“DC Universe 0” is literally an advertisement for the upcoming “Final Crisis.” It’s not even a story, really. It’s a bunch of three-page teasers followed by a full-page ad for some “Final Crisis”-related spin-offs. But as a prologue to this summer’s major DC event, it’s actually pretty good. It does what it needs to do: utterly disconnect itself from the train wreck that was “Countdown” and excite readers about the possibilities in the DC Universe.
It’s not quite, as Dan DiDio says, “your primer for the greatest comic universe of all,” but it’s a nice tease. A “primer” would have to be more basic, more explanatory. A “primer” would be a great entry point for a reader new to the DC Universe. A “primer” would be simple and straightforward. This comic is certainly not that. It features dozens of unidentified characters and inexplicably portentous moments. A new reader would be baffled. And the grand revelation at the end — the revelation spoiled in recent DC publicity — would be completely meaningless to anyone who hasn’t been following the DC Universe for years. But as a tease for this summer, as something to whet our appetites for “Final Crisis,” and at a price point of only fifty cents, “DC Universe 0” is absolutely worth picking up.
Writers Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison certainly have experiences with “Crisis”-level events. Johns wrote DC’s last one, “Infinite Crisis” just a few years ago, and although many American readers haven’t read it, Morrison wrote his own version of Crisis earlier in his career when he scripted “Zenith” for “2000 AD.” Morrison’s “Zenith” began as a superhero-as-pop-idol concept, mixed with a healthy dose of H. P. Lovecraft, and evolved, by “Zenith: Phase Three,” into an inter-dimensional Crisis, in which characters from throughout British comic book history joined forces to stop the spread of the Lovecraftian menace. Unlike Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s original “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which was based on heroes banding together to save various Earths, Morrison’s punk-infused “Zenith: Phase Three” was all about heroes blowing up alternate Earths to stop the bad guys.
That was twenty years ago, though, and I don’t think we’ll see anything quite like that in this summer’s “Final Crisis.”
But what we do see in “DC Universe 0” sets up things quite nicely. We see the scale of the event, as Johns and Morrison immediately put their Crisis in context, linking it to what has come before. We see Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Johns’ version, as seen recently in “Action Comics”). We see Batman confronting the Joker in a “Killing Joke”-inspired sequence which also alludes to Morrison’s “Clown at Midnight” prose story from last year. We see Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Spectre, and the new Secret Society of Super-Villains. We see Libra, an old JLA villain reimagined here as a priest of, presumably, Darkseid. And we see the return of a hero long thought dead, someone who might tie the story together with his ability to traverse dimensions and move through time.
Yes, it’s a meaningless comic book on its own, but it establishes the players for the cosmic game which will soon occur. It’s exactly what “Countdown” failed to be, and at fifty cents, how can you pass it up?