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Comic Book: Zero Hour

"I've seen the universe from many different directions, and I know how to fix it — even if it means destroying it!"
"It's over. Your time is over. All time is over. This is Zero Hour."

The 1994 sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths and second of the many reality-warping Crisis Crossovers to hit The DCU. Written and illustrated by Dan Jurgens, with inks by Jerry Ordway.

Just as Crisis removed The Multiverse from the DCU, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time was intended to fix the many confusing alternate timelines that had cropped up over the previous decade. And also like Crisis, Zero Hour failed, making everything involved—Supergirl, Hawkman, Legion of Super-Heroes — even more confusing. Zero Hour was unique in that it started with issue #4 and worked its way back to #0; to coincide with the final issue, every ongoing DC series published a special "Issue Zero".

The plot of Zero Hour begins with the apparent death of the Legion's nemesis, the Time Trapper, at the hands of an unknown assailant at the end of time. After this event, the future history of Earth gets wiped out "in reverse", eventually including the Legion's 30th century home. Meanwhile, the past is also getting wiped out, with walls of entropy converging on the present. (How any of this is possible is an exercise left to the reader.)

At first, the villain of the piece appears to be Extant, formerly the hero known as Hawk, who had been the Big Bad of an earlier Crisis Crossover, Armageddon 2001. However, it turns out that Extant was actually working on the orders of none other than the former Green Lantern Hal Jordan, aka Parallax, who had gone mad with grief after the destruction of his home of Coast City. Parallax wanted to remake the universe in his image to prevent Coast City's destruction and other tragedies. His former comrades, deciding that a better universe isn't worth the destruction of the old one, fight Parallax and defeat him, triggering a new Big Bang and restoring the timeline—with a few differences.

Unlike its predecessor, Zero Hour met with poor reception, largely due to its lackluster execution. Plot points were thrown in with no build-up, some important events occured in tie-in issues rather than the main story itself, and the whole thing was mired in the Dark Age of Nineties Anti Heroes. The story's saving grace was the conflict surrounding Hal Jordan's actions and the heroes' response to seeing their friend become a villain, but that occurred almost entirely in the final issue and wasn't enough to salvage it.

Zero Hour resulted in a few significant changes to The DCU, most notably the introduction of the "post-boot" Legion of Super-Heroes. It also spawned a few Spin-Off series, ranging from the awful Fate and Manhunter, to the aggressively mediocre Primal Force and Xenobrood, to the critically-acclaimed and long-running Starman.

In the end, Zero Hour hasn't been forgotten by DC—it remains in continuity, or at least it did until the New 52 —but its events have been swept under the rug and mostly reversed. The problems it introduced were among the factors that led to the next Cosmic Retcon of The DCU and the first "proper" sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, 2005's Infinite Crisis.

No relation to the airline disaster movie on which Airplane is based, the German dub title of Future War 198X, the expansion pack of Command & Conquer: Generals, the third After Hours season of I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC, or the short-lived drama series on ABC.

This story provides examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The entropy rifts.
  • Big Bad: Parallax.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Spectre drops in at the very end to battle Parallax. Unlike the first Crisis, the Spectre is able to fend off Parallax long enough for him to be weakened, then gives Damage an extra boost kickstart his Super Power Meltdown and save history.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Power Girl's child is born shortly after the alternate universe Batgirl dies and then is erased from existence.
  • Call Back: The time-erasing wall is similar to the anti-matter wave from Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The subplot about Power Girl giving birth seems to have been dropped from continuity.
  • Cosmic Retcon: A large number of them. The two big prevalent ones being the reboot of the Legion of Super Heroes and that Joe Chill was never caught, thus making the case of who killed the Waynes a Cold Case.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Extant vs. the Justice Society of America. The JSA didn't stand a chance.
  • The Dragon: Extant.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: The Team Titans are revealed to be alternate timeline puppets of Extant in this series.
  • Fallen Hero: Extant and Parallax.
  • Fountain of Youth: The Ray Palmer Atom gets regressed to an 18-year-old when he attempts to get inside Extant.
  • Fusion Dance
    • Monarch and the original Waverider combine to form Extant.
    • The Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl merge with the modern-day Hawkman and the Hawk God to form the Post-Zero Hour version of Hawkman.
  • Future Me Scares Me: The original Waverider finds out that he would eventually become part of Extant when the villain reveals his true face before the Fusion Dance takes place later on.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Waverider was horrified when he learned about the Crisis.
  • Heroic BSOD: Green Arrow breaks down in grief after the fight with Parallax.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The alternate universe Batgirl, throwing herself between Parallax and Damage.
  • Last Kiss: Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl share a final kiss together before they fade into the unknown — a Shout-Out to a similar scene with Alexander Luthor and his wife Lois Lane of Earth-3 in Crisis On Infinite Earths.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Issue #0.
  • My Hero Zero
  • The Man Behind the Man: Parallax.
  • Original Generation: Triumph and Alpha Centurion get introduced in this series.
  • Passing the Torch: A not-so-heroic one: The remaining Justice Society members retire after Extant's Curb-Stomp Battle, with Superman noting that things aren't going to be the same.
    • In a more specific example, Ted Knight passes on the role of Starman to his son David, which eventually leads to his other son Jack becoming Starman in his own series.
    • And Alan Scott symbolically passes on the role of Green Lantern to the recently-recruited Kyle Rayner.
  • Rapid Aging: Extant used his powers to age most of the Justice Society members to their proper physical ages, some even to their deaths.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong/Utopia Justifies the Means: Parallax's ultimate goal, from preventing the Coast City tragedy, restoring the Green Lantern Corps, and was about to restore the Pre-Crisis Multiverse (or at least it was implied).
  • Shout-Out: The Wally West Flash disappearing out of his clothes during his attempt to shut down the entropy rift in the future is one for Barry Allen doing the same when he was attempting to destroy the Anti-Monitor's anti-matter cannon in Crisis On Infinite Earths.
  • Super Power Meltdown: Damage in the final battle.
  • Taking Up The Mantle: The mainstream universe's Matthew Ryder becomes the new Waverider when the original Waverider from Armageddon 2001 is fused with Monarch to become Extant.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: DC could have used the series as a way to restore Katar and Shayera's Silver Age history and undo most of the character's Post-Crisis Dork Age stories.
  • Time Crash
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The first issue is numbered 4 and counts down to issue 0.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist / Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Parallax.

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