Thursday, August 7, 2008

Retro Review: Zero Hour


Time itself seems to be unraveling.  Or, more to the point, vanishing, from the past forward and the from the future backwards.  The Time Trapper finds himself, well, trapped, then a time-displaced Wally West seemingly runs himself into oblivion trying to stop the wave.  Even Pol Manning (AKA Hal Jordan) cannot contain the awesome force as it churns through the centuries.  Back in the present, alternate timelines seem to be converging -- Barbara Gordon stalks the streets of Gotham as Batgirl, and there's a seemingly infinite number of Hawkmen all coexisting together.  The cause of all this chaos?  Extant -- formerly known as Hawk.

Waverider of the Linear Men rallies the troops, taking teams all over the world to stop the entropy wave before it completely wipes out all creation.  But as more and more time falls victim to the wave, everything seems lost and hopeless -- especially when the true villian, Hal Jordan, makes his presence known.  Jordan, fresh off of going crazy in "Emerald Twiglight" and destroying Oa, has a plan to snuff out all time... and recreate it, only better.  A world where Coast City was never blown up, and the heroes didn't have to suffer such great hardships.  Who can stand up to the well-intentioned madness that has possessed the greatest Green Lantern of all time?  And if they do manage to stop him, what shape will the entire history of existance be in afterwards?

I'd love to give a better synopsis of the story, but I am unable to do so.  I don't mean I can't sit down with the issues and try to type out everything that happens.  I mean I cannot make heads or tails of more than half of this stuff, and if I try to, my head is going to hurt even more than it does already.  Zero Hour was the first big DC Event I ever read, and it didn't make any sense at the time.  Guess what?  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense now, either!

I'm not entirely convinced that anyone short of Dan Jurgens --who wrote and penciled the series, with Jerry Ordway on inks -- himself can truly identify just what the heck is going on in this series.  It's very steeped in the "now" of the DCU (that is, the DCU of 1994), and that is a problem for sure, but it goes beyond that.  The story jumps back and forth like a jack rabbit, leaping from one partially-explained plot point to another with a reckless abandon that leaves the reader bewildered.  Towards the end it devolves into one skirmish after another, as Waverider and the other heroes jump from second to second trying to avoid being wiped out by Parallax's Entropy Wave (which would make a cool name for a Super move in a fighting game), but it's just mindless after a while.

There's some stuff which stands out.  Barbara Gordon's return as Batgirl is great, for one thing, because her motivations ring true.  What makes this timeline any more "real" than her own?  Why should she have to die just because "she doesn't belong here?"  The "last stand" of the Justice Society is memorable as well, if only because it ended up being the basis for the JSA revamp a few years afterwards (although it is interesting to note that part of Zero Hour's supposed purpose was to phase out the Society, and wound up making them more viable), as well as setting the stage for Robinson's Starman series.  The foldout timeline of the DC Universe in the last issue is pretty cool, too, even if a lot of it no is longer valid.  And of course the whole insane reveal of Jordan as the big bad, though I know ticked off his fans, stands as a memorable and critical part of the history of the DCU and of the character's personal chronology -- just ask Geoff Johns.

But beyond that, Zero Hour as a whole is a jumbled, confusing mess.  One gets the feeling that Jurgens had an idea for an awesome 12-part epic that got shrunk down into five issues, because nothing is given enough time to percolate and develop, and whole thing just collpases on itself very quickly.  As if to add insult to injury, a lot of the changes introduced herein were themselves summarily wiped out during Infinite Crisis, so it doesn't even have a lot of historical significance going for it at this point.

Do yourselves a favor, and skip the headache on this one.

1 comment:

Frank Lee Delano said...

Woo, "Zero Hour" was stinky. I was religiously devoted to that timeline foldout for years, though. I read a lot of interviews and articles about "Zero Hour" at the time, and found I learned a lot more from them than the book itself. That was somewhat true of the tie-ins as well. I decided to buy every single #0 issue, and I'd say that's what made the whole thing worthwhile. I finally had a jumping-in point on Legion, and continued with a number of other titles from there.