DC Universe #0
“Let There Be Lightning”
Writers: Grant Morrison & Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez, Doug Mahnke, Tony S. Daniel, Ivan Reis, Aaron Lopresti, Philip Tan, Ed Benes, Carlos Pacheco & J.G. Jones
Inks: Scott Koblish, Christian Alamy, Tony S. Daniel, Oclair Albert, Matt Ryan, Jeff De Los Santos, Ed Benes, Jesus Merino & J.G. Jones
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Tom Smith & David Baron
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artist: George Perez
Editor: Dan Didio
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: 50 cents
DC’s release of this inexpensive comic book, focusing on the best-known icons from its super-hero stable, strikes me as kind of odd. Just days in advance of Free Comic Book Day, I’m left wondering why the publisher didn’t just make this one of its freebie titles for the event. Mind you, if other retailers are like mine, a lot of shops will likely give this cheap comic book away anyway. Still, I wonder if DC might be undercutting its FCBD efforts or if it will end up capitalizing on the larger crowds that it tends to generate. In any case, this is far from a key issue, despite early promotional and marketing efforts to bill it as such. This is little more than a tease, and not just for Final Crisis. Writers Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns just tease readers here, giving them sneak peeks at upcoming storylines for its top tier characters. On the one hand, it’s a bit frustrating. The comic reads like it’s a picture made up of pieces from different puzzles, a patchwork quilt made up of almost random pieces of fiction fabric. On the other hand, the teases are incredibly effective. It really makes me want to read several of the storylines previewed in its pages.
For years, the heroes have always won the day. They’ve saved lives, saved cities and saved the universe. They’ve banded together to protect the world and protect each other. But now, it’s evil’s turn. The Batman can feel that someone’s been watching, someone’s been hunting him, and he’s concerned enough to turn to his most hated and deadliest enemy for insight. Brilliant but twisted scientists plot against Wonder Woman, each playing his or her part on different spots on the globe. A long-forgotten costumed criminal is the latest to unite killers and rogues, as a new Secret Society of Super-Villains emerges. Evil is on the verge of victory, and it’s because they have a god on their side.
I’m a bit torn when it comes to the art for this issue. Each of the various vignettes looks great. The artists and art teams all turn in solid if not exceptional performances. Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert’s work on the Green Lantern/Blackest Night sequence is especially sharp, even challenging, as one has to slow down the reading experience to take in all the detail in the two-page spread, made up of a multitude of tall, thin panels. Perez’s work is always a treat, but then, I’ve been a fan since I first saw his work almost 30 years ago. My problem with the artwork isn’t with its quality, but with consistency. The shifts in styles are strong, even jarring at times, and that gets in the way of any sense that one is reading a cohesive story.
Furthermore, the “chapter breaks” are really just ads for upcoming DC books. Visually, they interfere with what little semblance of flow is left to the storytelling. On top of that, two of the opening four pages appear to be cobbled together from artwork from previous comics, both recent and dated. It’s a bit irksome, creating an initial impression the reader won’t find anything new in this comic. Mind you, the cheap cover price makes it easy to forgive the incorporation of previously published work.
If the conversation between the Batman and the Joker doesn’t make you want to read Morrison’s upcoming “Batman R.I.P.” storyline in Batman, nothing will. While Daniel’s art, presented in traditional comics grids, brings a lot of intensity to the scene, it’s the dialogue that’s really riveting. The same holds true of Libra’s bizarre pitch to a throng of super-villains as he talks about his plans for a new super-villain group. He’s not recruiting, he’s indoctrinating. It’s an intriguing notion, and I wonder if it’ll tie into the “Crime Bible” introduced in 52 and explored in Greg Rucka’s recent limited series featuring the new Question.
Just about every sequence in the book is entertaining and engaging. The apparent string linking it all together, referring to a particular DC hero as revealed on the final page, strikes me as something of a problem. Only longtime readers are really going to pick up on the relevance of the references. I enjoyed them, but accessibility could be a concern. Mind you, it’s not vital information for this promotional issue, and accessibility may not prove to be a problem for Final Crisis (into which this comic book leads).
What’s aggravating about this comic book is its seemingly piecemeal construction. I was convinced until later on in the script that this was nothing more than a series of scenes from upcoming comic books reproduced here. I had the distinct impression there was nothing original created for this comic other than some narration. I’m pretty sure now that’s not the case, but if it were revealed to be true, I wouldn’t be surprised. I suppose I shouldn’t expect a wholly original work for a mere four bits, but that initial feeling that I’d been cheated scratched at the back of my mind even after I’d finished reading and decided otherwise. 6/10