated the fact that that itself was touched on within the issue.

Visually, I’m not familiar with the Penciller/Inker team, and the art looks it: I recognize characters, obviously, and there isn’t really much of anything WRONG with any of them…but the visual style just doesn’t do anything in particular for me except have the appearance of "mid-’90s DC."

While I typically enjoy Dixon‘s work–especially on the Bat-titles in the ’90s–I did not here; and from this issue alone would only peg it AS a Dixon-written issue because of the name on the cover. Granted, this is an isolated issue read weeks after the previous issue was itself read in isolation, and I haven’t even read the first 4 chapters of the specific story this comes out of. But given that…outside of you either reading the entire story, or (like me) specifically wanting to read for yourself the actual issue where Ollie was killed off for a few years…there’s nothing of particular value to this issue. Alternatively, it might be worthwhile if you settle in to read the run with Connor as Green Arrow. But all in all, this was a disappointing read for me…I’m glad to have read it (past tense) now, but this feels more like an arbitrary thing than the culmination of an event or any truly "heroic" end.

That said…it’s worth 25 cents.

The ’80s Revisited: Crisis on Infinite Earths #12

crisis_on_infinite_earths_0012Final Crisis

Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman
Co-Plotter/Penciller: George Perez
Embellisher: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March, 1986
Cover Price: $1.25

This is a large, convoluted issue with way too much going on to really summarize and address in any great detail in the general length I allow myself, and to do so without having to go into a lot of detail. Essentially, an infinite multiverse has been condensed down to one universe, though a bunch of heroes from parallel universes remain, having been outside time when that consolidation occurred. They’re split up to address issues on multiple fronts…namely the Anti-Monitor. Said villain just refuses to go down and STAY DOWN, rising multiple times from seeming defeat. In the course of this, a number of elements get loosely addressed, we have some characters killed off, others get a sendoff, and others simply get brief appearances with loose/quick details "setting stuff up" for moving forward (such as Wally learning of Barry’s death and becoming Flash instead of Kid Flash).

While I tend to like and appreciate Wolfman‘s art, and certainly enjoy Perez and Ordway both, reading this issue was a chore. I first read it about a decade ago–sometime around Infinite Crisis, if I recall correctly–having "finally" sought out the collected volume to actually read the "original Crisis" for myself given its 20-year anniversary had cropped up with a "sequel" of sorts (yet, amazing to consider yet another 10 years have passed and we’ve had a 30-year anniversary edition!).

Given what it is, and dealing with an entire universe and wrapping up stuff from a year’s worth of issues and all that, I have no real problem with the story…it’s just dense and seems like it has a huge amount of ground to cover in its limited pages despite being an extra-sized issue.

The art, of course, is fantastic–Perez and Ordway teamed up? Doesn’t get much better than that!

The creative team as a whole packs a heckuva lot into this, which I do like; but I can only imagine what I’d feel about it if it were a brand-new issue in 2016.

While we do have the "ultimate defeat" of the Anti-Monitor in this issue and a bit of an epilogue explaining a few things, overall this issue itself caps off the series, and I feel like I missed a lot by not reading the previous couple issues, and lost the scope or "epic-ness" of the story jumping in on this alone. As the story has been a "complete, full story" for three decades, I don’t think I’d recommend this as something to just sit down and read as an isolated issue. It’s sort of neat to flip through and see just the isolated chapter rather than the final segment of pages in a collected volume…but I think Crisis works much better read as a whole than just grabbing an issue.

For a 25-cent issue, it’s not a horrible read…but there’s certainly a lot of nuance that I am not picking up on given the decade’s space between this and when I last read the earlier issues.

Zero Hour Revisited – Damage #6

90srevisited_zerohour

damage_0006The Burning of Atlanta

Script: Tom Joyner
Pencils: Bill Marimon
Inks: Don Hillsman
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Buzz Setzer
Editor: Jim Spivey
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I’ve heard of Damage–primarily from back during the mid-1990s, and occasionally as a topic since–but have yet to read any issues of the series outside of this one, now. I vaguely recall knowing OF things going on but never firsthand experience actually reading them.

We open on a scene with a couple of college girls–turns out one of them is friends with Damage, and her attention is called to a small tv where news of a superhuman rumble tearing up the city includes an image of Damage in action. The scene then shifts to focus on the superhumans and what’s transpiring with them. While Damage is fighting some green-armored guy named Steelhawk, alongside an injured man (Munro?), the New Titans show up ,and a bigger battle ensues. We learn amidst the battle that Munro was once known as ‘Gladiator One’ as well as the fact that there’s some biological link between Damage and either Munro or Steelhawk…at least according to a Titan named Phantasm. A "dome" appears over the prime combatants that keeps their allies out while they themselves are bounced through time. During the time-jumping, they pick up an extra participant–Phantom Lady–and it turns out that the biological bond was likely with Munro–and that Phantom Lady (pulled into the present from the past) had a relationship with him…and THEY might actually be Damage’s real parents!

This is only the sixth issue–which would be the "final chapter" of only the "first arc" in a modern comic–so the series and character are still quite young, at their beginnings and being developed…so I have not missed out on THAT much that I know of as yet. Other than some loose references, this doesn’t have much to do with Zero Hour itself but certainly draws on the convenience of the event for some mucking-about with Time stuff that would need a lot more explanation without the event.

I recall the title character playing a key part in Zero Hour itself..though it seems that is independent of this title (or at least as it is thus far and tying to the main story).

Along with being yet another issue that doesn’t really forward the story of Zero Hour, this is also another one that isn’t bad to read but also doesn’t really impress me (nor discourage me) in story and art. It just IS. It exists, and adds ever so slightly to my general overall knowledge and context with characters but doesn’t do much to shine a huge light into some blind spots for me.

I recall there being something about Damage’s parentage being a big deal, and might be mixing him up with someone else in terms of some things Geoff Johns did later with the JSA. The reveal here of Damage’s apparent parents seems pretty significant for the title and character himself…just not much on Zero Hour.

Zero Hour Revisited – Green Arrow #90

90srevisited_zerohour

green_arrow_0090Writer: Kevin Dooley
Art: Eduardo Barreto
Colorist: Buzz Setzer
Letterer: John Costanza
Editors: Scott Peterson, Darren Vincenzo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Well, this was an interesting issue, even if it is–as with too many–yet another issue that does not actually add anything to MY understanding of Zero Hour as a whole, or flesh anything out from the event itself, or meet other expectation(s) I’ve long had for these tie-ins.

We open on a full page, of Ollie clocking some gang-banger, saving a woman and her child. And then the pages go split-screen on us, the top half showing Ollie catching the kid before he makes a getaway, and the bottom half showing him a second slower, having to give chase. Eventually the "dual timelines" converge again, and then we see them split back off again–the top half sees Ollie live, the bottom half, he’s shot to death. Then Batman arrives, saying "We need you," and walks the traumatized archer away…while the police clear a body, and the world fades to white.

I recall Guy (Guy Gardner: Warrior) AND Ollie being closely involved in Zero Hour itself, and being there with the other heroes at the "end" and then also being there at the end of Zero Hour itself (#0) and not off on their own adventures…so I suppose I expected some expansion on things related to that, more clarification or details of their experiences going through the event. With Ollie particularly, I’d always assumed he had some adventure–or at least meaningful extra scene–with Batgirl, to further Ollie’s righteous anger at her loss. So these issues being part of the final week of ZH, ending with stuff going to the white, blank pages–I guess it just doesn’t really work for me.

Story-wise, the issue reads really quickly–far too fast. I’m a words-reader…I appreciate art/visuals, but I tend to take the visuals in "in passing," as part of the experience…very rarely as any kind of FOCUS. (That’s why I don’t mind minimal backgrounds at points, as long as the characters in the foreground that I’m actually seeing are detailed and good looking). Something like this with large panels, "split screen," and largely "silent" have my attention for the novelty, but don’t really do much for me as a reader.

The lack of dialogue, or caption boxes, or anything to really slow me down, and HOLD my attention on any given panel means I breeze through, "taking in" the action as little more than frames of an ongoing scene.

So there’s not "much" story here. "Ollie catches the kid and he gets away, Ollie gives chase, and lives" vs. "Ollie chases the kid, and dies." While the art is solid–indeed, the focus of the issue (to my chagrin as detailed above)–it’s not the sort of work that suggests "Easter Eggs" or stuff–it carries the story, never looks weird (except the blood at the end looks like it’s a victim of censorship, yet I don’t see the Comics Code stamp on the cover), and generally is not something to push me away from the book.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to "get" out of this issue–the cover says it’s the conclusion of a story, but I haven’t read those chapters–maybe this issue would "mean" more if I’d read those chapters. For all I know, this is a three-part story (or two, or 4+) and the entire thing is in this split-screen style.

Whatever the case…in terms of Zero Hour, nothing really here, and as an isolated issue, nothing particular about it to be a draw.

Zero Hour Revisited – Detective Comics #678

90srevisited_zerohour

detective_comics_0678Yesterdays Gone

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Graham Nolan
Guest Inker: Bob McLeod
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Editor: Scott Peterson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

The thought’s hit me as I get to writing about this issue–Zero Hour is beginning to wear a bit thin on me. I’ve always loved the event, the core series and the Superman tie-in issues, because those were the ones I’d read at the time, when they were first released. I was coming off my first major Batman phase, but still somewhat following the Bat-books. Now as I’m coming down to a handful of books remaining to the event, I’m eager to finish up, get to the end of the event itself and on to other reading projects (perhaps a guy diligently typing away about every issue he reads for several weeks in a given twenty-two-year-old story shouldn’t admit that, but there it is). Despite that, I’m enjoying it more than the bulk of new comics being released and appreciating it a heckuva lot more than modern events.

This issue is one with a familiar cover, though I don’t really–truly–have any conscious memory associated with it. Reading the issue itself was like reading a completely new comic…such that I cannot actually with complete confidence say that I absolutely read it in 1994…though I would have–before reading all these–sworn that I had. I’d thought something played out in a missed detail in one of the Zero issues, that after this event Batman had not truly caught his parents’ killer, that it wasn’t Joe Chill, and so on…but it seems at least the major seed of that was planted here, in this issue…and is absolutely a detail I missed at the time in terms of reading or "getting" it myself.

We find Batman responding to an alarm in the Cave…but upon emerging from the cave, finds the Manor and the world to not be the one he knows…he himself has become an anomaly in ANOTHER timeline. In this one, his parents have arrived home after a horrible night…in which their son Bruce was killed in an attempted mugging as they left a movie theater. Batman skirts the edges of awareness in the Manor, and sees a chance to salvage stuff–he KNOWS WHO the killer is, and thus how to find him immediately, this very night–and in this timeline, where he IS an anomaly, he can bring justice in a world in which he can also see his parents LIVE. And in the course of seeking said justice…Batman comes to find that the man he’s long known to be his parents’ killer…is (at least in this timeline) NOT. And before long finds himself back in his own timeline, where his parents are dead, and he now has to consider the very real possibility that he actually never HAS brought his parents’ murderer to justice…and may never actually be capable of doing so, having long since closed the case and let a cold trail go even colder.

The best way to describe my feelings on this issue’s artwork is that it’s quite solid. It doesn’t particularly stand out–in conscious memory at least, and does not in itself trigger any particular memories or feelings of simply joy–or enjoyment–regarding the visuals. But I recognize Nolan and McLeod‘s names from this era, and that’s a very welcome factor for me. There IS a definite familiarity to the art, and I definitely enjoy it…this is some of the better Batman art I can think of…and I’d certainly welcome it over a lot of more modern stuff.

Story-wise, this is also a solid issue. With Dixon on writing, I would associate it with positive quality on name value alone. I just wish I had more conscious memory of him on this book, say, than "only" on something like Robin.

That element aside…I definitely enjoyed 1. the way and fact of this issue being part of Zero Hour allowing for the scenario it does, and B. that despite its ripples on continuity, it gives a largely self-contained micro-story that works and yet (as with many other tie-ins) does not need to explain or solidify the why and how of stuff, just show us the WHAT.

I don’t recall how long it actually stuck, but I do remember this "changing the game" a bit, at least for awhile, and thus this makes for a good issue to read, outside the core event, and particularly if you followed Batman at the time.

Though in this typing I find my analysis colored by evaluating it simply as an object of the past…it’s still in the higher part of any list I’d compose of recommendations for stuff to read if not the entire event…and gives me plenty to think about from stuff as simple as the blood on the cover under Batman…while no visible wound on the body (good ol’ ’90s censorship and pushed boundaries)… or the fact that while I’ll occasionally see Zero Hour issues in bargain bins…this issue does not tend to be one of them…either people don’t get rid of it with other issues (and/or they’re bought quicker before I get to the bins) or it’s sought after enough to "hold value" in a realm of ‘regular’ back issues, not to be merely offloaded in a bargain bin.

Zero Hour Revisited – Superman #93

90srevisited_zerohour

superman_0093Home!

Story and Layout Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Josef Rubinstein
Lettering: John Costanza
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure if I’ve actually re-read this issue since the summer it was originally published; and I definitely feel like I’ve now read it slightly out of order…it seems to be kinda crammed somehow in between Zero Hour #s 4 and 3, almost like this and Man of Steel should have been read “alongside” Zero Hour #4.

Amidst all the stuff going on with Time Anomalies, Superman finds himself back in Metropolis, agonizing over a call from Ma–does he help his own parents, “only 2 people,” or focus on and stick to helping “The world” at possible expense of his parents? He makes the choice and zips to Smallville, where he finds two people claiming to be his BIOLOGICAL parents, who explain how it is that they’re there–that Krypton never actually blew up, and has entered a new golden age, but for the missing Kal-El. Their time here is limited, and they want him to come back with them permanently. Superman thus has another choice to make. But as his choice plays out, tragedy strikes, and even though he realizes they were time anomalies, he feels orphaned again. Before he can grieve much, he’s pulled back into the main Zero Hour story.

There were parts of this issue that struck me as a bit odd or “off,” as it especially seemed like Superman was a bit too quick to accept this Jor-El and Lara as genuine from his timeline, rather than accepting them more as “just more time anomalies.” Of course, being who they are, he’d be a bit understandably biased and such, so that’s not a huge deal. In their recounting events that unfolded on the not-exploded Krypton, though, there’s mention of their clothing being life-support suits or such, like what they wear is essential to literal survival…which is NOT something I consciously remember at all from anything I’ve read. I don’t know if that was some slip, or I forgot something, or what. I also feel like there was some senseless “drama” to the issue, with Jonathan and Martha “worrying” about Clark up and leaving. To me, the Superman I grew up on and the understanding I have for the Superman of this period of publishing: he was sent from Krypton in the gestation matrix, so was not even BORN yet, he was not even a conscious entity on Krypton and thus never knew his biological parents, nor had they ever met. He grew up on earth with Jonathan and Martha, not even knowing he was not their biological son until he was 18 (half his entire life as of this point if Superman was in his early-30s). Maybe I myself am biased in my own life experience, but it seems to me that there should never have been any real drama about whether or not he’d leave. Still, Zero Hour provides a perfect context to be able to touch on this, to put this experience into Clark’s story for later use.

The art seemed slightly off, though not bad at all…but I find myself pondering the credits a bit: Layout Art and Ink Art, and that could be what I noticed–Rubinstein may have had more of a hand in the art itself than Jurgens; if Jurgens did very loose art, as “layouts” for what he envisioned for the story, that keeps the consistency of the title, but it looks like Rubinstein might have been able to do more original art beyond “just” inking. Whatever the case and despite seeming slightly “off,” it worked well for the issue, holding the look and “feel” of ’90s Superman. Beyond the observation/speculation, really nothing complaint-worthy with the art!

Given Jurgens‘ involvement as the writer of Zero Hour itself, it makes this feel like it’s that much more important–with him using Superman in ZH and knowing what’s to come, he can “use” the character more effectively than someone else just “tying in” to the story. That’s also something I never consciously thought about originally but likely contributed to some of my reading experience  at the time, and what I’m noticing in the issues I’m reading for the first time now. Namely, Jurgens being one of the core Superman writers (and I was following all the Super-books) as well as writing the main Zero Hour (that I was following) meant I was reading pretty much the entirety of Jurgens‘ hand in the event, and perhaps the Superman books (with Jurgens being a core member of that writing team) by “default” got to have just a little more perceived importance.

I definitely enjoyed rereading this issue, and look forward to the other couple Superman books, though I only recall slight bits of detail from each. This issue touches directly into the looser flow of Zero Hour itself…it’s not essential, but it’s got direct touches to Zero Hour itself where most of these tie-ins tie only on the loosest basis that there’s “something” going on with Time or there’s some sort of “Time anomaly” that happens/appears in a book…so as tie-ins go, I’d recommend this ahead of most of the ones I’ve read so far. Maybe at the end of this reading project I’ll make up a list of “core” issues that I’d recommend reading along with the central mini…maybe I won’t.

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