STORY: Keith Giffen, Dan Didio, James Robinson, Rob Liefeld, and Tony Bedard
ART: Keith Giffen, Dan Didio, Scott Koblish, Tom Derenick, Marat Mychaels,
In true form, DC Universe Presents #0 offers an anthology of stories within an issue of an anthology series. Last May, DC cancelled six series to make way for the “Second Wave” of ‘New 52’ titles that included Earth 2, Dial H, World’s Finest, Batman Incorporated, G.I. Combat, and The Ravagers. Some of these cancellations actually made sense – when a series didn’t look to be going in any concrete direction – but some were canned purely for fiscal reasons. Either way, many of these titles gained a fan base, and DC wanted to do the cool thing and feature these characters left in the proverbial rearview mirror. With December solicitations out, the recently cancelled Captain Atom is featured in The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, meaning DC seems intent on keeping these characters around, even if they don’t have their own solo ongoing.
The first story is O.M.A.C., written and illustrated by former series regulars Keith Giffen and Dan Didio. I absolutely loved the adventures of Kevin Kho and Brother Eye – each issue was an homage to quirky, sci-fi books from the 60s and 70s that were about action and supernatural boogeymen. While this prequel story – “Origins Matter After Cancelation” – doesn’t feature Kevin or his O.M.A.C. persona, Giffen and Didio take us back to when Brother Eye worked for Maxwell Lord and Checkmate. Mostly, Brother Eye gives Max an expository dump about how the satellite came to be and why. Of course, Max knows all of this, and info overloads normally make me cringe, this is Giffen and Didio’s style for O.M.A.C., especially since this is only a short story intended to give more backstory that offers foreshadowing to future events. In that regard, it succeeds in spades.
Second at bat is James Robinson and Tom Derenick’s Mister Terrific prequel. In essence, this short story reads just like the MT series – full of scientific jargon, quantum mechanics, and a willingness to let those two amazing elements do the heavy lifting. Especially in this story, wherein Michael Holt basically learns everything about his life by jumping through an uncalibrated portal technically linked to the Ninth Dimension. Robinson is careful to remind readers that this is one of many possible outcomes, leaving the door open for Michael’s future to deviate from the visions of latter days. Of course, Mister Terrific can’t be running around knowing his entire life’s path, and Michael’s memory is purged once he steps out of the malfunctioning portal door. I wish there was more about Michael Holt as a person and less foreshadowing for the future that only really served to clue in us readers. But for what it is, this tale does the trick.
I’ve never liked Rob Liefeld. Even in the 90s, I couldn’t stand his artwork or his writing. It’s one of the reasons I stuck to DC mostly during that era, and it’s the reason I never got beyond the first issue of Hawk and Dove last September. Hawk and Dove is an example of a series cancelled because it was bad, plain and simple. The characters weren’t engaging, the stories weren’t interesting, and the artwork was classic Liefeld, which meant over-exaggerated everything. Liefeld smartly abjures the pencilling duties for this origins story, but it just makes his uninspired narrative all the more obvious. “Balance of Power” focuses on an argument between the celestial gods of Peace and War (how DC justifies their existence against the Greek gods in Wonder Woman is anyones guess) over the newest avatar of Peace, Dawn Granger. Similar to how Scott Lobdell info dumps on a regular basis in the pages of Teen Titans, Liefeld uses this debate between the gods as a means to give a character history. It’s so damn boring! And it really doesn’t even matter because I can’t imagine DC is planning on reintroducing Hawk and Dove to any other book any time soon.
Next up is “Mother Machine”, the origins story of the title’s namesake, and prequel tale to Blackhawks, a series that could have been DC’s equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. if they had handled it better. Unfortunately, there’s not much to talk about concerning this story – beyond revealing that the Blackhawks participated in the battle against Apokolips’ armies, this is all about Mother Machine coming to be. Everything makes a bit more sense now, as it’s obvious Mother Machine came from an Apokoliptan Mother Box. The ending tagline says we’ll see more of Mother Machine in the future, which could spell the return of Darkseid.
The final story about Deadman comes from Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel, both of whom do a fantastic job telling the tale of Boston Brand’s first mission of possession. In a cruel twist of fate, the goddess Rama sends Boston to save the soul of the man who murdered him. Of course, Boston rejects his task until he’s forced back into the situation and winds up saving the day anyway. It’s a telling moment for Brand, the moment he recognizes that his actions have consequences, not only for his own well-being, but also for those he’s charged with helping. Deadman doesn’t get enough page time in Justice League Dark, though I supposed I should be thankful he’s a recurring character at all. Bedard’s “Instant Karma” reminds one of why the first five issues of DC Universe Presents are still the best.
As a whole, DC Universe Presents #0 is a good read. As individual stories, the tales about O.M.A.C., Mister Terrific, and Deadman are considerably better than those about the Blackhawks and Hawk and Dove. Read them all, or just read the ones you want. It’s kind of up to you when it comes to an anthology format such as this. I only read one issue of the “Challengers of the Unknown” arc because it just wasn’t my cup of tea. But I jumped right back in with “Savage”, then regrettably “Kid Flash”. DC Universe Presents #0 is definitely worth the buy, if only for the fact that you get five stories from five different creative teams at a whopping 48 pages.