Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Convergence 0, originally released April 1st, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence.
Patrick: Did you know that there’s a sort of loose narrative that justifies the Super Smash Bros. games? The good folks at Hal Labs must have wanted some semblance of logic dictating why Pikachu was fighting with Samus Aran and Link, so they landed on the simplest possible explanation: this is a child playing with their toys. No, f’real. That’s why the final boss is a disembodied hand (or pair of hands) — those belong to the kid with all the action figures. There’s no magic, there’s no transdimensional nonsense, there’s only the conceit that a child with boundless imagination can sure make it look like Donkey Kong is pounding Marth into the ground. That’s freeing and fun and makes just as much sense as it needs to before getting to the truly rewarding business of having Solid Snake launch a mortar at Jigglypuff. Convergence, in its introductory issue, appears to be suffering from the exact opposite of this: an overly-explained mechanism backed by a total lack of imagination.
Poor Superman has been sucked into a black hole, bringing him face to face with the Brainiac über-bot. The thing’s massive, but the only reference point we have for scale is Supes himself. Ethan Van Sciver does everything he can to sell the bigness of this creature without giving us any meaningful context, most admirably by introducing the character’s head as the background to a double-page title-splash. If nothing else, Brainiac takes up a lot of space in this book. Superman himself doesn’t get quite as much page real estate, and while Brainiac is the subject of four different splash pages (two of which are double-splashes), Superman just sort of exists on the page.
Not that Van Sciver doesn’t try to milk that iconic S for all its worth. That insignia gets a lot of attention, even when it makes for an awkward composition.
It’s more than a little frustrating that the big S is really the only part of Superman’s identity on display here. Dan Jurgens and Jeff King write Superman as a brute whose only solutions involve punchin’ dudes. What’s remarkable is that they make a point of having Brainiac call him out for being too predictably altruistic, saying that all previous versions of Superman died saving others. There aren’t any opportunities for Superman to demonstrate those qualities here, what with all the punching he’s got to do. Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about: Brainiac shackles Supes to… some kind of hanging mechanical obelisk and then leaves him to go conquer Earth-0 (and be obliterated in the pages of Futures End). Superman struggles against his chains, but doesn’t break free. Interesting set-up, right? How’s Superman going to get out of this one, I wonder? Maybe he’ll find a weak point or call on one of his…
Nope! Turns out he just flexes better and is freed. That’s a pretty standard mis-handling of Superman’s powers: he can’t be stronger than the machine until he can.
Maybe this issue isn’t about Superman. There is a multiversal catastrophe to establish, after all. When Clark gets his bearings, he finds that he’s in some barren wasteland that stretches on in all directions for millions of miles — it’s so barren there aren’t even stars. What he does encounter is an old-school Brainiac, complete with a very golden age-y briefs-and-polo-shirt costume. This Brainiac splits into many Brainiacs (some of which I recognize, some of which I don’t) and reveals that they have been collecting cities from countless dimensions. Of course, most of those cities are Gothams and Metropoli and the like. That — presumably — is where the premise of the series is set: all of these different versions of our favorite DC cities all lumped together in some kind of post-modern wasteland.
Spencer, I am struggling like hell not to be too negative about this issue, but I’m afraid that just doesn’t leave me with much to discuss. This is one boring, repetitive and ultimately dumb opening issue for an event that’s going to buoy DC’s entire line for the next two months. There’s no mystery in its ambiguity, only the dull thud of Brainaic repeatedly asking if Superman “has a city” (whatever the fuck that means). Maybe that’s why Supes gets frustrated and just starts throwing punches: he’s not intrigued, he’s just bored. And on the other side, it seems like Brainiac’s bored with the violence — notice how he doesn’t even stop his diatribe while reeling from this blow.
I mean, seriously: those balloons don’t belong in this panel, right? Plus, the less said about Clark’s body in this panel, the better. Again, I think that one looks so bad because Van Sciver insisted on making sure the whole S was visible. Sure does make it look like Superman is built like a silverback gorilla.
Easily the most exciting part of this issue is the epilogue, which simply trots out the various series and worlds we’ll be visiting throughout the course of the next two months, and says “hey, you guys liked this right?” As a reader who mostly got into DC with the New 52, I find about 75% of those worlds alienating and weird, but what the hell do I know? (Also, shouldn’t that Injustice world actually be two worlds? Isn’t that the point of Injustice?) Spencer, do you have a world you’re particularly interested in exploring? And did this issue do anything to bolster your excitement about Convergence?
Spencer: I want to know what in the world the universe of “Cap’s Hobby Shop” is doing mixed in with all the rest of these worlds — it’s a spin-off of a Bob Hope comic for Christ’s sake! Injustice makes a bit more sense — it’s based off the “bad” universe from the game, the universe chronicled in the comic tie-in, Patrick. Actually, none of DC’s movie or television tie-ins get any representation here — even Terry McGuiness has a Batman Beyond comic for his profile picture instead of a shot from the TV Series.
The fact that I’m getting worked up by the possibilities even after this stinker of an issue shows what a good idea Convergence could be in the right hands. Patrick’s Super Smash Bros. analogy is apt, and I’m also reminded of Marvel’s recent “Spider-Verse” event — there’s definitely something special about the idea of throwing all these various DC universes together and seeing what happens. The thing is, this idea requires a sense of imagination, a sense of fun, a sense of wonder, and Convergence 0 has absolutely none of these things. This event should be a wedding feast, and instead it’s a funeral dirge.
In fact, let’s take a look at the premise for a second. It takes a bit to get everything straight, but the idea appears to be that a central Brainiac has collected cities from all over the universe and left them in the care of a sentient planet who now, in the absence of its master, wants to turn the cities against each other to see which deserve to live or die. It’s essentially a DC Comics Hunger Games, and one thing I always found clever about The Hunger Games was the way it dared the reader to get caught up in the carnage of the games, and then condemned them for it. I’m also reminded of the Inheritors in “Spider-Verse,” creatures who survived by sucking the life-force from Spider-Totems — characters we here at Retcon Punch often considered metaphors for ungrateful consumers sucking creators dry.
What does all this have to do with Convergence? Well, when it comes to the idea of pitting these various cities against each other, I can’t help but to think of the age-old “who could beat who” debates (“Could Batman beat Wolverine? No prep time!”), and the idea of various worlds having to prove their worth to survive is uncomfortably similar to the way new characters, concepts, and titles have to struggle to survive in a crowded marketplace. I suppose business is business, and there’s nothing wrong with those kind of debates, but in general, Convergence seems to be appealing to a type of reader and a kind of attitude that’s proven to be rather toxic to comics culture as a whole in recent months. Maybe Jurgens and King will surprise me and subvert my expectations down the line, Hunger Games-style, but for the moment, I find myself uncomfortable with the direction this event’s headed.
I’m probably getting a bit ahead of myself, though. Is there anything else to say about Convergence 0 itself? Yeah, but none of it’s good. This issue really only exists to establish the origin story of this sentient planet and his little contest, but it does that in, what, two pages? Why couldn’t the creative team have used a version of those pages as a prologue in issue 1? It’s not like there’s anything else in Convergence 0 to justify its existence. There’s no story to speak of — Superman gets kidnapped, yells at two different incarnations of Brainiac, and gets sent home with no memory of the event — and very little characterization. Again, I suppose the development of the crazy Brainiac/sentient planet is important, but that’s something else that could have easily been included in the main event. It’s not like it takes up much space here.
Poor Superman, as Patrick touched upon, gets it even worse. He and both Brainiacs just talk over each other for the entire issue, having two separate conversations that never really converge, and Superman doesn’t do much beyond indignantly asking the same questions over and over, even when it’s clear he’ll never get answers. Actually, if Superman has one characteristic throughout this story, it’s that he’s childish and impudent.
I don’t think any artist could have saved this story, but Van Sciver isn’t exactly at the top of his game here either. Patrick already gave evidence of that, so I won’t send out anymore negative vibes in that direction, but I can’t help and wonder if some of the issues with Van Sciver’s work just boil down to him being bored. Sure, he gets to draw about a billion different Brainiacs, but beyond that there’s very little variety here. Van Sciver has to draw the same desert, the same two characters, the same shot of Superman suddenly punching Brainiac over and over and over. If it were me I know I’d get bored or look for anything (like Superman’s shield) to focus on to try and make it all mean something.
Whatever the reason, this whole issue is just messy. Just take a look at this page; I don’t know whether to blame it on the writers or Van Sciver or letterer Travis Lanham, but this is some truly awful composition.
I added that red line to show the path the reader has to follow to read all these bubbles in the right order. How does that make any kind of sense? It took me three or four tries just to figure it out, and I’m still not 100% sure that I’m right — does “that is not permitted” come after “you wish to free them?” or “they need their freedom?” Either way, it’s about as intuitive as trying to work a touchscreen in mittens.
Man. Convergence 0 may be the worst single comic book I’ve read this year (if not longer). It’s pointless, frustrating, repetitive, messy, and worst of all, boring. I still have high hopes for some of the Convergence tie-ins (Simone on Oracle and Nightwing? Rucka writing Renee Montoya? Wolfman returning to the Titans? Sign me up!), but if these books succeed, it will be in spite of Convergence, not because of it.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?