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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #24 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

robin_0024Insects and Violence

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Stan Woch
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Tim Harkins
Cover: Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin, Bob LeRose, Curtis King, John Wren
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Last month, a number of blogs and podcasts joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Due to computer issues and developments in my personal life, I’ve stretched my part into November to cover the Robin issues. In addition to my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG | Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast | Relatively Geeky Podcast Network | The Retroist | Chris is on Infinite Earths | Cosmic Treadmill | The Pop Culture Palace | Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast | The Idol-Head of Diabolu | Justice’s First Dawn | Justice Trek: The Podcast


This issue is a sort of tie-in that’s not a tie-in. In the previous issue, we got to see Drury Walker and Neron and Walker’s transformation from joke-villain Killer Moth into the monstrous bug-creature Charaxes, which ties in well with the general Underworld Unleashed stuff. This issue, though…if it wasn’t for the Underworld Unleashed logo on the cover, and following directly on the previous issue–one wouldn’t even know there was some larger "event" going on! This can be read as its own thing–you don’t need Underworld Unleashed itself, and other than simply knowing Tim’s been captured by the creature, you don’t even REALLY need the previous issue! (Thanks to context and exposition…and speaking for myself, 30 years of comics-reading.)

Robin’s been cocooned ALIENS-style (well, lots-of-things-style, but I’m in an ALIENS frame of mind), unable to free himself yet, but in contact with Alfred…who can provide some information if not actual help (such as the fact that a ‘Charaxes’ is a butterfly, not a moth…but Robin’s not sure his captor’s sweating the details. While Tim struggles and eventually manages to use his extending bo to free himself…the police–even armed with a shotgun–don’t fare well against Charaxes. Robin then gets to have a go at the creature, but eventually it looks like he’ll get to experience that which Alfred had told him about…when a mysterious figure shows up, shoots Charaxes, captures him in a high-tech net…as our hero passes out. When he wakes, it’s to Batman (who arrived too late to have helped), and both are left to wonder about the mysterious entity. At school the next day, Tim is approached by a rival who is willing to put aside differences and "recruit" Tim…in vigilante opposition to the influx of new students. When he shows off a gun…he’s got Tim’s attention!

This is a fairly solid issue of Robin. We get to see our titular hero escape a "death trap," fight the villain, and even interact with Alfred and Batman. In addition, we get to see a bit of Ariana and her family in their new home, as well as see Tim at school with his friends. While this issue came off a cliffhanger, one isn’t really missing a CRUCIAL piece of story–it’s easy enough to catch up from exposition. This is from a time when comics were not locked into a rigid cycle of X number of issues = 1 graphic novel/collected volume. Each issue was episodic, rather than "just" X of Y serialized chapters of a SINGLE story.

It’s perhaps a bit fitting that I get to this issue a couple WEEKS later than I had intended–it’s a "straggler" issue for me on reading, as well as covering as part of the #BestEventEver coverage of Underworld Unleashed. While it’s technically a tie-in, it seems to be a later one, and labeled as such almost as an afterthought. You’d want to read this if you’re reading the series, and if you read the previous issue and cared about how Robin escapes from Charaxes…but this really seems to have absolutely nothing to do with Underworld Unleashed, and would be suitable for getting in conjunction with that solely for the logo on the cover.

Visually, I like the issue. It’s just Robin for me. It’s not trying to be some distinctive visual interpretation, it’s just…Robin art for a Robin issue. If I wasn’t looking at the credits I probably wouldn’t identify the artist offhand…but in the way this issue is, that’s a good thing, as it just looks like a ’90s Robin issue, and not a bad one at that.

As with most ’90s comics…this is definitely worth a 25-cent purchase, though there’s not really much to this to make it stand out as a sole, single, isolated issue. Aside from the "completist" mentality for Underworld Unlimited, if you’re not interested in early Tim Drake Robin stuff, or Killer Moth and that character’s oddities, or the art…I woudln’t suggest hunting this down for the sake of itself.

As a Robin issue, and my being a fan of this character…these two issues were a treat to revisit and I’m quite glad to have read them!


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

robin_0024_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #23 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

robin_0023Buggin’

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Stan Woch
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Tim Harkins
Cover: Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin, Bob LeRose, Curtis King, John Wren
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Last month, a number of blogs and podcasts joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Due to computer issues, I’ve stretched a bit into November to cover the Robin issues. In addition to my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG | Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast | Relatively Geeky Podcast Network | The Retroist | Chris is on Infinite Earths | Cosmic Treadmill | The Pop Culture Palace | Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast | The Idol-Head of Diabolu | Justice’s First Dawn | Justice Trek: The Podcast


I’m pretty sure I had not read this when it first came out…but I realized I must have read it quite a number of years ago–though at most recent, it would have been 2002! More likely 2001, when I bought a set of issues 1-40 from Capp’s Comics, which then left me (at the time) only missing 41-45 from being “current” with the series, as I’d jumped back in with #46 or so, and followed the series more or less to at least #100! So some part of me remembered having read this, the “upgrade” of Killer Moth to Charaxes! Other than this, or in spite of this, to me, the main thing I know the character from is that he was involved in an attempted kidnapping of Bruce Wayne in which Barbara “Babs” Gordon intervened as Batgirl (the incident is referenced in Untold Legend of the Batman #3, but Killer Moth himself/by name is NOT).

We open this issue on a large, green, bug-like face demanding “Do as I say or face the wrath of…Killer Moth!” The scene transitions and we see that it’s a dream, and meet the man himself–who longs to be feared and not the butt of jokes amidst even fellow villains. Neron (this is an Underworld Unleashed branded tie-in, after all!) appears to him and offers to transform him. We then shift to Robin “stalking” Tim Drake’s girlfriend, lamenting her family having had to sell their business and move. He feels angsty over stuff until Batman shows up, and asks him an interesting question–does he know who bought the family’s property? We then learn that it was bought by Wayne Enterprises at triple market value, which allows the family to thrive, and move to a better part of Gotham (which happens to be closer to Tim, close enough that Ariana will now attend the same high school!). Meanwhile, Arkham guards find a cocoon in Drury Walker’s cell, and eventually the cocoon opens, and a bug-creature emerges, agrees that “Killer Moth” is a ludicrous concept, and to call it Charaxes! At Gotham Heights High, we see Tim introduce his friends to Ariana and they interact a bit, before we see some results of Charaxes’ rampage. Eventually the actual police are called, and even they aren’t equipped to deal with this new “upgraded” threat from a previously-considered-a-joke guy. Learning of the situation, Robin prepares to head out, figuring it shouldn’t be a problem…after all, this is Killer Moth they’re talking about! Unfortunately, Robin winds up getting knocked out during the fight with the creature, and wakes up at the end of the issue stuck in a cocoon of sorts having no idea where he is or how he got there, knowing only that “it” will be back soon.

Somehow notably to me is Neron responding to Walker’s question of whether the transformation he’s agreed to will hurt. “You will forget the pain….when the transformation is complete.” This concept is something that I’ve often considered in various situations, and while I don’t know if my personal original coming across it was this issue, this issue DID spark at least a vague sense of deja vu or such with it. That painful as something is in the moment, once through it, the pain will be forgotten in light of the result.

Over the 16+ years since I would have read this, I’d forgotten plenty of details of Tim Drake’s early days as Robin. (Though he had 3 mini-series and an Annual even before about 2 years of this ongoing series…the character has been around for 30 years now and this issue was only about 6 years into that, so this is still “early” for the character.) Coming back to Tim still being with Ariana touches off a nice bit of nostalgia for me. I’d completely forgotten about subplots with her family and moving and such. For that matter, given the way most modern comics seem to be with the eye for the 4-6 issue “graphic novel,” sometimes I feel like I forget what “subplots” even were, and the sort of structure seen in this issue, with a number of points touched on that are not strictly structured for a specific, standard-sized collection.

I really like the art in this issue. As I read it, I hadn’t noted the credits…I just wanted to take in the story. I think I “assumed” the art was Tom Grummett, but was (pleasantly) surprised to find that it’s Aaron Lopresti…a name I’m more recently “re-familiar” with due to his work on the Malibu Ultraverse title Sludge.

It’s not surprising, then, that I liked the art! I’m not a huge fan of the Charaxes design…but then, I’m not a huge fan of bugs, so the character just has a look that I’m not quite comfortable with. However, I’d put that down as a success in the appearance! Throughout the issue, stuff’s not hard to follow visually, and Lopresti‘s style works very well with what I tend to think of for 1990s Robin, and fitting right in with prior Robin art so as to not be distracting or off-putting!

Story-wise, I enjoyed the memories in this, and that there wasn’t MUCH time wasted on exposition…and yet, it seemed easy enough to follow along. Granted, I’d read this issue before, know quite a bit about Robin and so on, but I didn’t feel lost or stuck “outside” the story. Even if one doesn’t know the characters or history, it’s pretty easy to pick up on the main points, much as one might casually watch an early episode of a tv series for which they’ve seen some later-season episodes.

Neron’s appearance itself is not explained or contextualized here–not even an Editor’s Note to “see Underworld Unleashed“–but his appearance here qualifies AS appearing here AND gives us the on-panel “explanation” for Walker going from some inept inmate desiring respect, to a cocoon on the ceiling and transformation into Charaxes. This seems like one of the more drastic changes to a villain, and seems fitting enough with the cocoon and all, transforming Walker physically/biologically into a killer bug, rather than having just a name and costume.

The introduction of Charaxes certainly fulfills my expectation of this as a tie-in to Underworld Unleashed, in seeing a previously-established low level villain receiving an “upgrade” into a larger threat. I don’t recall how long this change “stuck,” as I’m pretty sure “Killer Moth” as a petty, low-level villain is presently still a butt of jokes and “just human” and such, though I couldn’t say where the character is at present in 2018.

This issue doesn’t really stand out singularly or have any over-obvious cover to draw one’s attention to it in passing as to this particular story. That said, the cover image of a cocooned Robin looking wide-eyed at the giant bug-creature on the cover gives this a suitably “spooky”-ish type of imagery that would fit with an October issue (cover dates being a couple months ahead, this issue would have been an October 1995 issue).

This is a solid issue of Robin (the series), and works well in what I remember as the continuity of the time. We do have the “origin” and such of Charaxes, so there’s some significance in that regard, if one comes across it in a bargain bin. This does end on a cliffhanger, and there is a second tie-in issue (the next issue, #24) so this doesn’t work as well as a standalone thing, and is best acquired as part of the pair of issues. If you’re a fan of Robin, writer Chuck Dixon, artist Aaron Lopresti, seeking Underworld Unleashed tie-ins, or Killer Moth/Charaxes stuff, this’d be a definite treat to pick up.


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

robin_0023_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #525 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

batman_0525Frozen Assets

Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Kelley Jones, John Beatty
Colorist: Greg Wright
Letterer: Todd Klein
Separations: Android Images
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This month, a number of blogs and podcasts have joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Beyond my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG  |  Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast  |  Relatively Geeky Podcast Network  |  The Retroist  |  Chris is on Infinite Earths  |  Cosmic Treadmill  |  The Pop Culture Palace  |  Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast  |  The Idol-Head of Diabolu  |  Justice’s First Dawn  |  Justice Trek: The Podcast


Based generally on the premise of Underworld Unleashed–a bunch of villains revamped and powered-up after deals with Neron–I was expecting something big with Mr. Freeze. Instead, other than what amounts to me to be a shoehorned-in reference via dialogue, in terms of what I expected, this is just a random one-off issue involving Freeze.

We open on Batman crouched on a water reservoir surveying the city, reflecting over no one that he knows of from Arkham–or Hell–being loose. The scene then transitions to Mr. Freeze, meeting with a group of rich, elderly individuals, showing off his newest cryo-tech. Seems he’s working to scam them out of their fortunes…and his present "henchmen" are a duo who finish each other’s sentences in rhymes. There’s a subplot with James Gordon and Sarah (Essen, I believe); I’d forgotten about her character and where these two were at the time! Jim’s not Commissioner at present, and is actually looking at running for mayor. By the next night, Freeze has been rejected by his would-be customers…but he decides he’ll put ’em on ice anyway…why let a pesky detail like consent delay him? We have another subplot involving Harvey Bullock who’s had a date recently. As Freeze begins his freezing-spree, Batman realizes that yep–there’s one from Arkham that he missed! A bit of time in the Batcave with Robin and Alfred gets things rolling, and Batman’s back out into the hellish night to deal with this master of cryonics. Batman makes short work of the henchfolks, discovers he’s too late to save Freeze’s victims, and finally takes on the man himself, breaking through ice barriers and then the helmet of the cryo-suit. Ultimately, Batman leaves Freeze and his henchfolks for the police–Freeze sitting in an open refrigerator to offset his compromised cold-suit, awaiting his return to Hell (Arkham).

I wanted to like this issue. It’s an issue of Batman. It’s from the ’90s–and I quite enjoy ’90s comics! I thought I remembered liking Kelley Jones‘ art, despite its exaggerated style. It’s an Underworld Unleashed tie-in and includes Mr. Freeze in a souped-up, upgraded-looking suit…surely a deal with Neron! It was supposed to be a cool issue! (Pardon the punnage).

Perhaps I’m too used to modern Batman art, perhaps I expected too much from my nostalgia…but on this read through, I really did NOT like the art at all. It seemed wildly inconsistent–one panel, the bat-cowl’s "ears" are curved backward, another they’re sticking straight up, the exaggeration just didn’t work well for me here. A lot of bodily anatomy seemed "off" and too angular or (and I keep using that word) over-exaggerated, much like I’d think of for a political cartoon. Even the coloring–that I don’t often notice in itself–seems a bit "too" contrasty (whether that’s my particular copy of the issue or not, I’m not absolutely certain). I’m not gonna pick apart every detail that bugged me in this issue, but there were plenty throughout. There’s some potential, to me, to this design of Freeze’s suit and the way he’s drawn–kinda like a light from within the suit is obscuring the lower part of his face, giving him more of a floating-skull-in-a-tank appearance…which at first glance speaks to my expectation of new/revised villains in light of deals with Neron, their powers amped-up but at a cost.

The story really does not see that point out, though–we have references to Freeze’s cryonics/cryo technology, and by the end of the issue, confirmation that he NEEDS this suit to survive, and that it IS his suit; it doesn’t pose a threat to Batman as a Neron-provided suit ought to! In and of itself–Batman vs. Mr. Freeze–this isn’t a bad story. I have a hard time divorcing the story completely from the art…but structurally, I like the story. It’s in a comfort zone of expectation for Batman, and it’s basically a done-in-one issue that includes some subplotty stuff to loosely progress an overall Batman-comics-narrative. Batman’s watching over Gotham; he knows he can’t save everyone/stop every last criminal, but he can handle the bigger ones the cops can’t handle; but he doesn’t know initially that Freeze is out. Once he does, he heads out to stop him, though he’s too late to save the latest victims, but he manages to stop Freeze himself. The issue doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything but tuning into the latest episode of a series. Other than a brief reference to Neron in dialogue, there doesn’t feel like there’s any tie to Underworld Unleashed. Take the textual reference out, and take the event logo off the cover, and reading this, I’d have no idea it was supposed to be a tie-in!

While Moench‘s story is good in itself, the art bugs me, and I’m annoyed at my expectations not being met for this being an event tie-in for Underworld Unleashed. Additionally, after Mr. Freeze’s upgrade to seeming like he was practically an ice-elemental or such, biologically-generating/controlling coldness over in the previous month’s Green Lantern #68, which this in no way references, it’s like two different characters and a huge continuity-hole…itself particularly egregious due to being cover-dated only a single month after the Green Lantern issue!

Because it has the event’s logo on the cover, if you’re seeking out "the entire event," this issue’s worth getting for that much; and if you’re a fan of Moench or Kelley (writing or art) not really anything to say not to get this issue (especially if you come across it in a bargain bin!). But otherwise…this feels like an entirely forgettable, skippable issue, not worth specifically seeking out. As it’s basically done-in-one, though, it’s functionally one of the better values you’ll get if you find it for 25-50 cents or such, since that price gets you an "entire" story without it being a middle-numbered chapter of a contemporary 6-issue arc, nor does it send you chasing after another issue to find out what happens off a "To Be Continued…" cliffhanger.

Taken alone, this issue does not do much for me, does not "inspire" me to want to read more of this Batman, nor to seek out more Underworld Unleashed, and so it really feels to me like a failure as an event chapter. Hopefully other issue I cover of this event give me a better feeling!


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

batman_0525_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #497

90s_revisited

batman_0497Broken Bat

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Jim Aparo
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Asst. Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late July, 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This is one of the most iconic, “key” comics in my life. The writing is straight-forward, the art is superb, and when I picture Bruce Wayne, this is the version I see. Not necessarily the worn-down, beaten man the issue opens with, but the face, the body structure, the human trying to be more-than-human.

With a lead like that, what did I REALLY think?

This issue is only slightly past the midpoint of the Knightfall story. It’s 3 issues before the big 500th issue, and yet is more of a crucial, impactful issue than that, in terms of its effect on the series for a time. The cover spoils the issue, even though really, we already knew it was coming…such was the nature of the beast, even at that time before the internet as we have it now. The cover–at least for the edition(s) I’m used to–feature a half-cover overlay as a sort of “enhancement” or such; just a black-and-white thing mimicking the upper-left corner copy and first part of the title logo…but then has the partially-eclipsed Bat-logo with the text

“You thought it could never happen…

THE BREAKING OF THE BATMAN”

Flip that up, and you have the actual cover itself, the iconic image of a ridiculously-huge and disproportionate Bane pressing Batman backwards over his knee. While the image is NOT lifted from the interior, it certainly conveys its point, and the issue is thus blatantly, fully marked as “the” issue where Batman gets his back broken…even as this “middle chapter” within a larger 19-issue story.

The issue opens with Bruce Wayne just into the manor, surprised at the presence of Bane. The two actually talk, having a semi-civil-ish exchange, basically discussing recent events very matter-of-factly, before the “final battle” between these two is joined. Batman is virtually non-existent, as Bane essentially tosses Bruce Wayne in a Batman costume around, pummeling him nearly to death, the man’s feeble attempts at fighting back doing nothing to slow the villain. As Alfred escapes and seeks out Tim for help, Bane decides on a different course of action than he’d apparently originally intended.

“I am Bane, and I could kill you…but death would only end your agony and silence your shame! Instead, I will simply… BREAK YOU!”

Slamming the battered body down over his knee, Bane then drops him.

“Broken… and done.”

The visuals in this issue are brutal…and it’s almost painful to look at, and just really take in just HOW MUCH of a beating Bane dishes out…yet how resilient Bruce/Batman is, simply to actually SURVIVE the experience. There are subtleties that even just on this read-through I picked up that I hadn’t before (and this is one of the most repeatedly-read comics in my own life) which says a lot! Even a number of years’ worth of issues later, this is the same Bruce Wayne seen in A Death in the Family and during the New Adventures run of the title and others between. This is simply the iconic–to me–visual rendition of the character and by far my favorite.

Story-wise, on the surface there’s really not much. Bane is here, beats up Batman, in essentially an issue-log fight sequence ending with Bruce broken on the ground. It’s something that in the present I would be inclined to strongly dislike–after all, isn’t this just “padding” and “decompression,” having an ENTIRE ISSUE as a fight sequence?!? Yet rather than being a full 1/6th of a graphic novel or such, this is “merely” 1/19th of the Knightfall story itself; the ending of the first TPB of the original collected version, and appropriately-placed within the huger contemporary edition. This truly is just a small piece of a larger story, and so the fight being such a major thing, it does not FEEL padded-out. There are touches that I really liked, especially on this read-through, such as panel “flashbacks” to “recent events,” that I do recall from times I’ve read them, and jog my memory on stuff throughout the Knightfall arc thus far and stuff leading up to it. I could almost hear the somber music swelling as we see these interspersed with “now” and know we’re heading to The Fall, a defining moment for the character of Batman…the guy who can never be defeated, who is always fully prepared with contingencies for everything…but here, he’s gone, worn down as Bane intended, softened TO the point of defeat.

I know I got this copy that I read this time out of a quarter-bin, it’s an issue I’ve seen “hold its price” in terms of what dealers will ask for it…so it’s certainly worthwhile if you find it IN a bargain-bin! Given the full Knightfall story is available in multiple formats and collections, unless you sincerely want to own/read/experience this as a single issue, I would not say it’s actually worth anything more than $1 or so for print or (grudgingly for immediacy) $1.99 for digital.

However, if you’re grabbing this in-print…you MIGHT want to lift that overlay and check which printing you’re buying. I was rather surprised on this copy to realize I’m holding a 2nd print…perhaps that’s part of why it was “only” 25 cents. The only difference I can see outside of the Roman Numeral “II” is that the color of the bat behind the word “Batman” on the cover is yellow for this printing, but white on the first.

Zero Hour Revisited – Catwoman #14

90srevisited_zerohour

catwoman_0014Broken Mirrors

Writer: Jo Duffy
Penciller: Jim Balent
Inker: Bob Smith
Colorist: Buzz Setzer
Letterer: Bobpin
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I was looking forward to getting to this issue, as I only vaguely recall owning (and presumably reading) the first issue, and the two KnightsEnd tie-in issues. This would be the first issue of this iteration of Catwoman that I’ve read in years, and after not caring for New 52 stuff, I figured it’d be interesting and a bit refreshing to see the "classic" ’90s costume, etc.

But then very shortly into the issue, I got sidetracked at catching a couple errors that I feel should have been caught in editing, that put me off a bit and dropped this a few notches in my esteem. The story itself is ok, but by the end of the issue, I felt like I’d missed something somewhere, as even being unfamiliar with this version of Catwoman, stuff still seemed a bit outta-nowhere to me.

Catwoman completes a new heist–stealing some sort of ornamental/antique bed dedicated to Bast, a cat goddess. She sleeps, and when she wakes, she’s in the middle of Zero Hour (though those words are not used and there’s no telling she has any hint of that story going on). The city’s gone feral–or prehistoric–and instead of her tame house-cats, she’s got a sabre-toothed tiger as a pet; instead of a butler she’s got a barbarian in her place, and…yeah. Making the best of the situation–and the excuse to don her outfit indoors–Catwoman leaps into action. She and her new barbarian friend find themselves trying to save the prehistoric cat from a hunting party, and then out of nowhere, Selina grabs the guy for a kiss, and the world goes white.

I can appreciate the adventurous hijinks of having Catwoman team up with time-displaced stand-ins for Marvel‘s Ka-Zar and Zabu, and definitely like that–by way of acknowledging this title’s place in the event–we see Selina viewing multiple versions of herself in a multi-panel mirror and all. And in a way, this having virtually zero context for me–it does not seem continued FROM the previous issue, and other than the fade-to-white signifying the end of Zero Hour #1, this doesn’t seem likely to necessarily CONTINUE to the next issue (but what do I know, having never read the #0 or #15-onward?). So on one hand it’s a "fun" sort of stand-alone/one-off story. Establish Selina/Catwoman. Change the environment, introduce shirtless-guy and ancient kitty, move into cliché story of pet wild animal being hunted. Sure. Then the kiss and…that’s it. So despite "fun" randomness, I’m just NOT *impressed* by this issue.

Visually, the art is good…though I may be biased (particularly recalling back to my 13-year-old self)…this is a book that I’d simultaneously say we wouldn’t get "today" and yet in some ways, I think we WOULD with a certain on-page sexiness and suggestion being more acceptable nowadays than 20-some years ago. And at least in retrospect, I realize that where I’ve often prided myself on having AVOIDED the "bad girl comics" until last year’s Aliens/Vampirella…I think I had a brush with them in this ’90s Catwoman title.

That said, this issue is certainly no necessity for the reading of Zero Hour itself…but it’s a fun-ish one-off. It does somewhat walk a thin line of being somehow gratuitous with that skin-tight costume leaving nothing to the imagination and yet being fairly acceptable for what it is (hey, at least she’s covered and not showing bare skin all over–it’s a Code-approved comic, after all!). I don’t recommend the issue in and of itself–it’s not something to track down. But as with so many of these tie-in issues…if you’re working on a run of the series, or this event, etc. it’s not necessarily something to AVOID.

The issue’d be worth 25-50 cents or so, but not something I’d pay cover price for, and maybe not even something I’d pay $1 for. Still, having read it, it has me curious about the series itself and thinking if I found a run of the series in the cheap-bins, I’d be inclined to snag ’em.

Zero Hour Revisited – Robin #10

90srevisited_zerohour

robin_0010Two Birds One Stone

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of the most "iconic" covers for me of the Robin run…as well as (loosely) one of my favorite issues. I’ve "always" enjoyed Tim and Dick’s interactions, and having their ages/experience somewhat reversed here (while playing with Tim’s relative inexperience solo anyway) just makes for an interesting, entertaining story.

We open on Robin (Tim Drake) pursuing a lead, but he encounters another Robin…one that turns out to be a young Dick Grayson. Realizing this is another instance of a time anomaly, Tim invites him along on the case. While pursuing "Weasel," the two bond a bit, and even learn some from each other. As the case wraps up, almost with a positive ending, outta nowhere, things fade to white.

Story-wise, this fits right into stuff with Zero Hour and the Batman family of titles, in that we have a solo Tim/Robin story, set during Zero Hour, that involves something not easily explained EXCEPT for "Zero Hour time anomalies." We see Tim in action, still early in his "solo career" as Robin (defining "solo" with the start of his ongoing series, having had solo adventures in the past across annuals and three mini-series, as well as Dick Grayson Robin having had solo outings years prior in backups and whatnot). We see that he’s still learning, still growing, and get some character development through that as he interacts with Dick. I also find it interesting Tim noting that he has more experience at the point this story takes place, than Dick does for the time he’s from. That’s the sort of thing MY mind does, pulling up such comparisons (it’s been longer now since Tim’s ongoing series ended than the entire time I knew OF any Robin character, prior to Tim’s ongoing).

This issue being part of a crossover/event serves to enhance things, allowing for character development and forward-movement that would not be possible in a single issue without the established backdrop OF the event. Additionally, this is basically a one-shot/done-in-one story, where you really don’t need to know anything about the previous issue nor what comes next…you just get a story of Tim as Robin by himself, encountering a time-anomaly Dick Grayson, and the two go after some criminal. This doesn’t feel like something continued from a prior issue’s cliffhanger, and it ALMOST ends without a cliffhanger.

Yet the cliffhanger ending is the concrete tie-in to Zero Hour, outside of Dick’s appearance.

The art is certainly up to par with what I’d expect from this "era" of the title. I quite enjoy Grummett‘s work with Tim, and find that his style is what I tend to think of when I picture these early issues of the title. While the characters do have similar appearances, and the costumes have their differences, there’s still just enough hint of the physical differences that I could probably tell them apart with little difficulty. Of course, the rest of the art team helps in this regard, and colors make a difference along with the design differences of the costume.

All in all, this is one of the better tie-ins to the event, as well as being a darned good issue of Robin, period. If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth picking up. And if you’re a fan of Tim particularly, that goes extra.

Zero Hour Revisited – Batman #511

90srevisited_zerohour

batman_0511The Night Before Zero

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Mike Manley
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I definitely remember this issue’s Batgirl. I remember the fact OF her showing up, I remember her appearance in the main Zero Hour book, and I especially remember the impact she had toward the end of that book. But it’s quite likely, having re-read this issue, that this is the first time in nearly 22 years THAT I’ve read it…because I sure did not remember the DETAILS.

We’re only JUST past the Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend stuff…like, I think that wrapped with the previous issue, and then we’re dumped straight into Zero Hour. We open with the same scene that we got in Zero Hour #4–of the Joker “discovering” he’s being chased by Batgirl and wondering if it’s a joke. Even though Batman and Robin quickly arrive on the scene, the Joker escapes, leaving the heroes to try to figure out exactly what’s going on. Also on the trail of the Joker, the GCPD arrive, and their presence elicits a surprising reaction from Batgirl–fear. Then they open fire, surprising Batman and Robin (as ANOTHER Robin watches from somewhere out of their sight). Eluding the police, Batman demands answers, and things begin to come together. That horrible night years earlier saw Jim Gordon shot instead of Barbara, though he died. When the new PC–Harvey Dent–took office, he issued a shoot-to-kill-on-sight order against the masked vigilantes. Of course, though this is “normal” for Batgirl, it’s NOT the way Batman and Robin remember events unfolding. Meanwhile, the Joker decides to dispatch PC Harvey Dent, and digs up Gordon’s grave for extra theatrics, but Batman intervenes. Time continues to go wibbly-wobbly, and elements shift–reality returns to normal, though the “other” Batgirl remains…and Batman must seek answers outside of Gotham City.

As may become frequent in these posts, I’ll touch on the art first…because that’s quicker and simpler. Namely…this IS “my” Batman. This is the visual style I recall from when I was a kid…because this is an issue that was published and originally read when I was a kid. The familiarity raises more than a little nostalgia, which contributes hugely to the momentary enjoyment of rereading this quasi-isolated issue. It just fits, and IS the art I remember. It also conveys events of the story itself quite well, performing to my expectation, with the added bonus of just looking really darned good. I would not have been able to cite a name and tell you that it was Mike Manley’s art I loved, but loving the art in this issue and seeing his name…well, there you go.

Story-wise, this is jam-packed, and kinda jumps around a bit. I’m certainly bringing extra baggage to the reading experience, and using some of that to plug any holes in plot or depth or explanation–I know time is wibbly-wobbly here. I know that anomalies are popping up all over the DC universe, and that this is just the start of it. I know that there was confusion at the start of all this, and that things get put right “in the end.” But there are multiple Bat-books, each partaking in Zero Hour, so there are that many more incidents for Batman to encounter in this single month, as the main event unfolds. While I’ve been “conditioned” to a harsher modern Batman, this one can still make mistakes–such as getting distracted enough by the presence of a healthy, non-crippled Barbara Gordon that the Joker can get away. Similarly, this Batman is willing to leave the Joker for later, while other events take precedence…where nowadays, half the country could fall into the sea and Bruce would leave that for “others,” while HE continues tracking down the Joker.

batman_0511_comparison

This is also firmly rooted in continuity, and whether it was the writers coordinating, or (far more likely) Editors doing the editorial thing and coordinating stories between numerous writers), we see stuff in this issue that’s touched on elsewhere, giving us slightly different perspectives (we have Jurgens/Ordway on art for the opening scene where it touches in Zero Hour #4…and then Manley and Rubinstein giving us the exact same scene in this issue). It’s a bit repetitive in the sense of having several pages of the exact same action playing out in two issues read back-to-back…but it’s also quite welcome, because you do not HAVE TO have read Zero Hour #4 already to enjoy this issue, and you get what you need of this for the core Zero Hour story in that issue. This issue simply expands on the situation, playing out the larger situation and filling gaps.

The significance of Batgirl here would probably be lost for modern readers…this was 1994, just a few years (but enough for it to be firmly rooted in continuity) after Barbara was shot, paralyzed, and Batgirl was no more. Of course, with the coming of the New 52, a quarter-century of continuity was wiped out (and a couple “legacy”/successor Batgirls) in order to put Barbara back in action.

Opening on action, seeing characters’ reactions, resolving some of that and setting up other bits makes this at once an issue that can stand on its own (as much as any one issue of an ongoing series can/will) but plays extremely well in the shared sandbox of continuity and the universe-spanning Event series.

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