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Zero Hour Revisited – Flash #94

90srevisited_zerohour

flash_0094Reckless Youth chapter three: Just Do It!

Story: Mark Waid
Guest Pencils: Carlos Pacheco
Inks: Wayne Faucher and Jose Marzan Jr.
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Colorist: Gina Going
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Well, that explains a bit, on multiple fronts. Some early Wally/Bart interaction, as well as (now) confirming [1.] that yes, that was “the” Wally in Zero Hour #4 and [2.] How he wound up in the future with no real context provided.

We open on Bart, with Wally’s narration…Bart’s not familiar with his own power/abilities, and Wally’s job is to keep an eye on him. Iris Allen–Barry’s wife–is present, and plays coy on details of Wally’s future. Meanwhile, Linda’s got a guy named Argus involved in some current investigation (I think he’s the Bloodlines character introduced in the Flash 1993 Annual). Wally’s none too happy about being pressed into responsibility for Bart…and takes full advantage when Argus phones in a tip. Wally investigates,and finds himself about to get some really good intel on Kobra when Bart rushes in, spoiling things. Resigned, Wally joins the fight, but soon finds himself facing Kadabra…and then he’s pulled into the far-future, Kadabra’s own time…and while still trying to get his bearings, Waverider appears.

The credits list Pacheco as a guest penciller…which explains my relative (but only slight) surprise at this not being a Weiringo-drawn issue. Though some panels come off slightly more cartooney than I’d prefer, with an odd sort of simplicity to them, on the whole the issue is quite good-looking, and not bad to see. I can mostly follow stuff, though I’m mentally piecing together context, as this is listed as part 3 of a story, but I’m reading it because it’s a Zero Hour tie-in. We get plenty of linework to suggest Flash’s speed, but nothing special or surprising. I “get” that Flash is fast, but there’s no particular creative styling to suggest the speed in a way that the very layout of the page does it, and the art style in general isn’t something drastically different from other contemporary books. It’s “just” superhero art, works well, and fits the issue.

Story-wise, I’m a bit lost, with not knowing where the story began (if this is part 3, I can assume #92) nor how long it should go (six issues from this would be #100, though there’s the #0 yet between). Similarly, given the tight continuity, I spent most of the issue wondering how Wally’s here doing this stuff when in Zero Hour #4 he’s in the far future, apparently having just captured someone (Kadabra). That does get addressed at the end of this issue, and perhaps my expectations were thrown by the Batman issue: that one shared several pages’ worth of story with Zero Hour #4…this one basically a panel. I’d “assumed” we’d get something a bit more detailed in this issue on Wally’s actions trying to shut down the Time Rift…but apparently that was “uniquely” contained to the Event Book itself.

I’d half thought/assumed over the years that Bart–Impulse–first appeared in Zero Hour itself, that this story shoehorned the character into the Flash mythology…but it would seem that I was wrong…and that has me all the more interested in getting up to speed (no pun intended) with the Flash book. This was a first-time-through for me with this issue…I didn’t read it back in 1994, nor had I ever read it prior to this reading project…so it’s actually rather cool to get this taste of the Flash’s own story, knowing the exact point it’s taking place in relation to a bunch of other ’90s issues…namely, during July 1994, and the Zero Hour event.

As this issue is part of the earliest stage of the story, the Time Anomalies are just being discovered, the wibbly-wobbly-ness just started to get noticed, so the bulk of the issue really IS “just” a typical Flash story, just any issue of the Flash book.

I enjoyed it, and look forward to the #0 issue, and eventually/someday getting fully caught up contextually with Wally’s time as the Flash.

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The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #4

final_night0004The Final Knight / Week Four: Emerald Dawn

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

After reading the previous issue, I lamented having forgotten the Parallax issue that went along with this series. I did cover that issue a couple years ago, though.

This issue sees a final gambit play out, as Kyle Rayner returns to Earth, believing he’s failed to convince Parallax to help. Luthor and the Genius Crew have had the Flash construct half a million force-field devices, that will be piloted into orbit around the sun, where they will be activated as it goes nova, containing the bulk of the blast and destroying the suneater. Having already survived one trip to the sun, it falls to Kyle to be the pilot…but he mysteriously disappears. Superman steps in, admitting he’d already intended to sneak onboard and replace anyone else sent…though he requests a few moments and we see him begin to pen a note to Lois. The ship takes off unexpectedly to everyone’s surprise…including Superman’s, as Ferro opts to sacrifice himself, figuring he has the best chance of survival outside of Superman, and that the world needs Superman more than it needs Ferro. Parallax shows up with an offer to help, that’s grudgingly accepted–Batman not trusting him after Zero Hour. Moving into space, the plan fails…and as all seems lost, Parallax has paused time to contemplate the ways he could resolve this. He’d given his word that he would “only” fix things as they were without trying to remake reality, the world, or so on…and as he expends his energy to defeat the suneater, reciting the Green Lantern Oath one final time. Earth is saved, the final price is the life of Hal Jordan.

The emphasis on the Green Lantern oath in this issue makes it stand out to me…and unless I’m completely missing something, it strikes me as rather odd here, worded as “In brightest day, in darkest night” but I’ve thought it was “In brightest day, in blackest night.” Given historical context, at the point this issue was published, it’d been over 2–almost 3–years since the demise of the Green Lantern Corps, the passing of the Ring to Kyle, and so on…and I don’t believe Kyle particularly used the “classic” oath at charging his ring, so it strikes me as a bit of potential oversight that the wording so familiar now may have been mis-phrased back then. (Given the “events” Blackest Night and Brightest Day a few years back prior to the New 52).

And unfortunately, as with many things, this ending doesn’t live up to expectation, and seems to me rather anti-climatic. Of course, I’m certain part of that is that this conclusion is some 19 years old at this point and barely warrants a footnote in the current world of comics (let alone DC itself). This event came roughly 2 1/2 years after Zero Hour, and maybe 3 years before Day of Judgment (the latter now going on 17 years old itself) so a lot of the impact is lost on me, knowing what’s happened since, in broad strokes, and that there’s really nothing I’m aware of currently from DC Comics that can be traced back to this story.

Parallax showing up is basically out of nowhere as far as the core story goes–the earliest hint I noticed was the very end of the previous issue, and then I read this (not having the Parallax issue on-hand) so we go from the heroes’ various plans to suddenly having Parallax present to fix things…a bit of a deus ex machina and apparent attempt to “redeem” Hal Jordan in the process.

I’m certainly affected by the difference in twenty years, and being inundated with constant event-streams from Marvel and/or DC these days. I’m “used to” an event series being at least 6 (of not 7-9) issues, spanning half a year. This event mini was but FOUR issues: only 2/3 the length of a contemporary “standard” series. Additionally, while I’ve enjoyed this mini as its own contained thing…it’s not exactly the be-all/end-all to truly convey an event. This was a weekly series of 4 issues; with the issues presumably serving to “launch” plot points to be expanded on by various tie-in titles’ issues, and then for everything to come back to wrap up in this concluding issue.

But to have something so globally-catastrophic just “end” in this issue with no “to be continued in…” nor any noticeable “checklist” or other “house ad” to say where to follow up certain plot points, this is tangibly “the end.” Except that I do recall that while not a focus of this mini (it was explored in his own books) Superman’s lost powers didn’t come back, and when powers did reappear they were electric in nature; and this was the official “death” of Hal Jordan, lasting not quite 8 years, though the character was still used in various ways thanks to time-travel and supernatural elements.

For my $1, The Final Night proved a good read, and whether I’d read it before and forgotten or this was truly my first time all the way through…that’s one more DC Event Mini-series off my “bucket list” of yet-to-be-read stories.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #3

final_night0003Keeping Hope Alive / Week Three: Shallow Graves

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

Well…that’s grim. And a bit disappointing.

This is the third issue of four under the Final Night title, though there are numerous tie-in issues. And yet, this issue–The Final Night #3–is continued in something else: a special, Parallax: Emerald Night #1 that was apparently on sale simultaneously with this issue.

As things worsen for Earth–the sun-eater’s drawing heat and energy from the sun but not its actual mass–Luthor (with a tip from Ted Knight) realizes that means the sun will soon go nova–incinerating all life in the system, and certainly on Earth. Amidst this, we see Warrior (Guy Gardner) and new hero Ferro getting help for a badly-injured Wildcat, and the Phantom Stranger gives Dusk a tour of humanity, showing sides other than the mob that had attacked and blamed the crisis on her. Etrigan–The Demon–proposes a bargain with humanity, that he and his kind will save the Earth, if a unanimous decision is made to embrace hell; while the Spectre protects Gaia, and Zatanna and Fire save Ray. Not stopping there, the two then enlist Firestorm to bring momentary light to the village, while Jade and Obsidian reunite with Sentinel and Superman visits his parents. Back at Warrior’s, Guy laments what things are and used to be, and then glimpses something Green.

And that “cliffhanger” leads us into the Parallax issue.

Story-wise, this issue seemed a bit more packed, and while I’ve figured stuff with The Ray would play out in his own series (thinking his series was still going on at this time), it seems that it’s been something to play out in this core series instead. I appreciate touches like the Phantom Stranger showing up and helping Dusk to see other sides of humanity–not just the bad–even though it’s a rather cliché thing. It also reminds me that the character exists and was used like this in events of this sort. Similarly, we see the Spectre acting on a global scale while remaining apart from things going on…a difficult character to handle by its nature in the face of something like this.

The art team does a good job, and everything is gotten across pretty well…I have no real complaints visually.

This third issue pushes things into dark territory, as things are looking impossible for the Earth and its heroes. The sun is being consumed, and where the Earth faced being frozen, now it faces incineration…neither condition supports life beyond a few more hours. Even Superman is at a loss–deriving his power from the sun, he’s virtually “normal” at this point, denied the sun’s energy himself. I’m convinced that Dusk does play a role in the end of this story…there’s been enough done with the character (superficial as that’s been) that it would seem a waste to not have something planned.

I’m less than thrilled at the realization that there’s the direct continuation into a side issue: while I know full well there are numerous tie-ins, numerous details going on outside this core story that are relevant to the story–thus far the core mini has technically only continued directly into itself. My satisfaction at scoring all 4 issues for $1 is diminished now, realizing that I missed the fifth issue that would make more sense to have now.

Of course, I have read that issue (though I don’t recall much detail consciously) but it would be much more satisfying to read it now and not have to go on memories from several years in the past.

For 25 cents, this was a good issue, reading in context of the mini-series as a whole, and I’ll be diving into the fourth issue shortly.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #2

final_night0002Darker Grows the Night/ Week Two: Chaos

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

We open on a page of exposition via a news story to bring us up to speed on the current situation, leading into the new stuff for the issue. Lex Luthor turns himself in by way of offering his genius to help overcome the current crisis. Around the world, heroes do what they can for the general populace, assisting where their powers and abilities allow them, overcoming challenges to conventional services–such as fire trucks being unable to get to fires due to gridlock. Implementing a design from Luthor and modified by Brainiac 5, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner gets a probe into what remains of the sun, gaining valuable data. Meanwhile, the Ray and Dusk come face to face with ground-level reactions to the crisis, and we see new figures emerge.

While my initial reaction to Immonen‘s art with the previous issue was less than stellar, moving into a second issue of the art, building from that first, I found it more appealing here, perhaps for a bit of “normalization” of a growing context and expectation of it. The visuals continue to be solid, and I really was not taken out of the story by any weird/odd art…and I’ve noticed as well that despite being a “core event mini-series,” this has been seriously lacking in full/double-page shots despite the enormity of stuff going on…and that is a great thing, to me! We get a full-page image at the beginning, emphasizing the major moment of Luthor and Superman (which also serves as a credits page), and then we get a full page at the end for the “cliffhanger.” Even something as huge as Kyle Rayner descending into the Sun/being in outer space does not get itself a solo full-page. Which basically means there’s more room for story, for moments, to get development, without stuff being padded out.

The same applies to the story itself–there’s simply more content TO the issue for not falling back on several pages of little to no words and just massive imagery. We get bits with the various heroes, their interactions with each other and the world, as well as what I take to be “hints” of stuff sure to be expanded on in relevant tie-in issues. I don’t think I was ever consciously aware (and even if I was, I would not have been able to tell you so prior to this reading) that Kesel had headed up a DC event like this. I like that despite the larger role of “the trinity” we also have involvement from other heroes, and that this isn’t “just” a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman thing with near-useless cameos of other characters.

As with the first issue, this is very much part of something larger–firstly in itself as only the second issue of a four-issue series, as well as serving as a generalized narrative impacting the bulk of the DC Universe of its time of publication. So this definitely does not stand alone (where one could sample the first issue and go from there, this isn’t even that) so there’s really no context-less point to get this issue by itself. If you’re interested in the entire mini or event, and it’s one you’re missing, it’s certainly worthwhile, but I suspect as a lone single issue one would be far more satisfied simply reading some other title’s tie-in issue to the event.

For my part, having acquired the entire mini in the same week for 25 cents an issue, I’m thoroughly enjoying the chance to read this, and find myself eager to acquire the tie-ins and get to read those as well.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #1

final_night0001Dusk / Week One: Armageddon

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

I’m quite sure I’ve read this before…but I’ll be darned if I can remember it. This actually felt like I was reading it for the first time. Knowing I’ve bought the entire series at least once before in bargain bins or as a cheap set, I can’t imagine I didn’t read it…though that’s entirely possible. I know I’d read the Superman tie-ins, as events from this led to the electric-Superman saga.

This issue sees an alien arrive on early, bearing grave news: an entity that consumes all heat/energy is approaching Earth’s solar system and will destroy the sun, and in turn rendering Earth a lifeless iceball. The heroes–around Superman–gather, and launch a two-pronged plan to repel or distract the sun-eater…but this wouldn’t be the start of an event if things worked out right away, would it? The heroes’ plan fails, and Earth is left in darkness…a final night from which nothing will survive more than a few days.

I can’t say I’m overly enthused at the art. I should like it–I usually enjoy Immonen‘s work–but there’s something a bit "off" about it here. Perhaps it’s reading this out of context, or expecting something different, or just seeing a number of no-longer-currently-familiar characters that doesn’t quite do it for me. The art is hardly bad…it’s just not what I "expected" or thought I remembered. Still, we have numerous characters and multiple super-teams represented in this issue, and things move pretty quickly from introduction to action to result in what I would (by contemporary standards) consider an "ultra-compressed" story.

The writing is good, solid stuff, and certainly makes sense for what’s going on. We have the introduction of a massive threat, a gathering of heroes and plan to confront it, the execution of the plan, and the result. Given this event is one month long, and its core is this 4-issue mini-series while more generalized action plays out in other titles, I am ok with the lack of detail to stuff here in favor of moving "core events" along. It also has me very interested in reading the various tie-in titles to see far more detail to the unfolding crisis.

While it certainly benefits by way of 1990s comics being so cheap these days, this is also the sort of "event" I would love to have today in 2016: instead of having to invest in 3, 4, maybe 6 issues of every single tie-in title as well as an event mini-series or few, the event plays out in a single mini-series as well as just one issue of any given title tying in. I almost wish I’d held off on reading this issue, solely for the fact that I’m ready to dive into the rest of the mini, yet have no idea when I’d actually get around to hunting down all the tie-ins to the event.

I snagged 3 of the 4 issues from one set of quarter bins, and the missing issue from another at a different shop a day later–so I have the benefit of scoring the entire mini for $1 total without putting any particular effort into getting it. As such, this issue is very much worthwhile to me FOR my twenty-five cents, as I can move straight into the rest of the series without waiting. However, I do suspect that taken as a singular issue completely apart from issues 2-4, this wouldn’t be all that great an issue in and of itself.

I enjoyed the reading, and look forward to the unfolding story, and continue to dig in on this run through fun back issues and nostalgia.

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #1 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0001Playground Heroes

Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciller: RB Silva
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

It’s been several years since I reviewed “cereal comics” such as these. Unlike the last batch of General Mills Presents Justice League issues (numbered 5-8 and 9 after 2011’s 1-4) that I never got around to actually reading, these Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice issues are perfectly timed with the new movie about to hit, so I actually have an interest in reading these right away…mostly because I’m curious about the product and to look at it as an adult and consider (if only to myself) the image of these characters kids might get…remembering back to my own early time in comics with “key” issues such as The Untold Legend of the Batman, which I believe was reprinted and given away in cereal boxes in the early 1980s.

We meet Jacob the morning of a big day at school as he’s introduced to a new neighbor Lucas. Jacob’s mom is giving both boys a ride to school. Jacob’s ok with it, and does minimal duty to help Lucas…nothing antagonistic, nothing above and beyond. His attention is focused on the day’s class visit with Metropolis reporter Clark Kent to STAR Labs…an excitement that’s a bit self-centered as he overlooks Lucas getting bullied just for being “the new kid.” When aliens attack STAR, Superman appears on the scene, and watching him in action Jacob is inspired to stand up for Lucas–because it’s about doing what’s RIGHT, whether one knows if they can succeed or not. And of course, we get a happy ending as the class is safe and Jacob and Lucas have learned a valuable lesson on friendship and standing up for something.

This issue is rather simplistic in its way, rather cliché and not too exciting. Though Batman is on the cover, neither he nor Bruce Wayne appear in this issue; though we do get Clark Kent and Superman. As a mid-thirties adult, the plight of junior high children is foreign to me in all but memory, leaving me too many years removed to “identify” with the kids. Though there are aliens Superman gets to fight, they’re “new” or at least I don’t recognize them, so they’re throw-away generic characters to me. This Superman reads vaguely like one I’d be familiar with…but we get the story from the kids’ point of view, so even Clark is a distant/generic character in this story. Being from the perspective of the kids makes it a more entry-level book (which I’m sure is the point, especially considering it must be assumed that it’s kids reading this, pulling it out of a box of cereal!) For depth of characterization and story, I’m not at all impressed…but as a “cereal comic” this actually exceeds my expectation.

Much of that is probably on the art, though. The visuals fail to capture the on-screen effect of Superman’s costume, resulting in a weird appearance to the character–to me–in this issue as it unfortunately LOOKS LIKE it is an “adaptation” trying to be something other than itself. Costume design aside, I really appreciate the layouts and color work on the issue…other than the physical size of the issue, it looks every bit as contemporary as any other comic, avoiding some generic “grid” layout or such, like there’s actual layout work done and this isn’t simply a bunch of images mashed together on a page. The art also gets the story across such as it is, and didn’t leave me questioning what happened or such.

I think for me the best part of this issue is the Gary Frank/Rod Reis cover…definitely top names to me. Parker, too, rings a bell–though I can’t specifically cite what I know him from off the top of my head.

Again…this is a “cereal comic,” an insert in a box of cereal…so it’s totally separate from any ongoing continuity, and is not part of some adaptation of the movie or such…it’s just taking advantage of the timing. It’s also essentially a throwaway piece seemingly meant to entertain but other than simply BEING a comic book, it doesn’t seem to cater to trying to get someone to go get other comics (except the rest that are part of this cereal box promotion).

Me being me–a lifelong Superman fan; a regular consumer of cereal and frequently perusing the cereal aisle–when I saw the strip across the bottom of a box of Lucky Charms indicating there was something Batman v Superman related, I obviously looked closer…and on realizing it was a new comic promotion, I was genuinely excited–as much as one can be for this sort of thing–and immediately bought a couple boxes. (Over a weekend I bought several more and thus had the entire 4-issue mini with relatively little hassle and plenty of leftover cereal for the next few weeks).

This in no way feels like something essential to the movie…nor is it any great work on the character or any kind of high-literature piece. But it’s an entertaining enough story with a “named” writer and “named artists” whose names I actually recognize, rather than just some random people slapping a comic together…the names lend credibility to this project, and I’m willing to read as a result.

I don’t yet know what the next three issues will hold; whether these are functionally one-shots or if there’s a recurring situation or such…but I would hope kids that find this would enjoy reading it and at least appreciate having read a comic book.

If you’re gonna eat the cereal anyway and see any of these, it’s worth picking up…though there’s nothing here to go completely out of your way for.

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