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Zero Hour Revisited – Legion of Super-Heroes #61

90srevisited_zerohour

legionof_superheroes_0061End of an Era Finale: Borrowed Time!

By: Waid, McCraw, Immonen, Boyd, Pinaha, McAvennie, Carlson
Special Thanks to: Kurt Busiek
Dedicated with Respect and Admiration to: Binder, Siegel, Shooter, Levitz, Giffen and The Bierbaums
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

OK…now THAT is the sort of thing I was expecting!

This issue sees the remaining LoSH members and Legionnaires united, and learn the truth of the Time-Trapper. It’s not just their "now" and such being threatened by the time issues…it’s all of Time itself! And it’s revealed that there’s nothing that can be done here/now to STOP entropy from engulfing everything…but for there to be ANY chance of Time being put right, a duality, the existence of both the older and younger Legion folks–must be resolved. This is by having the young doppelgangers "merged" with their older, original selves…even as the older selves are also about to fade out. And so it ends…lives given, a heroic sacrifice, for even the CHANCE of an eventual positive outcome.

The story is rightly called End of an Era, and this felt enormous.

Unlike the other Legion tie-ins to Zero Hour that were also chapters of End of an Era–this one I felt the enormity, the significance, that sense of this being a pivotal moment–not just for what it has to do with Zero Hour (not much, directly) but also for what it is to the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion is a definite blind-spot for me…but I’ve often been "aware of" their presence with occasional interactions with other stuff I’m reading. And I know there have been a number of "reboots" and such, just as I recall the "5 Years Later" and the younger Legionnaires…because even though I didn’t follow the series, I DO recall getting that first issue–Legionnaires #1–because hey, it was the ’90s, it was polybagged with a card, and most importantly–it was a #1 (then still a rare thing compared to modern comics).

I actually enjoyed this issue. I don’t know all the names–but most were "familiar," both in general and from earlier chapters read recently. And I recognize Thom as a character who was involved in JSA stuff during Geoff Johns‘ run–at least around the time of Thy Kingdom Come, a few years back. Though this was read in a vacuum (if somewhat LESS of a vacuum for reading the Legionnaires and Valor chapters already, plus stuff in Zero Hour itself), it was enjoyable and worth reading. I’m genuinely interested in at least "looking into" more Legion stuff (if only via Wikipedia), and curious about how long both this version of the Legion title and Legionnaires actually ran…but not quite enough to look it up while typing.

I’m a bit mixed in feelings on the visuals…I’m not entirely thrilled with them, but the art worked well here. Particularly seeing Immonen‘s name, I feel like I should enjoy the art, and there’s that part of me that wants to say something proactively positive about it, but flipping back through the issue, I’m not really struck by anything overly stand-out about it. It is not bad, but it’s–as with most comics–not one that blows me away with some sense of singular awesomeness. The story is definitely gotten across, and here perhaps more than on other related issues, the fade-to-white is extremely effective both visually and in serving the LoSH story while also tying it concretely to Zero Hour.

Though this does not directly move the plot of Zero Hour forward, it is certainly a worthy tie-in, and one of (continually, surprisingly) few to carry the crossover banner that seems to have been justified in doing so.

Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #8

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0008The Secret Origin of Scarface part One – The Gallows Doll

Script: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Art & Colors: Teddy Kristiansen
Lettering: Ken Bruzenak
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Neal Pozner
Cover: Ted McKeever
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I know I’ve read the Zero Hour portion of this issue in the collected edition of the event…but until now, I’ve never actually read Showcase ’94 #8 itself as a standalone comic! I was surprised by it, and rather enjoyed the experience overall.

This first story focuses on a prisoner in Blackgate–Donnegan–and how he gets a book on ventriloquism as a “joke” but ends up taking it fairly seriously. He even makes himself a dummy–carved from the wooden remains of the prison’s gallows. He and the dummy form an interesting relationship over the years…which leads to some conflict when a new prisoner, Arnold Wesker is assigned to Donnegan as a cellmate. Wesker is interested in the dummy and appreciates the “show” of ventriloquism. However, Donnegan is quite non-plussed at the perceived intrusion on his space, and commands Wesker to leave his dummy–“Woody”–alone. Wesker’s fascination leads him to investigate, which earns him a beating. Not long after, he seems to be hearing the dummy…even though Donnegan’s sound asleep.

The visuals for this story are rather simplistic, and don’t really do much for me. I recognize the dummy, and Wesker, by prior knowledge of them, and the “iconic” look of the dummy, and Wesker’s glasses. Beyond that, the art’s rather generic and unappealing. Still, it works for the story overall, and doesn’t exactly disappoint me, as I had zero expectation going in. It’s certainly not a “selling point” for me, but since the point of my reading the issue isn’t even this “main feature,” it can have a pass.

Story-wise, I liked this. All these years later and I’ve never consciously known–or at least retained–the origin of “The Ventriloquist” and “Scarface” (Woody). And this being (in part) an Alan Grant story (I don’t recall if he created the character to begin with, but I recognize him as one of the major writers on Batman stuff in the late-’80s/early-’90s) so that predisposed me to enjoy the story, and not write it off as just some throw-away story of a lesser-known Bat-villain. This is part one, and the fact that Wesker isn’t the original “Ventriloquist” (or there’s something a bit more messed up going on) is interesting, and I actually look forward to reading the next chapter.

Wildcat – Brujas y Gatos

Writer: Eddie Berganza
Penciller: Nick Gnazzo
Inker: Ray Kryssing
Colorist: Suzanne Bourdages
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Neal Pozner

I’m not overly familiar with Wildcat. I know the name Ted Grant, and recognize the character from Geoff JohnsJSA stuff (assuming I’m not mixing THIS Wildcat with someone else). Since I’ve never read anything in particular focusing on the character, I have no real preconceived notions to bring into the reading experience.

This is a short piece that finds Wildcat infiltrating a resurrection ceremony that seems to be–purportedly–to raise someone from the dead. Contextually we learn that the body to be raised is that of Ted’s friend Yolanda–who had attempted to become a new Wildcat…but she was apparently killed by Eclipso recently. (I have yet to read but was aware OF the short-lived Eclipso series that spun out of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within and recall hearing about there being several character deaths in short order toward the latter part of the series–I always remembered The Creeper being killed, but apparently Yolanda/Wildcat was also one). Wildcat observes, and only intervenes when a “fake” Yolanda shows up. He busts the ceremony and the fake Wildcat, revealing the truth and bringing some closure (albeit uber-convenient and quick) to the family of the dead woman.

This is a throw-away story, but recognizing it as a bit of follow-up to what I presume to be a virtually un-noticed otherwise death in a minor, now-forgotten book from the early-’90s, I can definitely appreciate its existence and purpose. At the least, it reminded me that that Eclipso series is out there and I’ve not yet acquired it, though I’ve had an interest in it for a couple decades now.

The art’s slightly over the top in a way, but not bad. I don’t recognize the art team’s names, but it’s not a bad piece. That this short “slice of life” episode IS so short but actually ends without a cliffhanger suggests to me that it’s a one-off piece in this anthology series…so it’s not even long enough for me to develop much opinion one way or the other.

The primary drawback to the piece at all is that it stood between me and the Zero Hour story.

Sum: Zero

Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Frank Fosco
Inks: Ken Branch
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Consulting Editors: Mike Carlin & K.C. Carlson
Editor: Neal Pozner

Vanishing Point–a place beyond Time itself, headquarters of the Linear Men. Hunter finds Waverider reminiscing, and confronts him over the fact that he–Waverider–may have stopped Monarch, but himself wiped out an entire timeline in the doing, making him worse than Monarch ever was. Waverider, though, doesn’t share the sentiment–though he does realize perhaps he should check into things with Hank Hall a bit more…though what he sees disturbs him. When he (and tag-along Hunter) journey to the late 20th century to investigate an anomaly that could be Monarch’s doing, they find him waiting, and themselves quite unprepared for this.

This piece is the “selling point” of the issue for me; the entire reason I picked the issue up to read. I’m pretty familiar with it already from having read the Zero Hour collected volume at least a couple times over the years, but this might be the first time actually reading it as part of this Showcase issue, in this exact format.

Trying to evaluate the art as a standalone thing, I realize it feels just a bit “off” somehow…probably because of not being Jurgens‘ art, or some such. It’s not bad by any means–and both Waverider and Hunter are familiar and distinct, and the imagery we get of Monarch and other elements that ought to be familiar from Armageddon 2001 fit, and convey the story.

The writing is Jurgens, and as a prologue to the Zero Hour event, this fits perfectly into stuff, giving us a bit of story involving these characters just prior to their stepping into that event.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I thought about “just” touching on the Zero Hour story and “ignoring” the rest of the issue, but figured why not just read the whole thing? And I was pleasantly surprised. I got a chapter of a story fleshing out the background of a Bat-villain that isn’t the bore I might’ve thought it’d be. The Wildcat story wasn’t bad and its primary drawback was that I finished the Scarface story and was a bit surprised to not turn right into the Zero Hour story.

While the issue’s page numbering INCLUDES ad pages, it goes to page 46…which is much longer than “just” 20-22 pages, so even with ads, it’s roughly a double-sized issue for not much more than a standard-length issue would have been at the time. Considering I paid fifty cents or less for the issue, the time it took to read vs. the amount spent makes it an excellent value; I enjoyed the reading experience, and when adding the time spent writing up this post, means that it’s by far one of the highest-value comics I’ve read in quite awhile, holding/being the focus of my attention for so long.

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