Countdown to ZERO HOUR, Part 1 - Mania.com



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Countdown to ZERO HOUR, Part 1

CINESCAPE looks at the crossover event that "fixed" the DCU

By Tony Whitt     June 10, 2002


The CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS comes to its exciting conclusion, but had it created even more trouble?
© DC Comics
Well, we promised it a while back and here it is - a look at the second part of the DCU fix that began with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Watch out, because it's time for ZERO HOUR!


In 1986 the DC Universe was destroyed. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. The reason CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, the twelve-issue maxiseries which did away with the DC Multiverse and created one and only one Earth, was created in the first place was to do away with all the unwieldy history the DCU had accumulated over the last forty years and to establish a single continuity. But in doing so, it also created a lot more problems than it originally fixed.

Will the DCU be the same after ZERO HOUR? One can only hope not!

The biggest difficulty was that, while certain things had been established in the maxiseries itself, those elements were not immediately followed up on in the individual titles, and the rebooting of those titles did not happen all at the same time. For example, John Byrne's MAN OF STEEL completely rebooted the Superman character and did away with scads of long-standing paraphernalia like Kryptonian villains and the Phantom Zone. Wonder Woman's history had also been rewritten by George Perez, placing her in the DCU long after everyone else. Because both of these characters were such big-time players in the DCU, the histories of other heroes had to be changed to fit the new continuity. The JLA's history, for instance, had to be completely revamped to replace Superman and Wonder Woman's positions with the Martian Manhunter and Black Canary, respectively. Characters like Batman, however, remained relatively unchanged, and where his history intersected with Superman's, problems occurred.

Another major problem was the many time traveling characters the DCU had spawned over the years, such as the Legion of Super-Heroes, Rip Hunter, and so on. The problems were especially difficult for Legion continuity since the team got their inspiration from Superboy - a character that no longer existed! Even the quick fix of establishing that the Superboy the Legion had been interacting with came from a pocket universe created by their old foe the Time Trapper didn't completely solve all the problems.

Time breaks down, causing all sorts of trouble for the DC heroes in ZERO HOUR.

In short, DC did not capitalize on the opportunities created by the CRISIS by restarting all their titles from scratch in one fell swoop, leaving some heroes and teams completely transformed while others languished in the same tiresome continuity they'd always been trapped in. Had such characters never had to interact with one another, this would have been fine. But for all its size and number of characters, the DCU is a small place, and there's a lot of shared history between its inhabitants - way too much to negate any part of it without damaging the rest.

It became clear that yet another universal reboot, one that would take care of all the remaining inconsistencies once and for all, was necessary. This one, however, would be a crisis in time, forming the foundation of the five-issue weekly miniseries dubbed ZERO HOUR. The series would be written and penciled by Dan Jurgens and inked by Jerry Ordway. The series began with issue #4 and counted down to the final issue, which was numbered - you guessed it - #0. The zero issue fell in October of 1994, which was designated "Zero Month." Each book in DC's lineup had a zero issue that month which established a new status quo for every DC character. The next year, the "Year One" annuals would be released, and they would cement the changes in place. Finally, an across-the-board change would occur in the DCU, and this time everything would be fixed. In theory...

At the beginning of ZERO HOUR, an as-yet-unknown figure kills the Time Trapper at the end of time - and at the beginning of time. It begins to unravel the time stream, causing all manner of weird effects. Immortal characters like Vandal Savage vanish - the time in which he was born is destroyed, so he never existed. Variants of Batman start springing up, and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl turns up, despite Barbara's having been paralyzed by the Joker. Wally West, with the help of Waverider, goes forward into the future because they think that's where the problem is, but Wally gets temporarily sucked into it without his Flash costume (as obvious an echo of CRISIS as one can get) and later returns joined with the Speed Force. At first it appears that the villain behind it all is Extant - the former Hawk of Hawk and Dove who then went on to become Monarch - but events soon reveal that it's all because of Hal Jordan.

The Flash figures prominently once again as ZERO HOUR begins with #4.

At this point, Hal Jordan has become Parallax by absorbing all the power of the Central Power Battery on Oa, and he's having a crisis of conscience over having killed the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps. He wants to use his new, near god-like powers to remake the whole of time to make everything right and to give everyone a piece of the pie. (Think of a superpowered version of the New Deal, and you'll get some idea. In the recent DC FIRST: GREEN LANTERN/GREEN LANTERN, a clever bit of retcon incorporated when Hal temporarily absorbs Chronos' power shows why this happened.) Naturally, no one else thought this was a good idea, so they attacked him, resulting in his death by an arrow shot by Oliver Queen. Some other confusing things happen, and the universe is restored - but several things have now changed.

Some crucial alterations took place as a result of ZERO HOUR. For example, Extant aged several members of the JSA to their true ages, thereby killing Doctor Mid-Nite, Hourman, and the Atom, and eventually giving Johnny Thunder Alzheimer's disease. The Legion of Super-Heroes' continuity was completely erased and re-established with Valor (formerly Mon-El) as the inspiration for the team. The long-standing Hawkman debacle was fixed - kind of. So if all these changes covered things so well, why are we still worried? Next time we'll look at the aftermath of the event, including what succeeded, directly and indirectly, and what didn't.

TO BE CONTINUED

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at
feedback@cinescape.com.

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