One of the few true comic book masterpieces to come out of DC Comics in the late 90's, The Nail is a return to one of DC's greatest eras, the 70's and 80's, well before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. It is part of DC's Elseworlds line, which is a line of stand-alone books not unlike Marvel's on-again-off-again series, What If...?

It starts with a simple premise: Jonathan and Martha Kent miss their "Date with Destiny" of meeting young Kal-El's rocket when it plummets to the earth, because of a flat tire on their car. From that intro, it immediately jumps forward about 25 years, to the "present," where mayor Lex Luthor has just won a landslide re-election, after turning Metropolis into an anti-metahuman utopian police state. It gets stranger from there....

Fans of "the good old days" of DC will want to pick this up for a brief, but highly satisfying, return to the days when Hal Jordan was Green Lantern and Barry Allen was The Flash; the days when Barbara Gordon was still Batgirl and Dick Grayson was still Robin. All of the characters' portrayals are very true, and the cameo appearances of forgotten heroes and villains are scattered liberally throughout. The Doom Patrol, Star Sapphire, the entire Green Lantern Corps, Deadman, The Creeper, and many more appear throughout the story, although some are given only brief one- or two-panel appearances. The identity of the villain, when he turns up, will certainly be a shock, as well.

The Nail can be purchased as three issues, or one compiled graphic novel. It was released in 1998, and was written and drawn by Alan Davis, one of the true great comic book artists of the 90's.

The comic was inspired in part by the following verse by George Herbert:

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
For want of a horse, the knight was lost,
For want of a knight, the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost -
All for the want of a nail.

A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

A merchant had done good business at the fair. He had sold his wares, and lined his money-bags with gold and silver. Then he wanted to travel homewards, and be in his own house before nightfall. So he packed his trunk with the money on his horse, and rode away. At noon he rested in a town, and when he wanted to go farther the stable-boy brought out his horse and said, "A nail is wanting, sir, in the shoe of its near hind foot."
"Let it be wanting," answered the merchant. "The shoe will certainly stay on for the six miles I have still to go. I am in a hurry."
In the afternoon, when he once more alighted and had his horse fed, the stable-boy went into the room to him and said, "Sir, a shoe is missing from your horse's near hind foot. Shall I take him to the blacksmith?"
"Let it be wanting," answered the man. "The horse can very well hold out for the couple of miles which remain. I am in haste." He rode forth, but before long the horse began to limp. It had not limped long before it began to stumble, and it had not stumbled long before it fell down and broke its leg. The merchant was forced to leave the horse where it was, and unbuckle the trunk, take it on his back, and go home on foot. And there he did not arrive until quite late at night. "And that cursed nail," said he to himself, has "caused all this disaster."

The more haste, the less speed.

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