“Century 30: Time and Time Again”
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
The immortals of the DC-verse, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman’s descendant Lara and a familiar legacy Green Lantern face off against Darkseid in a desperate endgame. As happens so often in time travel conundrums, they’re hoping to prevent their own reality from ever existing.
The art is the best it’s been yet in this series. For this final issue the pages have gone glossy, and Byrne has finally reconciled his computer-generated space-tech with his own supple inks (and of course excellent anatomy). The colors are suitably moody and grim, allowing for the full emotional impact the script calls for as tragedies mount.
The script itself, however, is one of the least compelling ones of this series. Like the Lost Generation series Byrne did for Marvel (a similar foray into time travel paradoxes served to drive that story, in that case into a forgotten past), the final issue is an anti-climax. It even feels rather rushed. Complex issues explored more fully in previous issues are glossed over here, as all out battles call for mass carnage and far too many deaths to leave time for relationships or discussions.
While the heroes battle nobly this issue, there’s not much about their real personalities that comes through. The demise of Diana and Jordan are the most disappointing, as they are overwhelmed by little more than the wit and guile of Kirby’s Fourth World rakes (I can’t believe that Kirby played them quite as broadly as Byrne does). Darkseid doesn’t have much time to generate much dread (as in the current Legion, he’s just been revived, barely), and the final cataclysm happens almost off-panel (as it is the panels themselves that shatter, a cute effect but one that obscures rather than elucidates).
Speaking of the Legion, while Byrne draws them with a tireless youthful enthusiasm, he doesn’t manage to make them more than stalwart young 4H club members. They’re impossibly serious and industrious. While it’s nice to see Cham and Rokk make an appearance, they read like pre-Vietnam American teens more than the complex and conflicted adults DnA have finally rediscovered in their own book.
The novel idea of sentient para-demons, which made a very compelling morality play a few issues back, is given only lip-service here. In fact, I think I read a similar reality-shaking cataclysm in Savage Dragon about 35 issues ago, and both the conflicts and the consequences were explored more deeply than the reset button we get for a finale. The ending is tragic, but the frustration over the perfunctory clichés of the plot obviates a true sense of mourning.
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