Convergence: The Question 1

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Today, Shane and Michael are discussing Convergence: The Question 1, originally released April 8th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence this week, click here.

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Shane: When you read a comic, you aren’t always going to be aware of what happened behind the scenes. As a child, you don’t think about it at all — sure, maybe you have a loose understanding that somebody wrote and drew the comic, but that’s about it. But as you grow up, you start to pay attention to the creators just as much as the characters — but that means you may now let their lives and personalities dominate your reading experience. Greg Rucka, for instance, recently had a publicized falling-out with DC, over promises made to him that were taken back, leading to him leaving the company after years of being among their top writers. In particular, this left certain characters he’d shepherded a bit lost. Of the many, perhaps most abandoned was Renee Montoya. Rucka helped transition the character from a supporting role in the Batman titles to a star role in Gotham Central, later guiding her journey in 52 to become the new Question. He continued to write the character in various high-profile projects, making her a significant presence at DC comics–but it strikes me as notable that, after Rucka’s departure from the company just prior to Flashpoint, Renee Montoya has been virtually nonexistent in the New 52.

This makes it incredibly fitting for the writer to return to DC to write Renee once more, in what may be her final story, and manages to make it a deeply personal one for the character. Many of the Convergence spin-offs suffered from the sheer concept of the event, making it difficult to explore what made the characters great, but in this title, Telos’ rules of combat barely come into play. Instead, we see how Renee has evolved as a character after a year in the dome, with numerous notable figures from her past playing a major part in her presence. Compared to some of the other writers on Convergence titles this week, Rucka is at a tremendous advantage, having written Renee not just at one important point in her history, but several. Perhaps because of this, when Rucka attempts to tug the reader’s heartstrings by revealing the fate of Renee’s estranged father — a plot point not addressed in years — it doesn’t seem forced. It’s just another part of her story.

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Equal credit must be given, of course, to artist Cully Hamner, whose work throughout the issue truly captures just how defeated all of these characters feel. Between Renee’s sunken expression as she stares at her comatose father, to Harvey Dent’s almost maniacal attempts at suicide, you can tell that these characters have been living in hell for the past year. To be honest, I’d forgotten that Hamner was the artist on this title — and just the other day, I’d been wondering who DC got to illustrate the series, and if I dared hope Hamner would be the one. His history with Renee Montoya is also extensive, and frankly, he gets nowhere near the accolades (nor the work!) he deserves.

Rucka’s approach on this issue really intrigues me, especially in comparison to the rest of this week’s titles. While many books jumped head-on into Convergence, The Question is perhaps the only title that feels like a direct continuation of the character’s stories. Sure, a year has passed, and yes, they’re living under the dome, and that’s a major factor in where the characters are now…but so much of what’s presented here, including the presence of the Huntress and a casual reference made to the Mark of Cain that Renee was inflicted with just prior to Flashpoint, could have easily been left out in the interests of making the title more approachable to a new reader. Instead, this title embraces the history, marking this miniseries as just as important a chapter in Renee Montya’s life. The promise of Convergence was to return to the characters for one last chapter, and this is one of the few books so far where I feel like that promise is being met.

The setup of the issue, I think, is a huge part of that. Much of the issue involves the reluctant heroism of Two-Face, as he realizes that — under the dome — every coin flip will land on “heads”. As a result, he’s assisting Renee in tracking down the few remaining medical supplies left in Gotham, for use in the hospital rather than sale on the black market. Left with this predictability in his life, combined with imprisonment under the dome, Two-Face attempts every day to kill himself — but is unable to, due to his reliance on the coin, and the coin’s refusal to give him what he wants. Eventually, of course, the issue has to accept the event’s conceit, and the dome comes down. The challenges are made…and Harvey Dent finds himself no longer trapped, both by the walls around him, and by a coin that will always land on heads. Two-Face is back, and he’s once again a danger to everyone — including himself.

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Theoretically, next issue could involve a more traditional Convergence setup, with battles against another reality, but I don’t know if it’ll matter one way or the other. Due to the time given to the characters and not the event, this title is poised to offer genuine closure to the title character, and it would be difficult for the next issue to derail that. Especially with the last page reveal, all aspects of Renee Montoya’s life are coming together, and I trust that Rucka and Hamner will guide their character to a respectable end. I’m curious, Michael, if you have the same trust in the team — and if you felt that their relative “ignoring” of the event helped to serve the story, or weaken it?

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Michael: Shane, I don’t think I could be more satisfied with a book called Convergence: The Question than I am with this particular issue. As you mentioned in your intro, this is a book that I picked up for both character AND creator. It’s exactly the type of story that I’d hope it’d be, with the Greg Rucka guiding Renee Montoya on the next (final?!) step of her journey. It’s crazy that Rucka’s “Montoya arc” has spanned over 20 years on the comic book page. What’s even crazier is that during all of that time, Renee Montoya/The Question has never had her own ongoing series. I think it’s truly unique how Rucka has sporadically told Montoya’s story; it’s a testament to his commitment and affection for the character.

Event tie-ins often leave me a little worrisome: very often they fail to tell an interesting story and instead merely beef up an already drawn-out event. I prefer when a tie-in series takes the essential narrative elements from the event and crafts its own tale in spite of them, much like Rucka and Hamner do here. The story has a very “No Man’s Land” vibe, a story that Rucka contributed to and doesn’t shy away from referencing in this issue. The text is dense with references to the city’s and the character’s past, as Shane pointed out — which for me, is the essential nature of comic books. It reminded me of the thrilling and endless curiosity I had when I started reading comics. Similar to those days of yore I found myself with little continuity queries here: “When did Question and Huntress start working together?” “Is she talking about the Mark of Cain? I don’t remember that in Final Crisis: Revelations.” To my thrill and pleasure, I learned that there are a handful of Renee/Montoya stories by Rucka and Hamner that I still have yet to read. That is my comic book experience: pulling a thread and following it to where it leads: character by character, creator by creator. So the good news is I have some good comic book tales to look forward to. The bad news is that Convergence: The Question may very well be our last Greg Rucka/Renee Montoya tale; especially since we’re likely to see a new version of the character in Detective Comics post-Convergence.

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I think that depicting Two-Face can often be a challenge for artists. He’s one of those characters who doesn’t have a consistent design: sometimes grey hair -– sometimes no hair, sometimes his suit’s half-white sometimes it’s half -– leopard print and he’s been all sorts of colors: blue, pink, red and green. I like Hamner’s choice of giving his Two-Face the ability to grow hair on his head but not being able to grow a beard. It makes no sense and all the sense in the world; comic book science, ya’ll. It looks like Hamner threw in a visual reference to Two-Face’s first interaction with Renee back in “No Man’s Land.” Both then and now he’s wearing a jump suit that he presumably stole from someone else.

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Two-Face was invented as a gimmick, but under the hands of a skilled writer like Rucka he can be a three-dimensional character. In another possible reference to their first interaction, Two-Face’s coin keeps landing on heads so he has been helping her for the duration of Gotham’s imprisonment under the dome. I’m still not clear on why it’s always heads; Rucka seems to be hinting that that somehow might be Telos’ design? The “love triangle” of Two-Face, Harvey Dent and Renee Montoya has been endlessly fascinating and heartbreaking since “No Man’s Land.” There is a love between Montoya and Harvey, but Two-Face stands in between them; that and…ya know, Montoya’s sexuality. As far as I’m aware, this is her first interaction with Two-Face under the guise of The Question (though Harvey says that she has been visiting him every day.) Perhaps she believes that the faceless Question will be able to help Harvey in ways that Montoya can’t; especially given their baggage.

Montoya probably sees a bit of herself in Harvey (minus the homicidal tendencies.) After all, Vic Sage/The Question recruited Montoya when she was in a bit of existential crisis herself. I think that Montoya believes that she can impart Vic’s wisdom to Harvey and maybe finally give him some non-suicidal peace. And of course the issue ends with Batwoman; how could it not? Ever since The New 52 launched, fans have been begging to see Renee and Kate Kane reunite. Two-Face, Renee and Batwoman is the true love triangle and it will be interesting to see all of those elements come to a head in part 2.

I loved the hell out of this issue. I wish we had it as an ongoing title; at the very least I wish that it wasn’t only a two-parter. I’m very much looking forward to the next issue, especially to see if any multiversal elements come into play. Here’s some food for thought: remember in Final Crisis when Renee was made a leader of a global (multiversal) peace agency by Checkmate? What happened to that??

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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?

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