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Zero Hour Revisited – Legionnaires #18

90srevisited_zerohour

legionnaires_0018End of an Era part 4: Changing Times

Story: Mark Waid
Pencils: Chris Gardner
Inks: Dennis Cramer
Letterer: Pat Brosser
Co-Plotter/Colorist: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I continue to find myself a bit disappointed at these early tie-ins to Zero Hour…as they don’t really seem very much like tie-ins, or only just briefly, tangentially tie in to the Event story.

This issue is both a Zero Hour issue as well as chapter 4 of a 6-part 3-title crossover. Coming in on the start of the back half of the story is not the best place…especially with no "previously" page or such to highlight key developments so far. In that regard–the lack of conscious context makes this seem a lot more like it’d fit contemporary comics, where "jumping in" at the fourth chapter of six is not very prudent.

The main thrust of this issue is that the current Legionnaires fail to stop a couple of baddies from gaining Ultimate Power…and said baddies remake the universe–or at least parts of it…including their own "dark" Legionnaires. Combine that with time-issues associated with Zero Hour anyway, and it’s a bit confusing for a reader not overly familiar with the characters involved. Adding to the confusion is the knowledge (or so I think) that the Legionnaires are "younger versions" of the older Legion of Super-Heroes characters so there’s already at least two versions of several characters without even getting to Time anomalies. We do see several Legionnaires trapped in the 20th century who receive the Superman/Green Lantern/Metron call-to-arms, but outside of that, this issue has nothing useful to add or expand upon regarding Zero Hour itself so far.

The art’s not bad, though I’m not now (nor have ever been) all that familiar with the characters, so there’s no significantly defining version of the characters nor a favorite artist for me to compare this to. Even elements I’m lost on are more my own lack of immersion than necessarily any fault of the art…the characters just ARE what they are…and they’re familiar enough that I’d just have to say that I have no problem with the art itself.

I’m also in a weird place in trying to critically consider the writing…because as said, this is the FOURTH chapter of six…so while I did not enjoy the story, it’s not to say that it’s bad writing or anything. It’s my slogging forward into  this chapter due to it having the Zero Hour banner on the cover, instead of going back to seek out the first three chapters of this story, at least, to gain context on what’s up.

I’m pretty sure I remember Zero Hour being a fairly major "break point" for the Legion books, or so I’d heard, and that would make sense–this seems like an ok chapter within the context of the Legion/Valor stuff…but this really adds nothing of particular value to my reading of the Event itself, and is an issue that should be easy enough to skip without missing out if you were to try to read the event in general.

Zero Hour Revisited – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4

90srevisited_zerohour

zero_hour_0004Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: Gaspar
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor: Mike McAvennie
Editor: KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

As a weekly, core event mini-series, there is a LOT that happens in this book. Also, though this is the first issue of the series, it was numbered as 4–because we’re counting down TO Zero Hour, and go from #4, to #3, down to #0.

This was my first DC Universe event that I got in on from the very beginning. While I count Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines as events, those played out in Annuals and thus were a separate thing from the actual titles. Zero Hour played out across actual issues of a bunch of different series throughout July 1994, and was truly an Event, capital-E.

We open on the Time Trapper being killed. Knowing the end of this story and 20+ years of DC history since, it makes total sense who the villain of the piece is from these pages, though I recall being entirely clueless at the time. We then jump around quite a bit as pieces are moved into place, both for this core series and to set things up for tie tie-in titles for the first week of the event. Metron finds Darkseid and urges him to act. When that fails, he leaves on his own to seek allies elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Joker finds himself facing Batgirl, and then an equally-surprised Batman and Robin who don’t know who this young woman is. The Linear men become aware of a disturbance in Time, so Waverider and Hunter (with no reference at all to Sum: Zero–the Prelude to Zero Hour from Showcase ’94 #s 8-9) are dispatched to investigate. They arrive in the far future just in time to see The Flash–Wally West–die trying to shut down the rift eating through Time itself…they escape into the past. Back in the present, Superman meets up with Batman for the first time since before their respective “big events” (Superman’s death/return and Batman’s broken back/healing)…just as Metron shows up. Waverider and Hunter then encounter a young Hal Jordan, himself displaced in time, and try once again to stop the rift, but this time only Waverider gets out, though Hunter is able to tell him to look up a “crisis.” Back on Earth in the present, Hawkman confronts Vandal Savage, and then splits into numerous iterations of himself, confusing Savage. Metron and Superman locate Kyle Rayner, the current Green Lantern, and broadcast a message to the heroes of Earth, informing them of the situation. Metron then confronts the Spectre; Hawkman re-merges with himself as the Justice Society shows up; Vandal Savage disappears, and Waverider appears, bearing the horrible news of this crisis having already claimed its Flash…and Extant gloats.

Given its relative quick point, I’ll touch on the art, first. It’s Jurgens…with Ordway. Fantastic stuff, some of my absolute favorite, particularly given their involvement with the Superman books, this was a line-wide event, but helmed by “the Superman guys” I was already familiar with, AND Superman’s involved, so when this came out, it seemed a natural extension–or expansion–for me, and fit perfectly. Even now in 2016, I love the art, and it just IS. This being my first such event, and these guys on the art, their work became instantly “iconic” for me, and a standard I often hold stuff to even after another 22 years.

Story-wise, this also fit into the Superman books of the time–my core anchor to the then-DC Universe. His involvement here brought me into it (Ditto Waverider), and though at the time I wasn’t all that familiar with many characters, there were enough that I WAS familiar with that it never turned me off. I understood–even then–that this was bringing together a ton of different characters, so I followed along, getting more out of the characters I knew, and rolling with those I did not. Some of the scenes that unfold in this book remain iconic to me both in the visuals as well as story beats–particularly the Flash’s big moment.

We get just enough in this issue itself to grasp the core of what’s going on–rifts in Time are eating backward from the End of Time as well as the Beginning, causing anything from those periods to cease to exist, both ends moving toward the late 20th century. We see characters experiencing chronal anomalies, as everyone is affected from humans to gods and everyone in between.

This issue virtually ignores the prelude bits from Showcase ’94, without even a reference or footnote pointing readers to it, so I certainly didn’t miss it back then, though it gives context for the panel Extant appears in here. Other than that, we’re introduced to the situation, see how it’s affecting things, see various characters face the situation while others notice its effects, a call to action goes out, and though this issue alone provides a lot of story, it also shows us glimpses of things that are expanded on in various tie-in issues. I only remember reading several of the Batman and of course the Superman tie-ins, and this core series and getting plenty from the Event. This time through, I’m reading every tie-in that I’m aware of, hopefully lined up with the weeks they were originally released in (corresponding to the core mini’s issues).

The core series was a 5-issue WEEKLY book…with the entire event, start to finish (outside of the prelude) taking place in ONE MONTH. Blink, and you miss it. Blink twice, and you missed the Zero Month as well. Drastically unlike modern events that can take six or more months to a year to play out, chewing up entire ARCS in a title or filling entire mini-series if characters’ involvement can’t interrupt something in their individual titles. Zero Hour, then a bunch of #0 issues for Zero Month, then the DC Universe continued on.

That I’m about to dive into all of the tie-ins along with the core series and Superman/Batman books is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And as a self-proclaimed Official Reading Project, I’ll be sharing my experience in writing, as I intend to cover every issue (including the Booster Gold issue from Geoff Johns).

The clock is ticking…

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #112

superman0112Superman’s Ex-Girlfriend Lois Lane

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein
Lettering: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editors: Mike McAvennie and KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue originally came out during a year or so that I’d stepped away from (Superman) comics. For whatever reason(s) I recall basically leaving off with the end of The Trial of Superman, checking in briefly for the Wedding Album issue, and then returning for the start of the "Electric Costume" stuff. So I’d actually missed this whole half-year/however-long "arc" where Clark and Lois had broken up.

And I guess that’s the thing for this issue: it kicks off the "breakup" arc, and the cover caught me this time about the way it did fifteen or so years ago when I originally filled that gap in my runs on the Superman titles.

Superman deals with an attempted prison break, and then he flies Lois to Mt. Fuji for some alone time to talk about where they’re headed. Unlike the previous time they did this, there is not a happy resolution, as Superman is pulled away to save lives, and Lois’ "point" is essentially proven–that Superman is "on call" more than even a doctor or fire/policeman, and "belongs" to the world more than he ever can to one individual.

The issue’s art is good overall, though the "tease" from the cover constrasts sharply with the bulk of the issue’s art. Reading this issue out of context and as a one-off thing, I’m not overly thrilled with the art compared to plenty of other instances I’ve loved art on a Superman book. However, that’s personal taste in general and not reflective of the quality of the art. This brings back plenty of memory for me of this period in the Super-titles, when they were basically a weekly book with a rotating creative team. There’s no "previously…" page, but as a weekly ongoing thing, there wasn’t really much need for one…I suspect one would have been reading ALL the Super-titles or none; as one of the former, I can’t imagine being able to stick with any single Superman title without the others.

Story-wise, this is a Jurgens issue, and by his name alone I’m pre-disposed to like this, given I tend to really enjoy any/all stuff he did with Superman (and to a degree, still does). This issue certainly is not a chunk of story totally in a vacuum for me–I am very much aware of (roughly) where this is situated in stuff–shortly after The Trial of Superman–and recalling the months-long arc of Superman and Lois "separated" and such, so I don’t have that sense of "what the heck was just happening???" heading into the issue, nor do I have any sense of "what comes next?". That we get some pages of Superman/Clark and Lois talking about things, a sense of what both are feeling, and (Clark especially) going through, this is a heartbreaking kinda story if one appreciates the characters and continuity from the mid/late 1990s.

The cover is what grabbed me for this particular purchase, and the memories it evoked–both with having part of the original image from Superman #59, as well as the first time I’d read this particular issue.

All in all, this was very much worth the 25 cents I paid, for the convenience of an immediate re-reading. As with too many comics I presently own, this was a "convenience purchase," as I already own the issue at least once if not twice over, and would just prefer at the moment to pay the 25 cents over digging through umpteen boxes to try to find it and pull it. (Plus, doing that is something different than grabbing a "random" ’90s issue out of a quarter bin.

I’d love to do a full, large-scale reread of ’90s Superman issues…but for now, I’ll content myself with sticking to occasional quarter-bin finds like this.

The ’90s Revisited – Superman: Man of Tomorrow #9

History Lesson

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Paul Ryan & Brett Breeding
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editing: Mike McAvennie and Joey Cavalieri
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.95
Cover Date: Fall 1997

I grabbed this issue out of a 25-cent bin last week. What grabbed me was the cover itself. This is from right in the middle of the whole “Electro-Supes” era from 1997 to 1998 when Superman was transformed into an energy-being with electrical powers and a new costume. The cover is billed as “The Secrets of Superman’s Costume!” and shows a bunch of the different costumes Superman’s had in the current continuity.

I couldn’t remember what the secret(s) of the electric costume were, and liked the cluster of variant costumes, and for only $.25 decided to buy this to re-read (having bought a copy originally the week it came out, at full cover price–but that copy’s buried away in one of my longboxes with the rest of my Superman comics from this era). Re-reading it didn’t bring quite the experience I was looking for, but certainly was worth my 25-cents.

We open on Jonathan Kent falling asleep to some news about Superman, and dreaming an amalgamation of current events and stuff from the 1986 Man of Steel mini-series. He remembers the incident that brought Clark into the public eye as Superman, but replacing the development of the “classic costume” with the energy containment “electric costume.” When Martha wakes him, the two remenisce over the various events their son’s been through, essentially hitting on key points in the then-current continuity of Superman, as measured by the costume variants he’d been depicted in. By the end of the issue, Clark drops in, and we see the current costume in action.

Overall, I really like the art in this issue. I’ve generally enjoyed Breeding‘s art, and while an occasional panel here and there might have an element that seems a bit “off,” it’s hard to know if that should be pinned on the pencils, inking, coloring, or what, within the process. The overall visuals of the issue are a real treat–it’s quite enjoyable seeing all these different costumes Superman’s had, even if most of them lasted for only a few weeks or a single story and weren’t necessarily an “official” costume change the way the electric suit was.

Story-wise, I’m really not all that impressed. This is definitely a throw-away issue in terms of ongoing continuity–it’s relatively “timeless” and seems to have nothing to do with anything immediately before nor does it lead into something else. It’s a one-shot, and fairly contrived: Jonathan dreaming and then he and Martha having a conversation with these sorts of details recapping all these events just doesn’t seem at all realistic.

Despite that, this issue deals very much with long-term continuity by touching on all these events, Stern showing an obvious knowledge of the events, having been part of a lot of them (particularly the Death/Return of Superman). In contemporary terms, this would be a great 0-issue or Point-One issue.

And while this does not continue a particular story from the previous week nor lead into the next week–that makes it a nice stand-alone one-shot. I remember this era so have vague recollection for context, and it’s nice to take a peek back without getting sucked into wanting to immediately re-read anything else from this time.

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