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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.

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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