September begins DC’s Zero Month, where every issue of the 52 ongoing series is a zero issue. In part two we’ll be looking at the offerings from Marvel comics, but here in part one we’ll examining DETECTIVE COMICS #0, SWAMP THING #0, ANIMAL MAN #0, GREEN LANTERN #0, EARTH 2 #0, and DIAL H #0. So much zero.
DETECTIVE COMICS #0 surprised me a bit, in that it didn’t just retell the part of Batman’s origin where his parents died. No, it just retold how he traveled the world and became not only the world’s greatest detective, but also the world’s greatest ninja. It’s a good story, naturally ending in tragedy because Batman can never be happy.
Don’t worry, though. I’ll bet you they rehash the parent killing part in adjectiveless BATMAN. No doubt.
Moving on because the last one is barely worth mentioning at this point, SWAMP THING #0 updates the origin of Alec Holland as Swamp Thing as it now fits into the current direction of the series. Having read the first issue of the original series, this one is notably different because it incorporates the stuff with the Green and the Red and the Rot. In fact, it’s more an update to Anton Arcane than anything else.
Back in the original series, Anton began as just a mad scientist/alchemist in some European hamlet, experimenting with immortality and creating life. It was after his initial encounter with Swamp Thing that he suffered the injuries that forced him into the form we see now – a patchwork, malformed construction. Within the context of this continuity, if Anton was a normal human at one point it was long, long ago because we learn he’s been a gangly monster serving the Rot for hundreds of years. In that time, he’s made a point of murdering the representatives of both the Red and the Green wherever he could. Which means unlike the old continuity, it was Arcane who caused the lab explosion that killed Alec rather than some immoral businessmen.
While nostalgia makes me partial to the old story, this was a very new origin that works on the old framework, tying it at the same time to the current storyline. If I had any complaint, it’d be a bit of confusion Anton’s new history raises. In a previous issue, Arcane claimed that by resurrecting Alec Holland after he’d technically died, the Green had in effect broken the rules of engagement, allowing the Rot to bring Arcane back to life. This made sense back when Arcane was merely an old foe of Swamp Thing that died shortly after becoming a monster. But since he was always a monster, was he just always the Rot’s greatest champion, and was brought back after Swamp Thing killed him? It’s muddled is what I’m saying.
Lastly, I want to reiterate how much I love what artist Kano is doing with the layouts. The incorporation of the panel borders into the art itself in an artful way never ceases to impress me.
Next is Swamp Thing’s brother series, ANIMAL MAN #0. And like Swamp Thing, this origin issue doesn’t throw away the way the way Buddy Baker got his powers, just recontextualizes it for the current war of life. Back when Animal Man was created, he got his powers from yellow aliens fiddling with him using their extraterrestrial science. Now the aliens are shown to be a cover used by the Red to give Buddy his powers while making a narrative he can better understand and accept.
And when the guys in charge of giving you your powers feel that alien probing is a more acceptable, less traumatizing story than what’s actually going on, we have problems.
So yeah, another good zero issue. It does what any good zero issue does: tell readers how the protagonist came to be in their situation, as well as a little of what the main conflict of the series is. Both this and the Swamp Thing issue would be great places to pick up their respective series, though the previous issues would be a better place to start for Rotworld. And yes, that starts proper next month.
Now to the most anticipated zero issue, with GREEN LANTERN #0 and the origin of the newest human Green Lantern. Simon Baz was an Arab American who, due to being laid off and having to support his late brother’s family, turned to car theft. But he got more than he bargained for when it turned out the van he’d stolen came complete with an active bomb. What does Simon get for his trouble of sending the van to explode safely in an abandoned factory? Internment by the feds as a suspected terrorist, of course. Which is when the Green Lantern ring previously worn by Hal and Sinestro (don’t ask) busts him out, inducting him into the Green Lantern Corps.
So yeah, tough day huh?
It’s not a new thing to switch an established version of a character (who is usually a white male) with a character of a different racial background. It’s not even the first time Green Lantern did it (Jon Stewart anyone?). Though I can’t exactly think of an instance of this that involved a character of middle eastern descent – admittedly I haven’t checked – so there’s that. Just as a general opinion on the replacing, I’m not upset like comic fans are want to be.
But that I’m not upset isn’t a surprise. These days I’ve sort of abandoned the reflexive bile that comes with any sort of change (unless it’s a bad or mismanaged change), so I wouldn’t be ranting up a storm anyway. Simon Baz, from what little we see in this one issue, seems like if not a person of flawless character, than at least one of noble character. His car thieving ways were understandable, and he was willing to risk his life disposing of the bomb he found when he could have just ditched the van and fled. I can see myself liking this new guy, and wanting to see how he takes to the powers of the Green Lantern.
It helps that Hal Jordan didn’t get a crappy sendoff, and that we see in this issue that he and Sinestro, while not exactly in the greatest of circumstances, are at least still active where they are. If we get to see small scenes of them trying to escape their confinement every once in a while, I’ll be happy. Better than making Hal into a villain, am I right?
Do I recommend this issue? Yes, though as with Swamp Thing and Animal Man, you would be best served reading at least GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #1 if you want to jump into the GL books at this point. If you ever wanted to get into them, but thought the main characters were all too…noninclusive (three white guys and one boring black guy) then now might be the absolute best time.
From here it’s those from the second wave (so far), starting with EARTH 2 #0. With the right against Solomon Grundy (the Earth 2 one, not the gangster fighting future Superman) put on hold, we flash back to their version of the Apokolips war. Specifically we learn about Terry Sloan, one of Earth 2’s only heroes and one of the villainous characters introduced to us earlier. In the second issue, Mister Terrific popped onto Earth 2 from Earth A (my name for the New 52 version of New Earth), only to be taken down and presumably captured by Sloan for unknown reasons.
As we learn here, Terry Sloan is a genius who, while acting on behalf of the government to find a way to Apokolips during their war, finds his way to among other places a zone that showed him possible futures. My guess is that he found his way to that paradise dimension Superboy Prime and Alexander Luthor went to following Crisis on Infinite Earths, and where the former infamously punched the walls of reality. Not that SP ran short of infamous moments. Anyway, Sloan deduced that, if he didn’t do some key horrible atrocities, Earth 2 was doomed at the hands of something even worse than the forces of Darkseid.
Why Sloan didn’t explain the exact reasons for his actions to Batman when he was actively betraying him and the other two of the Big Three I have no idea. Nope, instead synthesizing opal kryptonite that caused insanity in Superman so Sloan could kill millions was the correct course of action. Not the moral one – there really is no moral way to commit genocide – but rather the smart one.
Terry Sloan reminds me a lot of Maxwell Lord, post-Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Sure of his intellect and moral cause, widespread killing, ability to drive Superman to fight Wonder Woman. The more I think of it, the similarity is kind of eerie.
This one is useful to know so far as motivation for one of the series villains, but you can probably skip this one if you so desire. The events have at best peripheral importance on the present events, and most of the characters involved are dead now. This series had the benefit of giving a good origin story for this world in its first issue, so the zero installment isn’t essential.
The same can’t quite be said of DIAL H #0. We’re looking back in time from the events of the main narrative, but this one explains something we’ve asked about all this time: what exactly happens when a dial user dials HERO?
Way back in Babylon (or thereabouts) a woman with prophetic dreams uses a sundial to assume a heroic guise and save a city from a monster. There’s just one problem: the hero who’s identity she assumed wasn’t happy about it. See, we learn that while dial users “become” these heroes, the heroes’ identities had to come from somewhere. They aren’t, as one may assume, the result of a random hero generator, but rather the dial leeching power and knowledge from a hero somewhere in the multiverse for a short period.
So all these awesome heroes Nelson turned into? Boy Chimney, Control-alt-delete, Pelican Army? They’re all heroes somewhere else, and they stop being heroes for that short period when Nelson transforms. As you can guess, this could potentially lead to very bad things on that other end of that dial.
Or not so potentially, as it turns out. Poor Bumper Carla.
As you can guess, this makes DIAL H #0 a very important part of the series. Unlike Detective Comics which is superfluous or Earth 2 which is good to know, this one puts a lot of things into perspective. And it frees the writer from having to contrive a way of explaining it so that the main characters can learn it along with the reader. Which is not to say the writer won’t eventually let Nelson and Manteau in on the secret. This one just did it here and now for our benefit. Plus, it shows what other forms the Dials can take. In this case, a literal dial.
Do you still want to see Pelican Army in action? Does Batman need his origin rehashed so often? Will you be following the Rotworld event? What about the Rise of the Third Army, and this new Green Lantern? Do you know or want to know who Superboy Prime is? Leave a comment below.