Cover Date: September 1994
Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Dan Jurgens
Inks: Jerry Ordway
Cover: Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway
As the shocked heroes look on, Parallax begins using the powerful plasmatic energies at his disposal to recreate the universe from the beginning. He reveals that he slipped into the timestream, and absorbed all of the leftover energy from the Crisis. He sees that entropy acts like a loop, and he could tighten it to erase spacetime and recreate it anew. Meanwhile, Waverider manages to bring another group of heroes to Vanishing Point, and comes up with a new plan. Parallax tells the heroes, some of whom are from alternate timelines, that everyone will have a place in the new universe he’s building: Kryption will never have exploded, Batgirl won’t have been paralyzed…even the Green Lantern Corps will be rebuilt. Before he can continue, Parallax is attacked upon the arrival Waverider’s group. Some alternate heroes side with Parallax, as they don’t want their existence to be erased. Parallax is too powerful for anyone to stop…until the Spectre arrives. He curses Parallax for the death of billions, but Parallax is able to hold his own against his opponent. Waverider has some heroes absorb the plasma energy Parallax was using to rebuild the universe, and then has them fire it at him so he can slowly channel it into Damage. Parallax tries to blast him, but the alternate Batgirl sacrifices herself to block it. Kyle Rayner grabs Parallax just in time, and Green Arrow puts an end to Parallax’s plans with an arrow to the chest. The Spectre claims that justice is served, and supercharges Damage. The kid can’t hold it in anymore, and bursts with energy, recreating the Big Bang. Time flows on uninterrupted; there are subtle differences from the previous timeline, but at least Parallax wasn’t overseeing it this time. Waverider managed to spirit the heroes away from the explosion, and reinserts everyone back into the timeline at the exact point he initially brought them to Vanishing Point, though Kyle Rayner has been lost. The heroes celebrate their victory, but not Green Arrow. He walks away, and shatters his bow in frustration over killing his best friend.
Like “Emerald Twilight” before it, Zero Hour is another great story that gets shit on by frothing-at-the-mouth fanboys because it made their hero Hal Jordan into a “villain.” However, if you actually read the damned story, it’s made quite clear in presentation and dialogue that Hal was much more of an anti-hero (or anti-villain, if you must). What most people seem to miss is the moral ambiguity. Hal wasn’t setting out to take over the world or kill everyone like a generic supervillain; he wanted to remake the universe to fix its problems, many of which are hard to argue against. The destruction of Krypton and Coast City are perfect examples of this. Furthermore, Parallax correctly points out that when the heroes plan to rebuild the universe without him, they’re technically guilty of the same “crime.” Sure, the heroes won’t guide this new universe, but they’re still rebuilding it, just as Parallax wanted to.
Of course, all of Hal’s actions prior to and during Zero Hour were later retconned to be the fault of a giant space bug, even though it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Why would a fear creature want to remake the universe into a more positive one?) I’m honestly surprised that Zero Hour itself hasn’t been retconned out of existence yet, but perhaps next year’s Flashpoint will address this, as it’s going to be another time travel-centric crossover.
Some fans’ distaste for Zero Hour aside, the character of Extant would prove to be a fan favorite. He would go on to be a thorn in many heroes’ sides up until his death in JSA #15. He was resurrected as a Black Lantern in Blackest Night: Titans #1, but as Hawk, not Monarch or Extant. In Blackest Night #8, he was brought back to life proper, again in his pre-villainous state, and his story is currently unfolding in Brightest Day and Birds of Prey (Vol. 2). Since there’s been no mention of his days as Extant, this also makes me wonder if Zero Hour has been or will be erased.
Something else that spiraled out of Zero Hour was a bunch of special “zero issues” for DC Comics’ superhero line. Some of these #0s kicked off new series, while others were part of currently ongoing books; most of the new series did not last, with the phenomenal Starman being a notable exception.
At the end of Zero Hour #0, there’s a neat fold-out piece that details the new timeline. Golden Age material is still solidly placed into the 1940s (you can’t avoid that, due to the World War II connections), and the Silver Age started “ten years ago.” (At the time of Zero Hour‘s publication, this would have put it in 1984.) It’s pretty common for comics to use a floating timeline as a way to avoid pinning down specific dates, but this is still a rare occasion: over thirty years of publishing time were compressed into less than a third of that in comic book time! Other minor changes to continuity are also listed, with “the future” left decidedly vague. The biggest change to come out Zero Hour was the reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I obviously won’t be covering that here.
In spite of some fanboys’ grumblings, Zero Hour was a vastly underrated story. Complain all you want about the portrayal of Hal Jordan, but I thought it was handled quite well, and the storytelling was very good. Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway are to be commended.
(Want to know what happened to Hal and Kyle after the Big Bang? Keep an eye out next Tuesday for my review of Green Lantern [Vol. 3] #0!)