About two years ago, when I started posting comics-related entries to this blog, I made a point to write about the first series that ever had a true impact on me, which was Crisis on Infinite Earths. Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s 1985 epic was a story that I came late to, having read it for the first time in its entirety in 1991 after owning only issue 12 and then going back and collecting the rest. Before the summer of ’91–when Armageddon 2001 and War of the Gods were both published–there had been three company-wide crossovers that don’t hold the same weight as Crisis did and some of which haven’t aged very well. Legends, Millennium, and Invasion! were published in the late 1980s before DC decided to take a break from the company-wide crossover for a couple of years. With maybe one or two exceptions, the issues for each of these stories were pretty easy to find and were cheap to procure in the early 1990s (seriously, except for Batman books, nobody was buying DC back issues at the time) so I quickly became an obsessive crossover fan.
The annuals crossovers that began with Armageddon 2001 (awesome then awesomely disappointing), Eclipso: The Darkness Within (uneven in parts but still a solid crossover), and Bloodlines (let’s not go there) were nice to have, but since the one company-wide-within-the-actual-books crossover that DC had in the early 1990s was the poorly executed War of the Gods, there wasn’t much to satisfy my craving for something epic. Oh sure, there was the Superman books’ Panic in the Sky! and by the time 1994 rolled around I was knee-deep in both The Death and Return of Superman and Knightfall, but I still wanted more. I mean, if Marvel could have Infinity Wars and Crusades, couldn’t DC have something?
Then, in the fall of 1993 on the DC Universe promo page, there appeared a simple graphic of a ticking clock with the words “The Countdown Has Begun. Zero Hour. Be Prepared.”
I remember going almost practically apeshit over this. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what it was going to be … but I wanted it. During the course of the next year or so, weird stuff would happen in the various books of the DC Universe that suggested that this Zero Hour event was going to be something very important, not just some random C-list villain making an effort to be someone important. The biggest one that I noticed was that Valor–otherwise known as Lar Gand of the 30th Century–dies in his 20th Century-set book, a thousand years before he is part of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Plus, there was this attempt to make some sense of Hawkman (I didn’t understand it either), and in Team Titans, the identity of The Leader was revealed to be none other than … Monarch.
This all led in to two issues of the anthology series Showcase ’94 where Waverider (he of Armageddon 2001 and Linear Men fame) and Rip Hunter observe Hank Hall as Monarch in some random hideout where he’s hooked up to a bunch of machines and … well, we’re supposed to accept the idea that Hall has been able to get his hands on a lot of different technology and also had the knowledge to use it. They attempt to develop his character a little bit, or at least try to “erase” the mistake of the end of Armageddon 2001 by having him explain something about how when Dove died, her essence as a personification of order went into him (Hawk, the personification of chaos) and he became more powerful and aware than he ever had. Then, Hall changes himself into Extant, a time-traveling villain who is supposed to serve a legitimate threat to the heroes of the DCU (instead of Monarch, who never really could seem to get his crap together).
It’s a halfway decent lead-in to Zero Hour, because we at least have a villain established and by the time Zero Hour #4 opens (the issues were numbered counting down to 0), it’s thought that Extant has somehow figured out how to screw with time itself to the point where pockets of entropy are opening up and swallowing time and space from both ends. The heroes of the DCU are called upon to fight it and even though Wally West (aka The Flash) seemingly dies (he winds up in the speed force, a concept that Mark Waid would introduce at this point in his spectacular run on The Flash) and the Justice Society is forced into retirement (in quite possibly the worst way possible), they seem to stop the entropy from eating up the universe. At least for a moment, when it’s revealed that the true villain of the story is Hal Jordan, aka Parallax, who has decided to try to recreate the universe so that everything that sucked never happened. The heroes fight him, use a kid named Damage to start a new version of the Big Bang, and then the universe restarts as it should.
Make any sense? (more…)