Folks, you’ve heard about it whispered in the corners of DC fandom. You’ve been confused at the odd reference to it in those “modern comics” you devour week after week. What in the darned heck is “Zero Hour”? Why is it called that? Why is it numbered backward? Who is Extant and should I really care? Well, wonder no more, gentle readers. Not only will I be recapping all five issues of the titled event comic, but I will also be reviewing the whole damned thing. Yes, every official lead-up and questionably connected tie-in that DC Comics has chosen to fill up their hefty omnibus tome that haunts the corner of my writing desk. Come with me on this journey through time and more time and some space as we dive into the mess that is “Zero Hour: A Crisis In Time”.
Written by Jo Duffy, Elizabeth Hand, Paul Witcover, Mike McAvennie, and Tom Joyner
Illustrated by Jim Balent, Bob Smith, Brent Anderson, Will Blyberg, Jason Armstrong, Stan Woch, Bill Marimon, and Don Hillsman
Colored by Buzz Setzer, Patricia Mulvihill, and Stuart Chaifetz
Lettered by Bob Pinaha, Chris Eliopoulos, Willie Schubert, and John Costanza
A ZERO HOUR tie-in! Anima becomes physically separated from Animus! And while Animus fights for his life against a deadly minion of the Nameless One, Anima searches for a way back into the Arkana for a confrontation with Eris, her malevolent opposite.
A reminder that I’m scoring these comics based on their relationship to the core event, with my patented Zero Hour Score (Series relevance + individual merit)!
Folks, this is perhaps one of the rougher weeks of coverage here. We start off with a pretty solid Jo Duffy/Jim Balent “Catwoman” issue, but then… everything else runs a little off the rails. Let’s not waste time, I guess!
Written by Jo Duffy
Illustrated by Jim Balent and Bob Smith
Colored by Buzz Setzer
Lettered by Bob Pinaha
Another semi-famous run that I haven’t read! This was a tale on the lighter side, but it was a fun romp within the trappings of “Zero Hour”. Jo Duffy nails this lavishly-living Catwoman right from the start, as she narrates about how much she just gosh darn loves stealing stuff. Jim Balent may be one of the nineties’ hornier artists, but he does a good job making Selina look like a cat rolling around in her bed full of glamorous goods. We get a little bit of foreshadowing for what seems like later issues, but then we see the truly horny side of Balent’s art, and I’m happy to report that the thirstiness is not exclusively for the female gender here!
Duffy has a tonne of fun with Selina’s internal monologuing here as she delights in this ‘handsome savage’ and his sabretooth’s arrival thanks to “Zero Hour”. The rest of the issue is a pretty straightforward sequence of events from this point: sabretooth cat breaks out, Catwoman and Ash the Savage go looking for it, they find her in a mansion that has been time-warped into a hunting lodge, and they manage to save the cat dramatically just before it is shot. Duffy manages to keep Selina’s reactions to most of these events fairly mellow, which adds a lot to her charm. Plus, of course, a seasoned villain/anti-hero like her would be nonplussed by these events, at this stage she’s just here for the fun of it all! There’s a great moment later where Selina sees a mirror reflecting versions of herself throughout space/time which is a neat tie-in moment, but that’s the long and short of “Zero Hour” nonsense taking place here before the inevitable fade to white.
Zero Hour Score: 7.0 – A fun, non-impactful tie-in that uses “Zero Hour” as a playground to let fly some exciting story beats.
Written by Elizabeth Hand and Paul Witcover
Illustrated by Brent Anderson and Will Blyberg
Colored by Patricia Mulvihill
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulous
This is where things start to get a little confusing, folks. “Anima” is a series I had never heard of, and from a glance through these pages and some light research, it seems to be trying to capitalize on the success of “The Sandman” and other Vertigo titles, but filtering them into something more YA friendly. What exactly takes place in this issue, however, I’d be more hard-pressed to tell you. This is a story that probably works perfectly fine in the context of the series, but as a tie-in to a larger event, it largely fails. There are way too many plotlines taking place here that readers who are here just for the “Zero Hour” logo slapped on the front would be utterly confused by. There are bickering demons, a young man with a nasty rash whose mother is in a coma, our protagonist Anima being led around by some bizarre seventies-guitarist specter, AND some kind of nasty Cthulhu-lookin’ god-figure behind all the chaos?Continued below
At the very least, as you can see from above, the whole issue is pure eye-candy rendered by classic “X-Men” and “Astro City” artist Brent Anderson, who gives the whole book a lush and flowing feel, fitting the supernatural tones perfectly. The inks from Will Blyberg elevate this even further, using a feathery shading style that gives the book visuals reminiscent of Gene Colan on “Tomb of Dracula”. Patricia Mulvihill’s colors are also a tonne of fun, using lots of moody purples and blues to make this look as witchy and gothic as possible. Outside of this, there are virtually no “Zero Hour” connections aside from a brief mentioning of Superman appearing in the sky to summon Earth’s heroes. This was a real chore, folks.
Zero Hour Score: 3.8 – An issue with pretty fun art but far too much happening story-wise, with almost no reference to “Zero Hour”. Not the greatest tie-in issue.
Showcase ’94 #10
Written by Mike McAvennie
Illustrated by Jason Armstrong and Stan Woch
Colored by Stuart Chaifetz
Lettered by Willie Schubert
This story was one that I’m certain sounded great when it was pitched. A bunch of time-themed villains undergoing a heist but getting stuck in a “Zero Hour” time loop and having to battle multiple different versions of themselves? It’s DC superhero nonsense at its finest! Unfortunately, the execution stumbles on all the neat sequential visual tricks it tries to pull and ends up becoming a little tough to make sense of. There are some fun ideas like repeated panels, but when they’re used too much it makes the story a little muddled. Mike McAvennie has some good voices here in the main characters Chronos and Clock King, the former being a disgruntled but worried older villain whilst the latter ironically feels like he has no time for anyone’s failings. The other characters either don’t talk or don’t have a distinct enough voice for me to even really remember who they were without double-checking. This is unfortunately not helped by the coloring.
Whilst Jason Armstrong has fun, stylized, and cartoony art with rich, thick-lined inks from Stan Woch, Stuart Chaifetz tends not to differentiate coloring for a lot of the characters. While this might be fun for a pulpier comic like “Batman”, a lot of these characters are highly technical, not immediately recognizable, and all appear in the panel at the same time, leading them to look like a blob of orange connected by vaguely humanoid-looking lines. There is, however, an interesting reveal at the end as the fade to white this time is brought upon by smashing Time Commander’s hourglass, perhaps hinting at a connection between his powers and the Time Entropy (I doubt it, but I don’t have a lot to work with here!).
Zero Hour Score: 5.8 – A conceptually interesting issue that doesn’t stick the landing, with decent art but lazy coloring.
Written by Tom Joyner
Illustrated by Bill Marimon and Don Hillsman
Colored by Buzz Setzer
Lettered by John Costanza
This ain’t the New Age Of DC Heroes “Damage” I know! I knew very little about this nineties-precursor “Damage”, and upon reading this issue, I still don’t know a whole bunch. At the surface level, this is exactly what I expected from this character. This is a solid action comic with a hot-headed young hero. Tom Joyner writes Damage as an interesting enough teenage hero with a backstory that places him in this issue as the son of the golden age hero Phantom Lady. Tying him into DC’s oldest generation of superheroes makes him interesting, but his grating one-liners and borderline-annoying whining don’t push him into the compelling territory. Damage isn’t the only one present here, however, as we are joined not only by a bunch of supporting cast members but also the complete New Titans team. This is where the issue falls short in the same way “Anima” did, incorporating too many strong voices into the narrative for any particular one to land. Roy Harper is here as the leader of the Titans and goes on about how he sees his own younger self in Damage, but it never goes anywhere. There’s also a bunch of soap-opera-esque family drama between the supporting cast that New Titan Phantasm alleges, but it is overshadowed by the news about Damage’s mother. On the art side, things are a little better. Bill Marimon is going huge in his action scenes, echoing some classic Marvel Jack Kirby brawls in panels like this:Continued below
There are other scenes, like an aerial city chase between one of the Titans and Steelhawk, that Marimon uses a bunch of crisscrossing perspectives to lend a great sense of speed and motion. Setzer also does great with the colors here, using the pitch-black background of the city night to highlight the big bold superhero costumes and highlight them with glowing lighting techniques, giving everything a glossy finish. All this aside, the minimal “Zero Hour” connections here are the platonic ideal of the “Zero Hour” tie-in that Jurgens stated in his introduction: the time-warps and shifting realities are used to let Damage explore his past and find out about his mother. There’s nothing significant driving the main plot, however.
Zero Hour Score: 6.5 – A decent issue that suffers from being overstuffed.