1994 – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! was intended by DC as a belated follow-up to their landmark limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, and was indeed subtitled “(A) Crisis in Time!“. It promised to do for the inconsistent future timelines of the DC Universe what Crisis had done for its parallel worlds: unify them into a new one.
This event served as an opportunity to reconcile some of the problems left unaddressed by Crisis and other problems that had been unintentionally caused by it. In particular, the revised characters of the post-Crisis universe had been rolled out gradually, with DC continuing to feature the old versions until the new versions were launched, some of them a year or several after the first wave of revised characters were published (i.e., The Man of Steel, Wonder Woman vol. 2, Batman: Year One). The character of Hawkman was one of the most problematic, since the revised version did not first appear until 1989. This raised the question of what version of Hawkman had been seen since 1986 (he had been retconned to be both the Golden Age Hawkman and a Thanagarian spy). The Legion of Super-Heroes faced similar problems with the eliminations of Superboy and Supergirl from DC continuity (Mon-El, a character with similar powers, had been recast as Valor to take Superboy’s place as the Legion’s inspiration and most powerful member). These and other retcons were not always well received by readers and often introduced new problems.
The story begins when characters from alternate realities such as Alpha Centurion, an alternate version of Batgirl, and Triumph suddenly started appearing in the main DC Universe, to everybody’s confusion; this happens because time is being somehow “compressed.” Then a wave of “nothingness” is seen moving from the end of time to its beginning, erasing entire historical ages in the process (an effect similar to the anti-matter wave that destroyed many universes in Crisis on Infinite Earths).
The apparent villain of the story presented in the miniseries was a character named Extant, formerly Hawk of the duo Hawk and Dove (and a onetime Teen Titan). Extant had acquired temporal powers, using them to unravel the DC Universe’s timeline. In a confrontation with members of the Justice Society of America, Extant aged several of them (removing the effect that had kept these heroes of the 1940s vital into the 1990s), leaving them either feeble or dead. However, the true power behind the destruction of the universe — caused by temporal rifts of entropy — turned out to be Hal Jordan, who had been widely regarded as the most distinguished Green Lantern in history. Calling himself Parallax, Jordan had gone insane, and was now trying to remake the universe, undoing the events which had caused his breakdown and his own murderous actions following it. The collective efforts of the other superheroes managed to stop Jordan/Parallax from imposing his vision of a new universe, and the timeline was recreated anew, albeit with subtle differences compared to the previous one, after the young hero Damage, with help from the other heroes, triggered a new Big Bang. Jordan survived Green Arrow shooting an arrow into his heart though.
This “blanking out/recreation” of the DC Universe was reflected in many of the tie-in issues; near the end of several of the tie-ins, the world began to disappear, and the last page of the book (or in some cases, several pages) had been left blank.
DC published a fold-out timeline inside the back cover of Zero Hour #0 which identified various events and key stories which were part of its newly singular timeline, and when they occurred. Although fixed dates were given for the debut of historical characters such as the JSA, the debut of the post-Crisis Superman was presented as “10 years ago” and subsequent dates were expressed the same way, suggesting that the calendar years of these events were fluid and relative to the present rather than fixed, as a way to keep the characters at roughly their present ages.
The Legion of Super-Heroes continuity was completely rebooted following Zero Hour, and the various Hawkman characters were merged into one (even though, contrary to the storyline’s purpose, this created new sets of contradictions and confusions). Each ongoing series at the time was given an opportunity to retell (or clarify) the origin of its hero(es) to establish the official version in this revised continuity, in a “#0” issue published in the subsequent weeks after Zero Hour. They resumed their previous numbering or went on to #1, for new series, the following month. Several series took new directions following Zero Hour; for example, new teams were formed in the Justice League books, Oliver Queen’s son Connor Hawke was introduced in Green Arrow, and Guy “Warrior” Gardner discovered an alien heritage which gave him different powers.
A major part of Batman’s origin was retconned after the events in Zero Hour. In this version, Batman never caught or confronted the killer of his parents (thus rendering Batman: Year Two non-canonical), and more importantly, Batman was thought of as being an urban legend. Also, Catwoman was not a prostitute, but rather lived in the low rentals area of Gotham. Finally, contributing to a plot point not fully explored in Batman: Year Three, Dick Grayson was legally adopted by Wayne.
But this “warm reboot” did not solve all continuity matters and in fact actually created other continuity problems— the fold-out timeline included Armageddon a story that required the supposedly eliminated alternate timelines to even work, Matrix Supergirl who required an artificially created alternate timeline still existed, and “Who is Hawkman?” actually became less clear. For those and other reasons, DC later introduced a variation of the pre-Crisis concept of the Multiverse, in the form of Hypertime. In the end, this more ecumenical solution did not satisfy DC editors either, inevitably leading to the Infinite Crisis event in 2005, which revived and brought back several pre-Crisis concepts.
Extreme Justice, a Justice League title, was born from the Zero Hour crossover event. Captain Atom was the leader of this branch of the Justice League, which featured Firestorm as well. In 2008, fourteen years after Zero Hour #0, an issue of Booster Gold vol. 2 was published as “Booster Gold #0″, and was announced as an official Zero Hour tie-in by DC Comics. The issue used the same cover style as previous tie-ins to the event, referring to the “Crisis in Time” and using the semi-metallic “fifth color” ink used on the original Zero Hour issues. Like the other tie-in issues, Booster’s origin was explained as part of the adventure in the issue. The cover was a homage to Zero Hour #4, with Ted Kord’s mask replacing Wally West’s, alternate Blue Beetles replacing the alternate Hawkmen, and the heroes around the edges replaced by Booster in the center.
This synopsis was cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia on 9/25/2013. I apologize for any errors and invite you to point them out to me for correction.
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