25 September 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XIV: Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 1994
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2013
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Frank Fosco, Ken Branch
Letterers: Gaspar Saladino, Richard Starkings 
Colorists: Gregory Wright, Stuart Chaifetz

This comic is a blatant attempt to replicate the winning formula of Crisis on Infinite Earths, without any understanding of what made that work. I mean, really: the last Crisis gave us a wall of white light destroying alternative dimension after alternative dimensions, slowly approaching our heroes' dimensions. This Crisis gives us a wall of white light destroying future time after future time, slowly approaching our heroes' time. Dan Jurgens isn't even trying here.

But it's a rip-off to no effect, which is the worst kind of rip-off.  CoIE worked because these were places with real history, real meaning being wiped out. Even if you'd never read a story of the multiverse before (as was true for me when I first read CoIE) you can tell that Earth-Two, Earth-Three, Earth-Prime, and all the rest have deep backgrounds-- which is what makes their destructions effective. Heck, CoIE even tricks you into thinking that places like Earth-Four and Earth-Six have been around for a while. In Zero Hour, though, the times are just numbers. It's utterly meaningless-- what's the 64th century to me, or me to the 64th century? Why should I care? I don't.

Which is more the shame because there's a built-in hook here. This story, famously, sees Hal Jordan embrace the role of Parallax and attempt to remake the universe into a better place. He'd had a bum deal in comics over the past several years, including the destruction of his home, Coast City, and Kyle Rayner had already replaced him as the Green Lantern of Earth. Unfortunately, the story isn't actually about this potentially interesting idea, as not just the identity, but even the existence of Parallax, is kept a secret for most of the book. Instead we have to watch Monarch a lot, Monarch being the ill-conceived villain behind the ill-conceived Armageddon 2001 crossover. Seriously, couldn't we just forget that ever happened? Waverider's here too, which isn't helping on that score.

The time mechanics of the story don't make any sense, either. At one point, Monarch-- now "Extant" for some reason-- tells Waverider he's stolen the other's power. "But that's impossible!" he gasps, since he still has his power. But then a past version of Extant shows up and steals Waverider's power. Oh, that's kinda clever if not terribly so. But then the past-Extant merges with present-Extant. So where did present-Extant come from? Argh.

Also: at the end of the prologue, Waverider intones to Rip Hunter (the most '90s "Time Master" of them all, presumably), "we stand on the verge-- of a true crisis!" Oh, the melodrama! But then later Rip Hunter tells Waverider, "A crisis! Check the chronoscopes-- a crisis-- aieee!" Now Waverider has to go look up what a "crisis" is!  Geeze!

So, a lot of people run back and forth, there's some shouting, and like CoIE, Zero Hour struggles to give its heroes something plot-relevant to do, though it's even less successful on that score than CoIE. Why what Hal Jordan is doing is evil is never really clear, either, as it seems like mostly he wants to make our universe the same, but without Barbara Gordon getting shot and Coast City being nuked. Which sounds okay to me. I do like the role of Green Arrow in the climax... but then I would.

Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway do a good job on art, at least. I especially liked how they drew the pre-injury Barbara Gordon Batgirl. It's a shame Jurgens also feels the need to overstuff the book with word balloons and captions; everything is told to the reader at least twice, if not three times. Maybe Jurgens was just on autopilot after the prologue, though, where the captions are always telling you things you can't see, things as basic as that the characters are jumping between time periods. One wonders if Frank Fosco and Ken Branch weren't drawing what they were supposed to, or what.

K. C. Carlson's afterword celebrates that now, anything can happen. "This is just the beginning!" Wasn't that true just nine years ago? Do we really need to do this over again, not as good?

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