Countdown to ZERO HOUR, Part 2 -

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Countdown to ZERO HOUR, Part 2

We look at the results of the DCU "fix" to see what worked and what didn't

By Tony Whitt     June 12, 2002

The DCU starts again from Ground Zero with ZERO HOUR #0 - appropriately enough.
© DC Comics

In September and October of 1994, the crossover event ZERO HOUR set out to fix all the problems that had resulted from the first major reboot of the DC Universe, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. The reason these problems had sprung up to begin with is that DC had not restarted all of its titles in the wake of the CRISIS - Superman and Wonder Woman, for instance, started from scratch, while others slowly caught up. In the interim, it became clear that a new reboot was needed - one in which each DC title would restart with a zero issue that would bring them up-to-date with current continuity. Some of the results were successful, others...not so much. First, let's look at two titles that benefited from the change.


Things are looking pretty bleak for the DC heroes in ZERO HOUR, but soon a new DCU will be born...sort of.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: Of all the DC titles affected by the CRISIS, the Legion needed help the most. Its entire history had been based on the existence of Superboy, but John Byrne had jettisoned Kal-El's teenage career along with a ton of Super-paraphernalia in the MAN OF STEEL miniseries reboot. The quick fix of establishing that Superboy came from a pocket universe created by the Time Trapper only solved half the problem - the Legionnaires had interacted with other DC heroes in the past, after all, and they remembered Superboy, too. In a move every bit as bold as the MAN OF STEEL series, ZERO HOUR revealed that the Time Trapper was Rokk Krinn, Cosmic Boy himself, who had become trapped in the Library of Eternity (don't ask) and who had become the Time Trapper in order to prevent the oncoming crisis in time. In the interim, though, he'd gone just a bit mad and had forgotten his purpose. The events of ZERO HOUR result in the Legion's history being wiped out and their origins being inspired by the 20th century exploits of Valor, the pre-CRISIS Mon-El. While some fans still wail over the loss of all that history, there's no denying that the initial reboot by Mark Waid and Tom McCraw was an innovative re-invention of the team which managed not to ignore some of the most important moments of the history that went before. Since then, the two main Legion titles have been cancelled to make way for a twelve-issue maxi-series, LEGION LOST, followed by the exciting six-issue series LEGION WORLDS, which in turn set up events for the new LEGION series now doing so well under the guidance of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Changing the Legion from adults back to teenagers again has revitalized the concept, so the Legion definitely made out well after ZERO HOUR.

STARMAN: Jack Knight took over the role of Starman after his father Ted Knight was aged to infirmity by Extant. This series began right after ZERO HOUR and went on to become a bonafide sleeper hit, running for 80 issues and changing the way we look at Golden Age characters forever. One could argue that because of this, the JSA's current success is an indirect result of ZERO HOUR - had it not been for that awful sequence in which Extant aged and killed several of the original JSA, neither of these two series would have been possible.

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

So at least a couple DC titles made the most out of ZERO HOUR. But what about the rest?


HAWKMAN: If the Legion needed helped after CRISIS, Hawkman needed salvation. Originally there seemed to be no problem: Carter Hall was the Hawkman during the Golden Age, and the Thanagarian policeman Katar Hol was Hawkman during the Silver Age (see our recent Hawkman articles for more in-depth details). But when the miniseries HAWKWORLD tried to establish a modern retelling of the origin of Katar Hol just before the Silver Age, the regular HAWKMAN series screwed things up by establishing that HAWKWORLD took place in modern times. Oops. ZERO HOUR used the premise that all the Hawks throughout the DCU were connected to a Hawk avatar, shoved all his incarnations together into one character, and plonked him down into his own series - a series which was so hard to understand that it lasted only nineteen issues past the Zero issue. DC backed off from using the character for the longest time as being completely unusable, until Geoff Johns recently came up with a fairly convoluted way of bringing him back into the modern JSA. Now the character appears in his own monthly series which is selling like proverbial hotcakes. Despite his current success, though, Hawkman was actually more poorly served by ZERO HOUR than he was by CRISIS.

The CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS promised to streamline DC continuity for good. Ah, the innocence of youth...

JLA: The JLA had gone a little nuts after the CRISIS, expanding into several different teams, including Justice League Europe. After ZERO HOUR, the team had only three books, one of which was named EXTREME JUSTICE (I wish I were kidding, but I'm not). None of these titles lasted, laying the groundwork for Grant Morrison's successful reworking of the team in a single series, JLA, in 1997. Again, the current book is a success, but its post-ZERO HOUR incarnations were anything but. Perhaps these could be called "indirect successes" rather than "failures"?

Almost every new series introduced after ZERO HOUR besides STARMAN: Does anyone actually remember PRIMAL FORCE, FATE, MANHUNTER, or R.E.B.E.L.S.? Nah, neither do we.

There are all sorts of direct changes made during ZERO HOUR that are now causing ripples in the DCU - one amongst them being the removal of Joe Chill as the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents, which is now being addressed in the "Bruce Wayne, Fugitive" crossover. But for the most part, ZERO HOUR had as many mixed results as CRISIS did. It fixed some things, caused some new controversies, and changed the DC Universe both for good and for ill.


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