Today, Spencer leads a discussion about Convergence 6, Aquaman 2, Batman: Shadow of the Bat 2, Catwoman 2, Green Arrow 2, Justice League International 2, Suicide Squad 2, Supergirl: Matrix 2, and Superman: The Man of Steel 2.
Spencer: Early in Convergence, when first issuing his decree that the various cities fight for their survival, Telos declared that if anybody refused to fight, or tried to team-up and work against him, both their cities would be destroyed. It was a threat he made good on almost immediately by destroying the people of Kandor, and as a plot point, it forced confrontations between the cities that otherwise probably wouldn’t have happened. In this week’s Convergence tie-ins, though, that decree officially becomes moot as team after team decide to quit fighting and instead take Telos on together. Cooperation — or, at least, attempts at cooperation — is the name of the game in Week Six.
Spencer: After five issues focusing almost exclusively on the heroes of Earth-2, Convergence 6‘s scope practically explodes, incorporating heroes from all the previous established cities plus the New 52 — and frankly, I couldn’t be more excited. All I’ve ever wanted from this event was all of DC’s old characters interacting, and Convergence 6 has that in spades. It even throws a few fun Easter Eggs in for good measure, like this recreation of the historic “Flash of Two Worlds” story (which, incidentally, was the first time DC acknowledged the multiverse, making this quite a timely reference).
Of course, some of the previous issues’ flaws still remain — outside of Grayson’s interactions with Superman and Telos there’s not much of an emotional core to the story, and Deimos is a remarkably generic villain — but the sheer spectacle helps to make up for these weaknesses in a way the previous issues’ repetitive fight scenes and circuitous arguments never could. This isn’t a perfect comic by any means, but it’s finally fun, and that’s all I ever wanted from Convergence in the first place.
Drew: And I’ll take dumb fun over grim monotony any day. I’m still not sure why it took six weeks to finally turn into the punch ’em up this series was always pitched as (I really could have done without last week’s diversion), but I’m happy the action is finally here. Seeing the heroes recognize each other as allies was the optimistic shot-in-the-arm this series needed to make the fighting fun, and the reveal of Deimos’ army gave us a villain we don’t have to feel bad about defeating.
Michael: The ‘90s: a foil variant-covered decade of violence, testosterone and endless crossovers in comic books. Convergence: Aquaman 2 is the showdown between bearded and hook-handed Aquaman and the Wildstorm mercenary sociopath named Deathblow; the ‘90s is strong with this one. Patrick and I took issue with the fact that Tony Bedard and Cliff Richards’ first chapter did a little more “telling than showing.” So even if this concluding chapter lays it on thick with the violence, it does actually engage the reader in the present moment. Since Deathblow is more heavily-featured than he was last issue (and his name is…Deathblow), the violence level is amped up considerably. After Deathblow takes out five S.T.A.R. Labs geeks, his fight is mainly with Aquaman, who is being assisted over the intercom Oracle-style by Dane Dorrance.
I’m not quite sure what Bedard wants us to take away from this issue. Last issue seemed to want us to believe that Orin is a noble hero who has been weathered and worn by tragedy who just wants to be left alone. This issue seems to argue that Orin is a weapon who is not to be underestimated. Dorrance pretty much states that he was counting on Orin’s savagery to win the day, saying that he’s more dangerous than Batman. Is the lesson that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire? If a regenerating mercenary comes at you, you’ve gotta straight-up drain the bastard of his blood? Seems kinda morose. And like a Wolverine story.
Patrick: Yeah, I’m not totally sure either. He’s obviously setting up a fight between fucking 90s-ass motherfuckers, and then letting that fight reach its inevitably grim conclusion. Aquaman beats Deathblow, and the priority of the issue seems clear: a DC hero trumps a Wildstorm hero. Period. It’s almost sad when you consider how bad Deathblow tried to defeat Aquaman within the confines of his own world, using both the D.E.O. files and a D.E.O. system to his advantage. Essentially, the Wildstorm character attempts to play by the DC character’s rules, and he still fails. I know I often fault that 90s-aesthetic for the New 52’s failure to integrate the Wildstorm heroes into the new universe, but we also gotta remember that Aquaman once embraced that aesthetic too. Aquaman has a bunch of support guys, and at least two of them are wearing shirts with logos of other Justice Leaguers on them (I saw Flash and Green Lantern), strengthening the idea that Aquaman represents the entirety of Team DC. As such: he can never fail, and by extension, Aquaman can never fail. He reminds us in the final words of this issue:
Batman: Shadow of the Bat 2
Mark: There’s not really any story left to tell when it comes to Batman and Azrael, not much that needs wrapping up. Instead,Convergence: Batman: Shadow of the Bat 2 chooses to lay down a lot of runway before it gets going by spending an awful lot of time telling us about young Damon Rodriquez and his battleship tour guide mom Bethany. But I guess what else are you going to do to fill 24 pages?
Like so many tie-ins this week, the back-and-forth between Batman/Azrael and the Wildstorm Universe’s Wetworks team ends with the heroes of both cities deciding to team up and take on Telos. Everyone, that is, besides Azrael, who chooses to stay behind to protect the city (which city? San Diego? The first issue takes place in Metropolis, but this issue starts with Wetworks talking about being on home turf so who knows). It’s a moment designed to provide Azrael with an end to his arc, but his motivation doesn’t really make sense. If Telos isn’t defeated the city is done for anyway so isn’t he needed to help fight Telos, at least for now?
There is one moment that made me laugh, even if I don’t think it was intentional: Mother One strolls in on the final page announcing her support for the team-up after being shoved into a submarine and dropped into the ocean by Azrael and Batman only moments ago. Like the rest of the issue, the moment feels so inorganic, Frankenstein-ed together to fit a narrative that doesn’t make sense for anyone involved.
Patrick: There’s a lot of that inorganic storytelling here. Like, I don’t know how many times the Wetworks guys need to re-emphasize that they’re willing to murder one person in order to save the city. Jesus Christ, guys, we get it: you’re the bad guys!
Drew: In the grand scheme of memorable eras for DC, “Before Zero Hour” doesn’t immediately spring to mind — I’m not sure I could tell you what defines that period of DC’s publishing line. In that same vein, I’m not sure I could tell you what defines Selina Kyle. Is she motivated by greed? Self-interest? A twisted sense of morality? Frustratingly, Justin Gray doesn’t offer any real answers in Convergence: Catwoman 2, throwing everything into the mix before aborting basically all of them in a grand, but ultimately meaningless finale. Even the citizens of Metropolis are painted as totally ambiguous, taking up Manheim’s goal of killing Batman just to stay alive. It was evil when Manheim did it, but what is it when normal people do it?
Turns out, it doesn’t matter! It’s frustratingly ambiguous whether there’s any real intention here. Did that guy mean to shoot Batman? Did Catwoman mean to step in the way? Why? I can appreciate her becoming the protector of her neighborhood, but why would she sacrifice herself to save a complete stranger? That doesn’t seem like something the Selina Kyle I know would do, so either this is a totally unearned heroic moment for her, or she’s changed so much in the year under the dome that she’s simply no longer the character we’re familiar with. In either case, it doesn’t make for a particularly compelling read, banking on a respect for self-sacrifice that this issue never bothers to invest in.
Spencer: I’ll give Gray this much: killing off his protagonist is a ballsy move — I wish more Convergence titles were willing to take such risks (I suppose Suicide Squad tried something similar, but death is commonplace in that book. A permanent death for Catwoman is a much rarer feat). Still, there’s not much to the moment besides the sheer shock value — Catwoman is proving herself to Batman, sure, but the readers have seen throughout the entire mini-series how “good” this particular incarnation of Selina Kyle is, so there’s no real surprise that she’d be willing to sacrifice herself. The moment might pack more emotional punch if Selina was still her amoral self, and even the audience wasn’t sure where her real allegiances fell until that very moment — as written, though, the lack of complexity in Selina’s character undercuts the moment a bit. Also undercutting the moment is some downright cringeworthy dialogue:
“Oww. It really hurts,” as Catwoman lies dying from a bullet wound? Really?! And then there’s poor Ron Randall on pencils — much of his action sequences have some real weight and impact behind them, but he’s saddled with the worst incarnation of Catwoman’s costume in the history of the character, so there’s only so much he can do. That costume kind of describes this book to a T: all surface, no substance.
Green Arrow 2
Patrick: It’s sort of amazing how much Cristy Marx commits to letting Oliver Queen be overwhelmed with his own parenting-related guilt issues. There’s a solid block of two pages at the front of this issue that’s just our four main character’s trying to make sense of who they are to each other. Partly, that’s because it’s confusing: essentially, Green Arrow is confronted by the Kingdom Come version of his ex-wife and the child that they would have had together. All this while trying to get a handle on his brand new relationship with an old son. Ollie, in typical Ollie fashion, attempts to write the whole thing off as “the Twlight Zone version of Family Feud” which doesn’t totally make sense, but it’s clear that none of the other characters have patience for his nonsense either. Ollie never really gets over it, and even though he’s able to understand his ex-wife (sorta) and stop her Canary Cry with a cough-inducing arrow, he’s no nearer to understanding either of “his” children. As a result, he loses, and if we didn’t know better, we’d have to assume that Metropolis is doomed. The moral? Be a more attentive father.
I don’t know what’s going on with Rags Morales’ pencils in this issue. I’m used to seeing a lot of emotive detail from that guy – his work on Identity Crisis and the New 52’s Action Comics are gold standards for acting in comics. Very little of that comes across here. Nei Ruffino’s coloring in particular seems rushed, with color gradients that do little to suggest shape, texture or lighting.
Michael: I’m a sucker for Oliver Queen being a bad dad; for me it’s a trademark of the bearded archer that I dearly miss. Ollie meeting his son and soon after meeting an alternate version of Dinah and future daughter is a great escalation in my opinion. It’s kind of a Christmas Carol-esque lesson, only that Ollie doesn’t get a second chance to make things right with baby Connor. Nevertheless: be a good dad, indeed. I didn’t necessarily have a bad reaction to Rags Morales’ work on the issue, but I agree that compared to a book like Identity Crisis, these characters are pretty mannequin-ish. Since everything about Convergence is innately absurd, I always enjoy when characters address the stupidity of their situation. Before Dinah and Olivia get ‘ported away, Dinah comments on the “random and chaotic” system put in place by Telos. TV writer Christy Marx is relatively new to comics, so it’s possible she’s using her fresh perspective to comment on the random and chaotic nature of the Convergence tie-ins. While an alternate/future version of Dinah Lance and her daughter are a pretty good match for Oliver Queen and Connor Hawke, there are a lot of tie-ins that are far more random in their pairings. If DC Comics is Telos, then the many arbitrary book assignments are the slew of worlds chosen to battle each other.
Green Lantern/Parallax 2
Check back Monday for Patrick and Michael’s full conversation!
Justice League International 2
Spencer: Justice League International has always been the underdog of Justice Leagues, and one thing about underdogs is they’re fun to root for. I suppose that’s what makes Ron Marz and Mike Manley’s Convergence: Justice League International 2 such a gut-punch — the JLI loses their battle against the heroes of Kingdom Come almost entirely off-panel. Despite their loss, the JLI’s city looks safe thanks to Deimos overthrowing Telos in the weekly Convergence series, but watching the team lose is still tremendously depressing, especially since I’m not all that sure what to make of it.
Thankfully, Marz does have a fine handle on Blue Beetle, and this issue’s best moments are the ones that focus on Ted, be it his battle with Wonder Woman, his interactions with his alt-universe counterpart, or his big birthday surprise. I’m also fond of the way Marz and Manley spend the first half of the issue mirroring the two teams, showing exactly how they’re similar and how they’re different — but, again, I’m confused as to what exactly Marz is trying to say about the JLI. They’re cast as the underdogs, the more moral but less powerful team, so what does it mean when their particular brand of justice fails? Whatever the implication, I don’t think I like it too much.
Shane: From a practical standpoint, I don’t think that the JLI could have won their battle against the Kingdom Come forces: it’s always nice to root for the underdogs, but against a team that includes Wonder Woman, Shazam and Jade, they were pretty plainly outmatched, and I think Ron Marz knew that, wisely choosing to take the focus off of the battle and instead onto Ted Kord. It’s refreshing to see that Blue Beetle stuck to his guns and refused to compromise himself: he wanted to talk things out instead of jumping right into battle, and even when that wasn’t an option, he managed to take the fight away from innocent bystanders. I’d even consider him meeting his future counterpart, and seeing that he hasn’t changed all that much, validation, in a sense, of the choices he’s made, because if even in this hard future, he’s able to stay true to himself…that’s a pretty great birthday present.
Of course, the continuity nut in me is wondering why suddenly we have Ice in the costume she started wearing right before she died, when everything else doesn’t match that…but I’m not that bothered (although I am baffled as to why artist Mike Manley would suddenly choose to make the switch to that outfit). I’m pretty okay with letting continuity details go, as long as the story is good…and for me, this one definitely was. We’re here to celebrate the Justice League International, and although they’re the underdogs, this issue showcased why we love them: of all the Justice Leagues, they have the most heart.
Suicide Squad 2
Shane: I’d never religiously followed Suicide Squad, but I’ve always had a fondness for the hard-ass that is Amanda Waller. Abstractly on the side of angels, “The Wall” is a firm believer in the ends justifying the means, and if that means she has to align herself with some of the universe’s ultimate villains to save it, so be it. And that’s exactly what’s happened here: although a few Suicide Squad stalwarts remain, Waller’s team has brought in the big guns. Bane, Star Sapphire, Cyborg Superman, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor. It’s a team of total powerhouses, but to take on the seasoned heroes of the Kingdom Come universe, she’ll need it. Frank Tieri seems to have a pretty great handle on these characters and where they were at this point in their careers, giving us a great moment as Star Sapphire sacrifices herself to take out Cyborg Superman—not just for the good of the team, but also as a moment of personal revenge. This isn’t necessarily the most nuanced of the Convergence titles, but for me, it’s exactly what I was looking for: it’s the ultimate Suicide Squad mission, and one in which they live up to their name. If you’ve gotta go, go out with a bang, right?
If you follow the conceit that Convergence is our last chance to see these characters in action, it can be a little sad to see some of them end up dead—but for Suicide Squad, it’s entirely appropriate. That was always the point of the title, that nobody is safe, and with the stakes as high as they are, Tieri just follows that through to its natural conclusion. I was impressed with the amount of emotional weight he was able to give Amanda Waller’s last acts, and her letter to Oracle was unexpectedly poignant. I’d never thought of Waller as a sympathetic character before—I always just assumed she fell naturally and even happily into her role—but for Tieri to change my mind on that so fundamentally and still have it all make sense, I give him major credit.
Drew: You’re absolutely right about how fitting an end this is for the series. You can’t get much more pessimistic than the Suicide Squad, so there was really no other way for them to go. I have to admit to never loving the premise of this series — with no characters to like or even sympathize with, it always seemed more like torture than entertainment to me — but there is some fun to be had in the sheer balls-to-the-wall audacity of it all. Honestly, even with all of the extra guns, I find it hard to believe that the Suicide Squad could ever really make a dent against the Kingdom Come heroes, but in the end, that’s kind of the point — this was a suicide mission all along. I may not be ready to erect any monuments, no matter how hastily assembled they may be, but this issue definitely understood what the last story of this team had to be
Supergirl: Matrix 2
Shane: Admittedly, Keith Giffen comics can occasionally get a little oddball, but as I watched Supergirl and Ambush Bug teleport from reality to reality while engaging in absurd hijinks, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really the second issue of the miniseries, because it reads nothing in tone like the first. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled with how the first issue was completely out of character for Supergirl, Lex Luthor, and Lady Quark—but at least it was fun and felt internally consistent. With this issue, though, I couldn’t tell what was going on, and what even any of the character’s objectives were, because it seemed like they all just changed direction at the drop of a hat. That’s not to say it was a total loss—we had some great artwork by Timothy Green II, and I genuinely did love the occasional moments where Supergirl was the straight character dropped into oddball situations.
But for most of the issue, I was really struggling to keep up—and maybe that’s just how Ambush Bug comics work. I’ve actually never read one, but I know that it’s Keith Giffen’s outlet for absurd comic book meta-commentary, and maybe in this issue it just went straight over my head. Perhaps an Ambush Bug fan would find a lot to love here—but I came to this series looking for a chance to revisit the Matrix Supergirl, and feel pretty lost. Did you have any better luck with this insanity, Spencer?
Spencer: A bit, and I think the key to understanding Ambush Bug — and thus, this issue — comes on the very last page:
Ambush Bug is Bugs Bunny — or, perhaps, more accurately, this whole issue is just one big wacky Looney Toons tale. You’re right, Shane, that Ambush Bug’s motives seem to shift on a whim, and I spent much of the issue wondering why he was so eager to flee from Supergirl myself. Honestly, it barely matters. Ambush Bug is just a joke engine here, zapping Supergirl and Lady Quark across the worlds of Convergence in order to tell as many jokes as possible, and fortunately, almost all of them land for me. In a way I admire how Giffen just does what he wants here, Convergence be damned — and, in fact, Ambush Bug’s stubborn refusal to help Luthor and Supergirl could very well be a mirror of Giffen’s feelings towards the whole crossover. After six straight weeks of Convergence I was ready for an issue like this, but it’s certainly a letdown for anybody looking for a straight-up nostalgia trip like the other tie-ins provide. Sorry, Matrix Supergirl fans.
Superman: The Man of Steel 2
Patrick: In retrospect, I don’t know how I had the patience for this, but as a kid I watched Dragon Ball Z up to and through the destruction of Namek. The last like five or six hours of that was just Goku and Feeza duking it out on a deserted planet (one that would ultimately be a casualty of their fight). At no point did any of that action seem to matter, not even to the two participants. That’s basically how I feel about Convergence: Superman Man of Steel 2. When we rejoin our hero, he’s bed-ridden — paralyzed — until those dome-based nano-bots are injected into his body and he become some sort of Super Steel. It apparently comes at no cost and only takes as much time as it takes for Gen 13 to beat Parasite into the ground. The whole Steel family is present, but hilariously inactive until it’s basically already over. Steel’s big contribution to the issue is calling “ENOUGH” (I hear ya, buddy, I heard ya) and rushing to the “let’s all work together” conclusion that the rest of these tie-ins also don’t earn. Hey, but maybe we finally get an explanation for the earthquake?
The backgrounds throughout the issue are frustratingly detail-less and many of the action beats suffer for not having a clear sense of space. Or really: any sense of space. Look at that image above – Steel’s hitting… something… probably? Louise Simonson’s script never pretends to be anything more than a DBZ-style slugfest, it’s just too bad June Brigman’s pencils and John Rauch’s colors couldn’t find a way to make those slugs interesting.
Mark: I’m on the record as enjoying the first issue, but I have to admit the narrative and artistic shortcuts taken this time around really add up in an obnoxious way. I recognize that not every title or issue a comic book publisher releases can be created with the same amount of craft and care, but I get annoyed when the artistry just feels lazy. Take Steel’s transformation into Nano-Partical Enhanced Super Steel. One panel he’s normal, the next his body has been transformed. There’s no narrative explanation for why the change occurs when it does, so it just ends up looking thoughtless. All of the other plot developments are handled in the same vapid way.
I guess my question is if no one at DC cared enough about Steel to put thought or care into his title, why bother using him at all in Convergence? You have a universe of characters to choose from. You could literally pick any of them. Why not one someone had a strong idea for?
Honestly I’m usually pretty okay with a good ol’ mindless slug fest, but boy was this a stinkburger.
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!