Friday, April 18, 2014

Zero Hour #3

Dan Jurgens • Story and Art
Jerry Ordway • Finished Art
Gaspar • Letterer
Gregory Wright • Colorist
Mike McAvennie • Asst. Editor
KC Carlson • Editor

Nine years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC realized that their continuity had once again grown unwieldily and was in need of a tune up — especially in the case of Hawkman, who quite possibly has the most convoluted history of any major DC character. So in the summer of 1994, DC went to a couple of their biggest names — Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway, who helped kill Superman — and engineered another full-scale crossover crisis. The main Zero Hour mini-series came out weekly, as far as I can tell, which would be a very impressive achievement (especially since it is currently taking DC nine months to release seven issues of Forever Evil).

 The Zero Hour issues are numbered in reverse, starting with #4 and ending with #0. Sadly, Bart wasn't in #4, so I had to skip to #3, where he surprisingly made an appearance on the cover. Here he is, right alongside iconic characters like Superman, Hawkman, the original Flash, Hourman, Green Lantern, and the new Green Lantern. The big scary guy is the mysterious Extant, and the glowing yellow ball of energy is the entropy that is destroying all existence. But back to Bart, real quick. Remember that he has only existed as a character for a couple of months and hasn't begun calling himself Impulse yet, or even wearing a mask — not that you can really call that a mask, but whatever, it's essential to keep his hair free, even if it would realistically reveal his secret identity. Anyway, I am happy that DC immediately embraced Impulse and made him a part of this big event.

Now, this Zero Hour story is pretty darn big — it includes practically every single DC character from the time. And it can quickly get confusing and out of hand, so I'm going to focus mainly on Bart's story and the really big essential stuff. The essential stuff from issue #4 was the apparent death of the Flash. When Wally and Abra Kadabra found themselves in the 64th century, the time-traveling Waverider explained to them that time and space were being destroyed from the end and the beginning — working its way toward the middle. They see the all-consuming entropy headed their way, and Wally tries to collapse it on itself with his super speed. Instead, he disappears, leaving only his costume behind. So Waverider came back to 1994 to gather all the heroes in the world to find a way to stop this crisis.

Issue #3 begins with all the heroes on their way to this big gathering in New York. Superman is with Metron, a New God with a flying, time-traveling Mobius chair. As they fly over Keystone City, they notice something unusual happening.

Bart is being chased by some dinosaurs that have appeared because of the merging timelines. Superman offers to help, calling Bart "kid," to which Bart replies, "Call me Kid Flash — and get your big 'S' handed to you! The name's Impulse!" He then shows Superman he doesn't need any help by luring the dinosaurs toward a wall, which he vibrates through, while the dinos crash into it and are knocked out. Superman asks Impulse to join the other heroes, and Metron notes that he's from the 30th century and could be another time anomaly. Impulse says he's just looking for cousin, the Flash, and figures he has to be where all the other heroes are.

A couple of notes here: It seems like Mark Waid could have used one or two more issues to develop Bart more before this appearance. Bart already has quite a bit of disdain for the Kid Flash name, but I don't think he's had enough time to build up that animosity toward Wally and his past. But then again, Bart operates at super speed, so he can develop feelings like this a lot more quickly than normal. The name Impulse is peculiar as well, since we've really only heard Iris call Bart impulsive. Wally has thought Bart was impulsive, but he never actually called him Impulse. So essentially, Bart named himself. The ease with which he vibrated through the wall is also slightly out of place. It has been established Bart can vibrate through solid objects, but he doesn't have full control of it yet. Maybe he just was able to focus better in order to show off to Superman. I don't mind Bart talking smack to Superman, though. That seems to fit his personality at this point.

I'm guessing that after Bart and Wally infiltrated the Kobra base, Bart ran home, heard the message from Arsenal and the Titans, and he decided to become a full-fledged superhero. He probably made his own "mask" and gave himself his own codename. He undoubtedly knew Wally was Kid Flash, so he somehow came up with the name Impulse to distance himself from Wally, who had just recently threw Bart through the wall of the Kobra base, making Bart pretty mad at him. And Bart could have done all this in about 30 seconds. He tried to meet up with Arsenal and the Titans, but just missed them, then began looking for Wally when he ran across Superman and Metron.

Back to the story, Bart joins the big gathering of all the heroes, and nobody really knows what to do. Of particular concern to everybody is the time anomalies and alternate versions of some heroes — most notably a non-paralyzed Batgirl. Bart is really worried that they're going to try to send him back to the 30th century, but nobody knows how to do that even if they wanted to. I'm surprised that Bart is so keen to stay in 1994 — he hasn't been here that long and has spent a lot of time complaining about not having 30th century technology. I guess he wants to stay with his grandma and knows how important it is to train with Wally, even if he annoys him.

Waverider tries to explain everything he knows, but then he senses a disturbance at Vanishing Point — the place outside space and time. He goes there to find Extant attacking and killing the old Justice Society of America. Waverider is able to save most of them, but a few of them have died and the rest of them are now considerably older.

A lot of people tend to overlook Zero Hour in historical terms of DC comics, and I don't blame them. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis were all much bigger events. But Zero Hour is still a very interesting story with a certain '90s charm to it. I am very happy with Jurgens' and Ordway's work here. These guys were the best in the business at the time, and it shows. The art is top-notch on each page, and every single character looked great — and Jurgens had to draw nearly every conceivable DC character here. Coming off the awful-looking New Titans #114, it is nice to see how good a comic could look in the '90s.

All the Zero Hour issues are available through Comixology, and I believe all the tie-in issues are, as well. I happen to have the physical copies of Zero Hour, so I get to do the ads.

First up is an ad for X-Am jeans, featuring pro basketball player Muggsy Bogues. At 5-foot-3, Bogues was the shortest player in NBA history, and he enjoyed a fairly productive 14-year career. At the time of this ad, he was at the height of his career (pun intended), averaging 10.8 points and 10.1 assists per game for the Charlotte Hornets. Unfortunately, X-Am did not work out a deal with the NBA, so they couldn't show Bogues in his Charlotte jersey. To work around this, the ad awkwardly included a picture of a live hornet.

Blankman starring Damon Wayans. Coming to save your butt!

Mortal Kombat II. Nothing, nothing can prepare you.

American Entertainment. This is one of those messy ads with too much information for me to process. It's a list of tons of comics, trades, and cards you can order, and if you spend at least $20, you get a free poster.

Flash Annual 7. Elseworlds: A universe of infinite impossibilities ... where familiar faces are no longer familiar.

Superman Time and Time Again trade paperback.

Stri-dex. Our new acne pads are bigger than before ... to clean away dirt and oil better than before.

Playoff football cards. Collector tackled by lifelike football photos. Ironically, this ad does not include a single lifelike football photo. It just shows a picture of the packaging and several paragraphs of text explaining why these are good cards.

Next time: Zero Hour #3

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