Today, Spencer leads a discussion about Convergence 3, Adventure of Superman 1, Batman & the Outsiders 1, Flash 1, Green Lantern Corps 1, Hawkman 1, Justice League of America 1, Superboy & The Legion 1, and Wonder Woman 1.
Spencer: With over 30 issues of Convergence under our belts, the formula’s become pretty clear — every issue covers the same beats, including the effects of living under a dome for a year and Telos’ infuriating speech when the dome finally drops (although to be honest, I stopped reading the speech sometime in the middle of Week 2). While Week 3 can’t help but to follow these same patterns, it’s also by far the most experimental week of Convergence yet. Several issues focus on stories that could have easily been told with these characters outside of the dome, while others are more interested in exploring the Crisis on Infinite Earths backdrop. Whatever the case, this week’s batch of tie-ins is a refreshing change of pace from a pattern that was already starting to grow old.
Spencer: That said, Convergence 3 still feels stuck repeating many of the same beats as the first two issues — including yet another scene of the Earth-2 heroes fighting Telos. Fortunately, by the end of the issue we get not one, but two new revelations (including the reveal that Telos — or at least his minions — have been kidnapping time masters from the Vanishing Point, something regular Retcon Punch reader Mogo has been speculating in the comments for a while now), but almost everything else before that point just feels like writer Jeff King spinning his wheels. Despite Grayson’s poignant eulogy, even Thomas Wayne’s death comes across more as page-filler than a touching heroic sacrifice. The Gotham villains just show up, kill Thomas, and are then disposed of as quickly as they arrived — there’s no real point to the scene besides taking Batman out of the equation in the least relevant way possible. Convergence 3 isn’t without its charms — it was awesome seeing the flying Batmobile again, and King’s crafted fun voices for Yolanda, Flash, and Grayson (even if the rest of the cast spouts some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in years) — but all-in-all, it’s a rather disappointing installment.
Patrick: Yeah: talk about putting your worst foot forward. (I don’t know about everyone else, but I always start with the weekly and then start to cherry pick from the tie-ins. There’s never been any evidence that I should be reading them this way — in fact, the tie-ins usually have more to do with each other than any one of them has to do with the weekly — but that’s my ritual nonetheless.) Even with all those cool Batman villains showing up (Professor Pyg! Dr. Hurt!! Flamingo!!!), Thomas Wayne eating it didn’t really do anything for me either. I mean, he’s Thomas Wayne: he’s supposed to be dead. I was oddly moved by the death of Kandor’s Nightwing. I love that poor, perpetually-bottled city, and I further love the depiction of the Kryptonians (even their superheroes) as pacifists against all odds. When Telos murders Nightwing, all that pacifism goes right out the window. The moral? Give pacifists enough guns and they’ll start shooting?
Adventures of Superman 1
Spencer: Convergence — as well as pretty much every other event comic ever conceived — wouldn’t exist without the model provided by Crisis on Infinite Earths. It seems appropriate, then, that writer Marv Wolfman (who also wrote CoIE) keeps Convergence: Adventures of Superman 1 more focused on the impending Crisis, and all the horror it will bring, than Telos’ tournament. While the plot of this issue follows Superman and Supergirl as they venture into the Phantom Zone in an attempt to breach the dome, the real fun comes from witnessing how brave, spunky, skilled, powerful, and ultimately, inspirational Supergirl has become. I cheered when Kara started taking out Phantom Zone thugs like she was Solid Snake, yet felt my heart break when Kara discovered she was going to die in the upcoming Crisis — and quickly came to grips with it after sorting through her emotions in a sequence expertly captured by artist Roberto Viacava.
It would be easy to write off the kind of heroism demonstrated by Supergirl and Superman as old-fashioned, but that would be a grave error. There’s more need than ever for their selfless example, and Supergirl would be proud to know that her heroic sacrifice was still inspiring so many even thirty years later.
Michael: I’m not quite clear why they didn’t just call this issue Convergence: Supergirl, maybe it would be too confusing with last week’s Supergirl Matrix issue? Either way, as Spencer mentioned this is a great story for Supergirl, who shines as a true hero. I don’t think that this type of heroism is old fashioned; but it is the type that is sorely lacking in many of DC’s titles these days, Superman books especially. I totally didn’t put 2 and 2 together with the Marv Wolfman Crisis connection for some reason. It’s definitely a cool thing that he can return to that character and write a bittersweet send off for a character he sacrificed. It reminds me of a similar Flash story where Barry Allen travels to the future and teams up with Wally before heading back in time to Crisis, where he knows he will die. This is a very messianic type move, but characters like Supergirl and Barry are the types of heroes that can sell that kind of move. This is another book that didn’t even reach its Convergence moment with Telos, and frankly I like that.
Batman & the Outsiders 1
Patrick: Now, this is what I’m talking about. Writer Marc Andreyko and artist Carlos D’anda tap into the fundamental building blocks of the character of each of the Outsiders and examines what it means to be those characters trapped under the dome without powers. For some members, it’s liberating — Metamorpho can finally enjoy the simple pleasures of touching another human — for others, it’s a prison — Katana can’t get Gabriel the medical attention she needs — for still others it’s business as usual — Black Lightning and Geo-Force have redirected the their civic mindedness toward rebuilding. Construction work may be a poor substitute for crime fighting, but most of BL and GF’s frustrations play out in their faces, subtly rendered by D’anda.
I love how efficiently this “New Normal” (the title of the issue) is established. Black Lightning’s life is established in a single page, and Metamorpho, Katana and Geo-Force get two each. When D’anda gets the opportunity to jump-cut around to everyone experiencing their typical day under the dome, there’s a very lived-in quality to the grind. Andreyko then very smartly doles out the Telos monologue one line at a time, taking special care to match up each phrase with a potent image from the multitude of tops set in motion in the first dozen pages. The best part is how explosive it feels when the dome finally does come down: D’anda gives us four straight pages of six-panel layouts leading up to this moment, and then blows the doors of the thing with slanty three-panel pages depicting the sudden change that comes with the fall of the dome. I damn near cheered at that splash of Geo-Force soaring high above the city, watching the remnants of the dome vanish. And I’ve never used “Geo-Force” in a sentence before.
Drew: I’m right there with you on all of that. Aside from a brief cameo during Batman, Incorporated, I’m totally unfamiliar with the Outsiders, but this issue managed to get me fully invested in their struggles. I was particularly moved by Metamorpho’s story here, as he’s granted a normal life only to have it stripped away. Happiness has been hard to come by during Convergence, so Metamorpho’s bliss, however fleeting, felt totally unlike anything else we’ve seen this month. Actually, the personal nature of all of the Outsider’s reactions to the dome are unique — virtually every other hero has gone into hiding with the loss of their powers, while the Outsiders continue to help out in their full costumes. Andreyko lampshades this phenomenon briefly in Black Lightning’s conversation with one of the construction workers. They ultimately laugh it off, but the fact that a superhero’s powers transcend their metahuman abilities is a note that surprisingly few of the Convergence tie-ins have touched upon.
Spencer: Although he’s had a few rough patches, Barry Allen has always been a lighthearted, optimistic character (which seems appropriate considering that he kick-started the Silver Age of comics). Dan Abnett and Frederico Dallocchio use that reputation to great effect in Convergence: The Flash 1, as it allows them to contrast Barry’s normally sunny life to his dull new existence under the dome. There’s a slow, deliberate pace to the first two-thirds of this issue as Abnett and Dallocchio show us Barry’s lonely new routine from a close, intimate perspective. This Barry is bereft of the love of his life, bereft of his fantastic abilities, and unable to help his city or his world. Barry’s frustrations seem clearest when he vents to Bruce about how the heroes always save the day, “so why can’t we now?”, which plays like a clashing of Barry’s idealistic Silver Age roots against the grittier realism of his current Bronze Age existence. The time Abnett and Dallocchio spend establishing Barry’s dissatisfaction with life under the dome pays big dividends when his powers finally return — there’s a palpable, infectious joy to the scene.
It’s clear just how much being the Flash means to Barry, and I only hope this sense of fun and wonder finds its way into this series’ conclusion.
Drew: I’m honestly not sure if its a testament to the strength or limitations of the premise of Convergence that so many writers are mining the pre-speech moments to examine the world without their titular heroes. That’s a particularly poignant theme for pre-Crisis Barry Allen, which may be why his return to form is so cathartic. It’s a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too moment, for sure, but it allows us to appreciate just how great Barry Allen is before he made that ultimate sacrifice. His is the first story to make me wonder if his in-continuity fate will be paralleled here, which is kind of a downer thought, but since that sacrifice was such a defining moment for the character, it’s hard to imagine a representation of him without it.
Green Lantern Corps 1
Michael: Patrick and I wrote about last week’s Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax 1 recently. While I enjoyed that Convergence tie-in very much, I think that David Gallaher and Ande Parks’ Convergence: Green Lantern Corps 1 definitely tops that and most other Convergence tie-ins. Making this particular issue a success is no small feat either, since it basically has three protagonists: John Stewart, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner in the leading role. All three Green Lanterns are soldiers-turned-veterans because of Telos’ dome falling over Gotham. Gardner woke up from his coma to find himself in trapped in Gotham with the rest of the pre-Crisis folks, searching for a way to somehow keep on being Guy Gardner. Stewart himself has somewhat settled back into his architectural roots, but also yearns to wear the ring once more. We discover that Hal has kind of gone batshit crazy. Once the dome lifts, both of them head out to once again save the world.
I’d say that the best Convergence tie-ins are the ones that put off the Telos “Convergence moment” as long as possible. It was really compelling to see our three Earth lanterns so very discombobulated after being cut off from what has defined them. For a post-Crisis reader like myself it was interesting to see the trio at such a relatively early point in their GL careers – Gardner had really only been a Lantern for like a day, right? Patrick, were you a big fan of this issue like me? I know that you liked seeing nutso Hal in the last GL Convergence book, was it a treat for you to see him holed-up like Howard Hughes trying to get back to the stars?
Patrick: You bet it was. Again, this comes back to my brand-new thesis that Green Lanterns are powerful expressions of what the stories about them have turned them into. Everyone else gets to have an origin story, but being a GL is so goddamn traumatic that it’s like an on-going origin story. I love how this issue doesn’t shy away from this fact, and actually sort of leans in to Guy’s victimhood. Being a GL sucked for him, and now that trauma is affecting his ability to work and get simple, necessary administrative tasks completed. It’s a very real depiction of non-functionality, and my heart breaks for him. Also, that first page fake-out was positively adorable. More one-offs, tie-ins, and minis could win me over with scenes of kids pretending to be Justice Leaguers, and I’d never complain. Never.
Shane: A recurring theme amongst these Convergence tie-ins has been that, even in these most trying of times, the heroes do all that they can to inspire and reassure those trapped in the cities with them. It’s something I appreciate — the notion that heroics aren’t just about your special powers, but about one’s desire to do the right thing — but frankly, of all the characters, I did not expect the Hawks to go that route. And yet, Jeff Parker lines the first half of the issue with that concept, including a genuinely touching speech from Shayera Hol as she reveals her identity to reassure those around her.
And although the Convergence dome remains ever-present in this issue, equally of importance are Hawkman staples — refugees from Thanagar, the Absorbascon, Shadow Warriors, and just plain genuine science-fiction fun. I was never that versed in this era of Hawkman, but Parker’s concise writing makes it so that I don’t have to be — in fact, it makes me want to track down the back-issues. And with classic Hawkman artist Tim Truman on these pages, there’s fantastic visual consistency, as well. This is probably one of the rare Convergence tie-ins that will please longtime and new-fans alike, and for that, I applaud the creative team for a job well done.
Patrick: I think I was mostly charmed by that Shareya’s speech in the museum because it played all the themes that Convergence has been playing: namely the idea that mashing up all these disparate characters and concepts is a compelling idea of its own accord. I also thought it was really cool that the Thanagaran refugees somehow figured out what was happening before the dome came down – it implies that there’s a little extra wisdom coming from these characters. But I’ll also admit to chortling at the design of those Manhawks. Looks, I know we can take Man-Bat totally seriously and he’s scary and a classic villain and all that, but I don’t think that formula works for everyone. I wouldn’t be intimidated by Man-Super, would you?
Justice League of America 1
Mark: Do you think when Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton created Vibe they had aspirations that he would someday become as big as Batman or Superman? Every great team needs bench players. For every Michael Jordan, there’s a Jason Caffey. Never a superstar, but gets the job done. Convergence: Justice League of America 1 is all about those second-string players. Led by Elongated Man, the Detroit Justice League knows they’re considered a bit of a joke, but when the dome falls it’s up to them to protect the citizens of Gotham from the Secret Six of the Tangent Universe.
I like writer Fabian Nicieza’s idea that most of these are less polished heroes. This team doesn’t have Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to lead them. Their heavy hitters are Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Zatanna. And unlike what we’ve seen in other Convergence titles, the members of the Detroit Justice League are not immediately ready to snap into action as soon as their powers return. These guys are out of practice, they’re less skilled, and the most interesting part of the issue is the brief time they spend in the gym working out their new powers. I’m always a sucker for a story about a rag tag group of misfits making good.
Spencer: Definitely, and it looks like also a sucker for Sue Dibny’s narration. She’s just close enough to the team to have some enlightening insights into how they work, but just far enough removed to have some perspective, and her relationship with Ralph is a strong emotional core for a book that doesn’t quite have the space to delve into the feelings of each of its characters.
I’m also rather fond of the art of Chriscross and the colors of Snakebite. Neither are perfect — there’s a few points where Chriscross’ faces are a bit too detailed and instead become grotesque, and the effects Snakebite use to show Vibe’s vibrational abilities are a bit garish — but in general they do strong work. I love the effects that accompany Zatanna’s spells and Chriscross’s dynamic posing (and the complex way he continually stretches Elongated Man across the page), and when the two put their mind to it, they come up with some absolutely iconic moments:
Let’s make this a poster and send it to everyone scarred by Identity Crisis.
New Teen Titans 1
Superboy & The Legion 1
Shane: For the Legion of Super-Heroes, it can sometimes be too easy to lose track of what makes each character distinct, outside of their powers. Faced with a setting where each Legionnaire is left without their abilities, Stuart Moore delves deeply in to the core of each character. Superboy, a living legend still trying to figure out who he is, even as he inspires all around him. Brainiac 5, whose arrogance masks a worry that even his intelligence won’t be enough. Moore even focuses on the non-powered aspects of each character’s history to provide them a role in the Convergence dome, creating what is arguably the most functional Convergence city we’ve yet seen. This atmosphere, however, is held together by a thread, and when the dome comes down and the Atomic Knights storm 30th Century Metropolis, it all risks falling apart. I understand the appeal of pairing off one DC future of the Crisis-era publishing line against another, but I also can’t help but wonder if DC is missing a huge opportunity.
As Superboy and Ultra Boy argue over what saving their world might actually mean, it struck me that a notable portion of Superboy’s narrative in this issue dealt with how he has multiple homes — Krypton, the 20th Century Smallville, and the 30th Century. What if, instead of the Atomic Knights, the Legion was pitted against one of Superboy’s other home cities, forcing him to make a choice? That lost opportunity aside, this issue has easily been one of the best Convergence titles I’ve read this far, and makes me truly miss the Legion amongst DC’s publishing line. Spencer, I know that you aren’t nearly the Legion fan I am, but you said that you really enjoyed this issue — what made it work so well for you?
Spencer: You touched on what I like best, Shane, when you mentioned how functional the Legion’s domed city is. At one point Superboy talks about how the 30th Century was always a bit of a fantasy escape for him, and despite the dome, Moore still keeps the fantasy of the Legion alive. Even without their powers, the costumed kids of the Legion keep the dome running, work with the police, and continue to inspire the populace, all while dealing with their own problems. It’s still a surprisingly utopian future, but one that respects its history (be it the legacy of Superboy or the Legion’s own complicated past), and I dunno, there’s just something appealing to me about that combination.
Swamp Thing 1
Wonder Woman 1
Drew: I hate to let issues of gender dominate every conversation I have about Wonder Woman — she’s a fascinating character above and beyond the fact that she’s a woman — but as a feminist icon, it’s hard to ignore those issues. Convergence: Wonder Woman 1 offers a perfect example: we might take a fight with a group of religious zealots at face value if this were a different character, but because it’s Wonder Woman, the feminist undertones seem to step to the fore. Why else would the zealots all be women? Why else would their regressive views be shown only to harm women? It’s a loaded situation, but writer Larry Hama smartly cuts through it all by keeping the focus tight on Diana’s characterization.
She’s caring and compassionate, even in the face of beliefs she thinks are silly. She’s going to defend Vera’s rights to those beliefs no matter what. That Diana is then silenced by a bunch of zealots who think she represents Satan gets close to being too on-the-nose as a parable against censorship, but the vampires quickly arrive to kick off some action. Those vampires feel every bit like they’re being dropped in from another world, which is obviously the point, but it definitely shifts the gears from whatever philosophical debate this series was engaging in before they arrive.
This was a rare week where we had something to say about every single tie-in. In future weeks, expect a few more holes in our pull list – holes that you’re encouraged to fill with your comments. In the meantime, let’s keep talking about Convergence!