I remember the advertisements for Zero Hour, a major crossover between titles for DC’s superhero comic book line. The series gimmick was eye-catching – each issue was numbered in reverse order from #4 to #0. Also the hype was contagious for 14-year old Emmet – ‘Everything will change’, the promotions declared. Wow, I gotta check this out I thought. I never did read it in the end though. Now I suspect that was a blessing in disguise.
First off, I do not recommend this collection to casual readers. Comic book annotation sites were invented for books just like this. The cover shows well-known DC characters Superman and Batman leading a charge of superheroes. However, they barely feature in the storyline itself.
The ‘plot’, is concerned with a character named Waverider, a time traveller from the future, warning the heroes of 1994 that the villain Monarch is somehow interfering with time itself. Unfortunately for everyone, Waverider’s intervention only increases the threat. Now empowered with the ability to travel through time, Monarch seems to be somehow responsible for an entropic force eroding the universe’s future and past. Renaming himself Extant, the villain takes on the combined force of the Justice Society of America, World War II era superheroes who were transported into the present day (just….just run with me on this).
Using his control over time itself Extant kills and disables the team, leaving the surviving heroes the difficult task of trying to stop the forces of entropy in both the future and the past. As the chronal wave advances through time billions of lives are erased. Protected by Waverider’s powers, a small number of heroes remain to face Extant. Only for the shocking reveal that the real force at work is former Green Lantern Hal Jordan, now calling himself Parallax. Having been driven mad the one-time hero has decided to restart creation itself, according to his own designs.
Alright……to steal Linkara’s catchphrase, this comic sucks! The plot is incomprehensible; characters appear and disappear in a confusion of cameos; and without an encyclopaedic knowledge of who’s who readers will quickly become rudderless in a sea of continuity fixing. Here’s where another history lesson is need. Zero Hour is actually a sequel to a previous crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The irony is that ‘Crisis’, was an editorially mandated effort to make the DC Universe less confusing, by eliminating a series of ‘alternate earths’, that resulted due to the sliding timescale caused by characters were first emerged in the forties still being published in the present day. So the older adventures of Batman, for example, occurred on a different earth from the present-day stories that contemporary readers were following. Zero Hour was an attempt to resolve further problems that had emerged due to Crisis, including the continuity snarl of the Hawkman character, eliminating the Justice Society for the crime of being too old I guess and to the annoyance of an oh-so-annoying-nerd-cult named H.E.A.T. making Hal Jordan a bona fide super villain. Also the Flash died again. Flashes always die during a DC Crisis event for some reason. In Zero Hour the death of the Flash is delivered in such a perfunctory manner that it is hard to care.
In a sense this was a thankless task for Jurgens and Ordway to attempt. I get the impression the miniseries was intended to launch a new era of the DC comic line, with several new characters briefly appearing during the storyline. Most failed, with the notable exception of James Robinson’s Starman series. Furthermore, most of the deaths featured in Zero Hour have since been reversed. Hell the villains Extant and Parallax have both returned from beyond the grave redeemed as heroes.
I would advise anyone reading this to avoid Zero Hero if possible. Maybe play a couple of games of Little Big Planet instead, as I saw several kids do in my local library when I wandered back from the lonely comic section. Comic commentators wonder why kids today are refusing to read the ninth art and spending their parents’ money on games instead. Titles like this, with the convoluted continuity issues recently condemned by Darwyn Cooke (he says it much better than I ever could..), are among the primary causes for this evacuation of the medium.