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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…

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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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