Convergence 0

convergence 0 CONV

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Convergence 0, originally released April 1st, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence.

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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.

Sure, make sure the S is in this panel, why not

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…

superman flexes better

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.

Superman punches Brainiac

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?

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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.

demanding Superman

Liar!

Ick.

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.

worst layout ever

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.

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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?

19 comments on “Convergence 0

  1. I’m not in love with the issue either, but I’m not as negative on it as either of you. I kind of get what it is and what it’s doing. And I loved the floating space slab splash that leads the foreground with the Superman 75 image from this that they’re using as house ad art.

    Essentially, this #0 was necessary because we shouldn’t expect to see New 52 Superman again during the meat and potatoes of Convergence. This issue told us about New 52 Superman’s mysterious side-journey following Doomed and let us know that he’s been to the center of time and space, learned of a myriad of worlds that exist outside of even the current 52 world multiverse, and that his memory was removed but with a caveat… he will eventually remember.

    The key factor there is that these are cities from worlds that no longer exist at all in the multiverse. The dead worlds from the famous “Worlds will live, Worlds will die” concept of COIE. They were literally erased from the fabric of DC’s reality by the various Crisees, Zero Hour, Flashpoint, etc. If you’re upset that Pre-Flashpoint Earth doesn’t have it’s own parallel Earth in the current continuity, New 52 Superman is now the key which connects that continuity to the new one.

    Given that I expect issues 1-8 of Convergence will probably be chock full of the actual mash-up battles, with little room for explanation, I very much appreciated this #0 which dedicated itself to explaining me the rules of how it’s all working. I’m in the opposite camp of the Smash Bros argument. That works perfectly with Nintendo’s streamlined, gameplay-centric, story-light aesthetic. But this is DC comics. I want an elaborate explanation of the rules of reality. That’s how we’ve done it since Flash #123, and definitely how we should be doing it on the anniversary of the Crisis.

    • But dude, how do you reconcile your understanding of the rules with the fact that reading this thing is no fun AND out of character? Like, I totally get wanting to understand the rules, but don’t you pick up a comic to have a narrative experience? If all this information was presented to me in a D&D Handbook style piece, I could see where it’d be interesting and fun to tease out – but largely because my imagination would have to fill in the gaps. This shitty, shitty story fills in the gaps with garbage.

      • I totally get where you’re coming from. I guess I’ve gotten used to any New 52 comic book that’s not written by Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, or Greg Pak to get the characterization of Superman annoyingly incorrect in general. I was prepared for that. It’s sad that it’s Jurgens jacking him up these days, but we’ve seen the same thing in Futures End for the past year and that has Jurgens’ name on it.

        I will say that I see the Lobdell material as the ultra-low of New 52 Superman; in Lobdell Supes not only was Superman obnoxiously out of character, but his villains and plots were also ultra-lame. At least here, beyond the Superman issues, I got to find out who Telos was after months of wondering (and you can imagine my glee in finding out that he’s an anti-Mogo). I also got a reinforcement of what Morrison was saying in Multiversity about all pre-Flashpoint and even pre-Crisis events all still be “in continuity”, just erased from the fabric of spacetime because of other, really crazy in-continuity crises. That’s pretty cool to me. And then an awesome Who’s Who redux and primer on the relevant materials of the forthcoming material.

        Basically, everything you’re saying about the downsides of this are fully true, but what’s left after that essentially WAS fun for me in a pretty big way. I spent $5 on this for mixed results and probably spent $15 on various H’el On Earth or Doomed materials that I thought were just out and out terrible.

        Superman does act like a total ass in this, though.

  2. I will say you guys are absolutely right about the messy art, poor characterization, and lack of any real plot. The issue does put into print, in an in-continuity comic, a lot of things that were previously conjecture, and that’s valuable to my collection. I wish it had been 3 or 4 bucks instead of 5, and that it had been something along the lines of the Multiversity Guidebook instead of trying to cram all of that valuable exposition into the context of one long conversation. They should have kept the Who’s Who, included a timeline and explanation of when the prior main continuities were destroyed and buy what event, and had a small segment (maybe 8 to 10 pages) explaining Superman’s missing days following Doomed and leaving him as the link to the destroyed realities. But, at the end of the day, I’m glad I have these explanations of current continuity sitting in an issue in my boxes.

    • Man, the Multiverse Guidebook was such a better version of this kind of thing for like a billion reasons. First — and most importantly to me — it told two full, interesting stories. Second, the art is amazing cover to cover – the credits on that thing are staggering, and every page is beautiful. Third, it was answering questions I had been asking as part of my Multiversity experience. I’m a big believer in exposition feeling better when it’s giving you information you’re already interested in. Maybe that’s the difference – I don’t inherently have interest in Convergence until after the storytelling starts (provided, of course, that that story is compelling), whereas you seem to be invested in the abstraction of “Convergence” sight unseen. I’m not trying to devalue that perspective, it’s just not mine.

      • You’re preaching to the choir. Multiversity Guidebook is toe-to-toe with Superman 39 for favorite comic of the past year.

        It’s not that I’m invested in this because of Convergence, it’s because I’m invested in the exposition here because of what it says about essentially every DC comic since Crisis On Infinite Earths in general. It cements so much canon in general, beyond its relationship to Convergence.

        Aside from that, though, I really am invested in the abstraction of Convergence sight unseen in that it’s delivering things I was already asking for before it was announced (the chance to revisit pre-Flashpoint characters and plots), and I’m in general just used to line-wide crossovers being all essentially no higher or lower quality than the line in general. There’s no way they can be because it’s the same general quality of staff making the same large amount of material for 2 months. Some of it will be great, some terrible, and most mediocre; like any other month. Even if the weekly ends up sucking, I’m getting the same teams that would be working on DC books making Convergence books. I’m getting a Rucka Question book… that’s enough justification for me alone 😀

  3. Yeah, I think the biggest problem I had with the thing (besides Super-Cave-Man) was the setting. Explaining the premise of Convergence? Cool. Seeing the origin of Telos? Neat. Superman dumbly punching Brainiac in a boring desert for 30 pages? Ugh.

    The initial setting was fine, but it should have then become a preview of what the Who’s Who at the end presented us with; visions of all the worlds that Convergence will be playing with. Telos could have taken Superman on a ghostly, Christmas Carol-esque journey throughout these worlds while explaining everything he does in this issue. It would have been nice to see Superman get emotionally invested in these worlds, plus it would have given Van Sciver something else to draw.

    The issue could have teased these worlds visually with the Who’s Who at the end providing more context.

    • The Prodigal Logsdon!

      Yeah, the thing that’s so frustrating is that the premise is a) sort of intuitive and b) should elicit more of an emotional response from Supes, but the story here betrays both of those points. Like “Brainiac collects cities” is a story as old as Kandor, expanding that as a secret history of what happened to various multiversal and elseworld cities is actually very clever, but the concept is clear without Brainiac being some kind of weirdo.

      Also, man, KANDOR KANDOR KANDOR – Superman should already get this and want to help in some way. And HELP is the operative word. Not punch goons.

      • Seriously! He’s being a total hypocrite.

        Okay: Regular Brainiac stealing cities from across the universe who are not otherwise in danger simply for the purposes of increasing his collection is evil. Of that, I’m sure we can all agree. However, what Uber-Brainiac seems to be doing is not-at-all different from what Supes has been doing for DECADES; saving lifeforms from doomed worlds and keeping them IN A FUCKING ZOO.

        Of course, what Telos ultimately decides to do with these worlds is totally evil, but still Superman should have recognized that Brainiac has actually saved these people from certain doom.

        The writers here take nothing to a logical conclusion. It’s like they thought none of this out in terms of the characters at play or their well-established history of doing the same exact shit.

        • I will say that in the Fortress Of Solitude that Superman keeps nearly extinct alien animals in a zoo of sorts. He doesn’t have problems with keeping Earth animals in a zoo, either. I think his concern is in keeping PEOPLE in a zoo. Like Superman is okay with people killing animals to eat them. He would not be okay of the same thing with humans.

        • Right, we know for a fact that Superman has a big problem with keeping people in a zoo like your run of the mill Brainiacs have been known to do. My point is that with these people, they would have been just fine if it wasn’t for Brainiac. They would have continued to live normal lives expect they faced a villain with an obsession for collecting cities.

          What Uber-Brainiac (UB) did, I argue, was a a lot more in line with what Superman has been known to do since these people would have been dead anyway if UB hadn’t collected them. It’s no different than Superman collecting his nearly-extinct animals. The difference is in their motivations of course, and in what both parties have planned for their collections.

          I guess I just would have liked for Superman to have recognized this fact and made a plea to Telos to protect these people instead of pitting them against one another. Something like, “Brainiac (UB) may have saved these people for the wrong reasons, but now you (Telos) have the opportunity to give these people a second chance at life. Give them the freedom they deserve and we’ll walk away in peace.”

        • I think, in Superman’s mind, there’s no question the people should be allowed to decide their own fate. Superman himself obviously saves people day-in and day-out, who otherwise would be dead, but if Superman then kept them captive afterward it would change everything we know to be true about his moral fortitude. Of course, as Futures End and New Krypton before it tackled, there are major issues in trying to place a large and displaced population, but Superman would be up for the task of trying. If he couldn’t place them on earth, he’d try to figure out a way to find the nearest hospitable atmosphere and work something out. I don’t think letting Uber-Brainiac keep them locked up was ever going to be a viable solution for him.

  4. I think that Van Sciver’s splash page of all of the deaths of Superman was greatly epic, except for the fact that the script of Convergence doesn’t really earn it. The Superman of Convergence 0 reminds me so much of Man of Steel: the script goes out of it’s way to detail Supreman’s indomitable will and selflessness but doesn’t actually show any of that in practice.

    Patrick made an excellent point about how Superman “flexes better.” Clearly there isn’t an exact science to the realm of aliens, gods and magic. But it always feels like a cheat when a character like Green Lantern is in a battle with another ring slinger and overcomes him/her because basically he gets more intense. Same thing goes with the wizard duels in the Harry Potter movies, which essentially boil down to a ball of energy slowly moving from one end to the other.

    This. Was. A. Dud.

    • I always think of that as the Dragon Ball Z effect. Oh, Goku just needed to scream for 8 more seconds before he threw that Spirit Bomb – now I understand why he’s a morally superior force in this fight.

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