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Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #9

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0009The Secret Origin of Scarface part Two – Call Me Scarface

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

Much as with the first chapter of this Scarface story, the art’s rather simplistic…but expecting it this time and looking past it not being ‘great’ and just taking it as it is, it works very well here getting everything across that needs to be, at least in not taking me out of the story AS I read, and leaving me satisfied with the story at the end.

Wesker and Woody make good on their escape–though it involves a brick-to-the-face and then hanging of Donnegan, and the murder of a couple of guards. We see Wesker falling prey to whatever madness Donnegan had–as the dummy seems to be the lead and the Ventriloquist following. We also get a sort of explanation for Scarface’s speech thing–his “B” having a “G” sound–as Wesker isn’t that great a ventriloquist.

The story is fitting, and I’m definitely quite satisfied with this “origin” of Wesker as The Ventriloquist, and Scarface, how they came together and all that. I can certainly visualize this being summarized in a one or two page origin–perhaps that’s been done elsewhere already (in Countdown, perhaps?) but that’s mostly irrelevant for now. As a lead feature in an anthology title, it works, was an enjoyable read, and after the first chapter in the previous issue I was actually looking forward to this and trusting that it was to be a 2-part story and nothing longer.

A Story

Writer: Terrance Griep, Jr.
Penciller: Kyle Hotz
Inker: Pav Kovacic
Colorist: Mike Danza
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Editor: Neal Pozner

This “middle story” is a brief one, but interesting. Like the Wildcat piece in the previous issue, it’s singular and self-contained; a slice of life sorta thing. We meet Pax, a man bent on revenge against the alien parasites that slaughtered his people–the entire population of his world except he himself. As he narrates his story, it comes to light that the parasites can look like anyone, and we see him take on a group of them, killing them…and moving on. When he’s picked up by a group of “police,” he begins his narration again as we see that his hunt-and-kill mission continues.

I had absolutely no idea what to think of this story at first. At the first page, I thought MAYBE this was Vandal Savage or someone of that nature, given the name “Pax,” but obviously I was quickly proven wrong in my assumption. The parasites appear to be the sort that we saw in Bloodlines–the Annuals event from 1993, which would make sense given this story would have been out just a few months after the end of that event in Bloodbath. And for a one-off story, seeing someone hunting the parasites would kinda show them to be a bigger deal than just the few that made it to Earth and caused the trouble they did.

The lack of expectation going in, of even knowing what the segment was to be about, worked in its favor. The art fits, gets stuff across quite effectively; and has little to be compared to on this read-through. The story itself is ultimately forgettable, but still worth having read it. Reading this in 2016, though, it puts me in mind of 2014’s Armor Hunters from Valiant…as the lone survivor of a planet hunting down parasites like those that destroyed his planet, with singular vision and little regard for the consequences beyond killing the parasites.

Thinking of it as the likes of Armor Hunters actually makes me like it all the more. While I wouldn’t care for any sort of dedicated mini-series or ongoing series like this…as a “random” thing in an issue I’m reading anyway, it’s well worth the several minutes of reading and realization!

Sum: Zero part two

Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Frank Fosco
Inks: Ken Branch
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Editor: Neal Pozner

Once more, the final part of the issue is the selling point, the story I read the issue for.

We pick up on Monarch holding Waverider and Hunter in a stasis field. Though he’s able to get them into the timestream, he lacks the control to direct himself, and hopes to have Waverider use his power to do that–and in the doing he’ll learn it for himself. Things don’t go as planned, and Monarch–Hank Hall–learns a new “truth” of his past and what happened at the end of Armageddon 2001, and since he’s more powerful than he’d realized, and his future self had realized, as Time’s been altered, he decides instead of being Monarch, he’ll be Extant! And stealing Waverider’s Linear Men arm-control, disappears into the timestream. Hunter is suitably cheesed-off that the villain now has the ability to time-travel at will, and Waverider suggests that if this villain can uphold his potential, they stand at the edge of a true CRISIS.

Yep, 9-ish years after “THE” Crisis (on Infinite Earths), a new one is about to unfold.

As with the previous issue’s segment of this story, the art works well, if not being completely to my liking. The story also works, feeding us directly into Zero Hour, and revealing that this story was primarily about transforming Monarch (Hank Hall) into Extant, a sleeker and cooler-looking guy than the clunky Monarch was, but without having to “corrupt” any other characters. This also allows the character to come with built-in, already-established “street cred” AS a villain, extremely powerful and a true threat beyond any single hero’s ability to take him down.

Despite this, I originally read Zero Hour withOUT having read this prelude, and had no problem following along (that I recall), and it wasn’t until I read the collected edition that I got to read this…so Sum: Zero is not absolutely essential…but it’s satisfying as a piece of my completist mentality for this reading project.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I’m glad I didn’t pay full price for this back in the day, as I would certainly NOT have appreciated the lead story nor the Pax segment…and probably, honestly, wouldn’t even have appreciated the Zero Hour piece. Reading it in 2016 having paid a dollar or less for both chapters, it’s a very satisfying read and well worth the expense and the time. And for reading the entire issue for both of these Showcase comics, I now have a better idea of the “origin” of the Bat-villain The Ventriloquist/Scarface.

It’s an anthology book, with a mix of creators both known and not, and characters that didn’t headline their own series, and all that, and it feels like one. This two-issue “taste” is much more satisfying than I recall the Batman segments of the two issues that tied into Knightfall, though that could be the more than two decades’ additional life lived and my ability to appreciate stuff as a mid-thirties adult than when I was just barely a teenager. I don’t know exactly when, but I look forward at least to the idea of binge-reading the several years’ worth of Showcase ’90s.

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The ’90s Revisited: Armageddon 2001 #1

armageddon_2001_001Dark Time

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Dick Giordano
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Kelley Puckett
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1991
Cover Price: $2.00

One up-front problem with reading this issue now: I know who Monarch is…who he was supposed to be…and how stuff’s developed over the quarter-century since this issue was published. So there’s no true wondering, curiosity, nor concern to me about that…nor does this issue hold any particular story/continuity significance to me outside of being the introduction of Waverider. Which–honestly–is the reason I picked it up this time around. I wanted to revisit that character’s introduction, given the name appears only as homage in the current DC’s Legends of Tomorrow tv series.

The issue opens on someone being saved by a hero pulling him out of some rubble…though he doesn’t seem to remember which one…it could be any of a number of heroes active in the late 20th century (1991). We then move to the year 2030 (when this issue was published, that was nearly 40 years in the future. Now…it’s a mere 14 years!). Matthew Ryder is a scientist, working for the government…which itself is under this Monarch–a super powered being who rules over all, providing order and peace. Or as Ryder sees it…”order” and “peace.” Though he has a family, he sees even family time as a mere intersection of four lives drifting apart from each other. At work, one day, there’s a breakthrough, and time travel becomes a reality…at least to some degree. Ryder volunteers to be a test-subject, but is turned down: he simply won’t conform and blend with society. One way we see this is with his visiting a small shop for black market disks on turn of the century history (REAL history, not the stuff force-fed from the top-down). Events come to a head and Ryder stakes his life on a risky endeavor that brings him to the attention of Monarch…and ultimately “earns” his place in the time travel testing. Ultimately, this leads to his rebirth as an energy-being with temporal abilities–at a touch, he can see one’s most probable future. This is an ability he plans to put to use to try to determine which of “the heroes” becomes Monarch…as Matthew Ryder (now Waverider) seeks to change the future.

As said above–I already know the resolution to “who is Monarch?” so there’s no particular significance/drama there for me personally. Though I’ve also read this very issue at least once in the past, I didn’t remember much detail, so in many ways this felt like a first reading for me. The issue also felt a bit dated with its technology references that are now 25 years old. I’d forgotten that this entire issue was basically “the origin of Waverider,” to give us background on who he was, how he came to be, the time-travel stuff, the Monarch question…basically to set the character to then move through the various Annuals with a lot more context than could reasonably be set up a dozen times. The story in no way blows me away–it’s ho-hum in that regard–BUT it is absolutely not bad, either. It failed to excite me now, 25 years after its publication, some 24 1/2 years after its story was fully wrapped up…but as a piece of its time, it worked.

Visually, I quite enjoyed the issue…which did not surprise me, given the Jurgens art, and having so thoroughly enjoyed his work on Superman in the ’90s. With most of my ‘experience’ with Waverider and the Linear Men coming from the pages of Superman and Zero Hour (art by Jurgens on both titles) and the Superman/Doomsday Hunter/Prey mini (again, Jurgens art), character designs and such in this issue felt extremely familiar in a good way, lending to a visual continuity I always enjoy.

As best I can recall at this typing, my earliest exposures to Waverider were the Adventures of Superman Annual that took part in the Armageddon 2001 story as well as the 2nd/bookend issue to the event Armageddon 2001 #2. Those were followed by his appearance in the Legacy of Superman special and then certainly Zero Hour. He also appeared in an issue of Superman shortly before the Doomsday! story, but I missed that and I recall the issue being a hassle to acquire.

Which all gets back to: I don’t recall much “fallout” from this series outside of it having obvious effect on another title of the time and the way elements were picked up (yet again: by Jurgens) for Zero Hour, or Waverider’s place in the DC Universe for a few years. I know there were a couple of follow-up mini-series, but I’ve never heard anything particularly good about those nor had any inclination to make time to read them myself…but I imagine if even those had had a lasting impact I’d’ve known about it by now.

All told, as a “4/$1” “clearance” issue at a Half-Price Books…this was certainly worth my expense and time to read. It also has re-ignited my interest in tracking down the entire story to actually read…especially since it’s “only” 12 annuals plus the two-issue bookend mini.

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