Today, Shane leads a discussion about Convergence 7, Adventures of Superman 2, Batman & the Outsiders 2, Green Lantern Corps 2, Hawkman 2, Justice League of America 2, Superboy & The Legion 2, Swamp Thing 2, and Wonder Woman 2.
Shane: I’m not saying that it’s easy to write a story, but there’s still a basic structure that, if followed, makes the work a bit simpler. You’re going to set the stage and introduce the characters, before moving on to a rising action to give way to the ultimate conflict. Eventually, you’ll turn everything on its head with the climax of the story and begin to settle various plot points, before eventually drawing up an ending. Convergence is no different, and even though the series has been split into eight main issues, these five have all been strongly represented (so far, at least—we aren’t at the conclusion yet!)—but it’s been equally fascinating to see how each two-issue miniseries uses this story structure, as well. Notably, with this month’s final issues, we’ve seen a lot of titles subvert the classic formula, offering conclusions but still sending their characters onward and back into the main event. It’s been done in some cases better than others (I’m now just as sick of the earthquake as I was Telos’ speech in the first month), but it’s refreshing to see that even if a miniseries is the last time we’ll see a character star, their story has at least the potential to continue.
Shane: And if anything was the climax in this story, boy, we’ve hit it here. To be honest, I’d assumed Deimos taking over was the biggest shift in the story, but it’s pretty clear that Telos and the heroes overcoming Deimos and his forces, setting lose an unstoppable wave of destruction…this is the game changer. The stakes in this event have never been higher, and with the chaos of Convergence spilling out into the New 52, the implications for what will come next become a little staggering. DC’s toyed recently with re-integrating their various reboots into the New 52 (as opposed to ignoring them almost entirely since the launch of their new line), and with this issue, they’re blatantly throwing that idea in our face, showing off multiple eras of characters—including phases that DC has tried pretty hard to get us to forget.
Electric Blue Superman? Linda Danvers Supergirl? DC has gone out of their way to avoid those runs, but here they’ve embraced those changes full-on. It’s all part of their dynamic publishing history, and after all, Convergence is all about celebrating everything that came before (even it if may ultimately be the end of what we hold dear.) To be honest, this is one of the stronger issues of the main event, in my opinion. Aaron Loprestri does some great work as this week’s artist, providing some great work in the extended fight scenes, and by shifting the emphasis to Telos and Yolanda Montez (instead of Dick Grayson), I’ve found myself able to get a much stronger grasp on the emotional aspect of this event. I even appreciated the use of Scott Lobdell’s Watcher-stand-in, The Oracle, because it makes this event significant not just to DC’s publishing history, but to the future of the New 52. I don’t know if I would have ever said this about an earlier issue of Convergence…but I’m really excited for next week’s issue.
Michael: It’s time for the resident cynic to weigh in; I was not as taken by this issue as Shane. Sure the stakes are high, but I have never felt their weight. Instead I’ve seen a series of pointless power shifts on both sides of a struggle that (naturally) threatens “all of reality!” The “alliance of bad guys teaming up to rule everything” setup feels as empty as it did in Forever Evil. What is particularly frustrating is the lack of concern for continuity. Not only are there snafus like having the currently “retired” Guy Gardner back as a Red Lantern last week, then inexplicably drawn as a Green Lantern this issue, but Convergence tie-ins seem to be completely neglected. Superwoman died in the Crime Syndicate tie-in, but here she is getting whacked by Harley Quinn’s mallet. Look, I’m not naïve enough to believe that an event on this scale can cover all their bases with every single book. But when the tie-ins are SUPREMELY better than the event in question, it sticks out a whole lot more.
Adventures of Superman 2
Mark: After a strong first issue, buoyed in part by only acknowledging Convergence’s required battle-of-worlds at the very end, Convergence: Adventures of Superman 2 takes a bit of a step back with a bifurcated issue that tries to pay-off Kara’s strong story arc from the first, while also incorporating Kamandi and the obligatory battling, talking animals of his planet. It’s a lot to wrangle, and the focused simplicity of the first issue gets lost in the commotion.
The future Earth that Kamandi inhabits is pretty explicitly a Planet of the Apes riff, so if nothing else I was pleased to see that General Symian’s Ultimate Weapon is a nuclear warhead straight out of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Sure, Superman’s plan doesn’t make sense (I’m pretty sure he could have found the warhead without being captured via any of his many super powers), but Marv Wolfman makes the best of what he has.
It’s middle-of-the-road as far as the tie-ins go, but in one last bit of Convergence wonkiness the issue ends by encouraging us to continue the story by picking up Convergence 6—the issue of the weekly that was released last week. I feel like I’ve enjoyed Convergence more than most, but even I can admit it’s been pretty, pretty sloppy.
Spencer: I agree with you, Mark, about how splitting the focus of the story to also incorporate Kamandi makes this issue feel a lot messier and less satisfying than the first. I do have to say, though, that I respect how Wolfman continues to have as little to do with the actualConvergence concept as possible. I mean, this is essentially Superman and Supergirl guest-starring in a Kamandi story — there’s no battle between cities or anything of that sort going on here. Is it a bad sign that I’m rooting for the creators who are purposely trying to subvert the guidelines of the very crossover they’re participating in?
I have slightly mixed feelings about how Wolfman tackles Supergirl’s handling of the knowledge that she’s going to die. On the one hand, I can admire how all-business Kara is about it, accepting it rather quickly and instead focusing on making sure that Clark survives so that he can save the world. That’s some grade “A” heroics, right there. But Kara discovering that she’s destined to die is such a strong concept that I’m disappointed that we don’t get to explore the effect it has on her more closely. Also, again, I love that Kara’s instinct is to protect Clark, and it’s quite appropriate when facing down the Phantom Zone mob, but it feels more irrational when they’re facing talking animals whose strongest attacks can’t even singe them. I dunno, I get what Wolfman’s going for, but I do wish it had been all handled with a bit more focus and clarity. As it is, this is a fine adventure story, but not quite as memorable as its first installment.
Batman & the Outsiders 2
Drew: A two-act structure doesn’t always make for the most elegant storytelling. Any one of the more common three acts, which roughly breaks down to “exposition,” “rising action,” and “resolution,” must either be significantly compressed or eliminated completely. Marc Andreyko and Carlos D’anda left plenty of space for their first act to breathe in Batman and the Outsiders 1, which left issue two to pick up both the rising action and resolution of their story. It has all the potential to be an overstuffed, mess, but they manage to turn that morass into an effectively chaotic battle between O.M.A.C. and the Outsiders. D’anda leans into that chaos, delivering page after page of propulsive action.
Of course, all of that fighting doesn’t leave a ton of space to resolve character arcs. All of the groundwork Andreyko laid in the first issue about Black Lighting and Geoforce’s civic-mindedness, or Katana’s worry over Halo’s condition falls by the wayside, but he does leave space to reflect on my favorite thread: Metamorpho’s humanity. His sense of loss at the end of the issue is downright heartbreaking, even as he tries to keep a stiff upper lip about it. Was that moment as effective for you as it was for me, Michael?
Michael: I’ve always liked Metamorpho – he’s kinda DC’s version of The Fantastic Four’s Thing. Like Ben Grimm, Rex Mason is the Beast who longs to be transformed back into a man and be with his “Beauty.” Carlos D’anda accentuates the monsterish by making Rex’s re-transformation ghastly and gruesome. Rex is horrified that he has hurt his lady love Sapphire Stagg and to cap it off, his face starts melting off as he evaporates to join the team. He knows that ultimately the fall of the dome is a good thing for everyone else, but dammit does it suck for him. Buddy Blank has a similar struggle (albeit more Jekyll and Hyde than Beauty and the Beast) as he is trapped in his OMAC form, controlled by Godmother.
Despite the unfortunate two-issue mandate, there is a lot to like about Convergence: Batman and the Outsiders. Marco Andreyko provided ample character development on each team members. It was also a good move by Andreyko (or DC editorial) to have the Outsiders face a literal One Man Army Corps so the character focus didn’t have to be split even further. I think D’anda’s art is fantastic. Besides his work on the Arkham Citytie-ins and the short-lived Image Comics Star Wars, he hasn’t been featured nearly enough in mainstream books. He’s clearly gotten the hang of drawing the Dark Knight and he made the original Black Lightning costume look damn cool. There are several instances of more traditional layouts, but the majority of that consists of trapezoid sliver panels that are fighting amongst themselves amidst the action. The only minimal complaint I might have is that this pre-Crisis tale is told in a very modern tone. But, ya know, whatever.
Green Lantern Corps 2
“Look, every great crew in history has followed that basic dynamic, right? Looks, brains, wildcard. Think about it! The A-Team did it. Scooby Doo did it. The Ghostbusters did it!”
Mac, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
And he wins! Guy’s impulsive, aggressive attitude has led to him being hated by many, both in-universe and out (one punch!), so it’s nice to see those same aspects of his personality shown as an asset, be it by allowing him to overcome his fear (proving once and for all that he belongs in the Corps) or by allowing him to rescue his friends and become the perfect final piece of their three-part god killing machine. Guy’s adventures here are some of the most wild, entertaining moments in all of Convergence, and they lead to perhaps the most-earned happy ending of the whole event. Good job, Guy.
Drew: I have to admit to never really being a huge Guy Gardner fan. I don’t know if it’s the cocky attitude or the bad haircuts, but he’s always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Last month’s issue actually went a long way to mitigating that distate, focusing on psychology that’s several layers deeper than I’ve ever really given Guy credit for. Unfortunately, this issue all but erases that goodwill, bringing up Guy’s panic attacks only to discard them altogether in favor of Guy winning the day by sheer brashness. Indeed, his problems seem to all be solved with a different “one punch,” this one magically clearing the air between him and Hal.
That’s a great final panel, but I just don’t think punching Hal in the face actually gets us there. Or maybe I really just can’t relate to Guy.
Patrick: Last month, Shane pointed out just how damn Hawk-y the first issue in this mini-series was. I didn’t really spot it — for me, what was compelling about the Hawks wasn’t all the Thanagarian nonsense, but their supernatural love for each other. This time ’round, the impossible romance is brought to the fore, and I feel like I’m reading my favorite version of the Katar and Shayera. I’ll admit to being mostly in the dark about what else is going on in this issue — or even what world these bat- and rat-people come from — but it sorta doesn’t matter. Writer Jeff Parker motivates his rat-men with some poetic justice, allowing them to destroy Gotham with the same gas that forced their own ancestors to mutate into blah blah blah. Katar and Shayera don’t really want to get bogged down in the specifics either — they’re too busy reminiscing about the circumstances that first brought them together. It’s achingly sweet, and the fact that it all plays out while they’re stripped of their armor and strapped to a rocket only serves to heighten the Hawk-eroticism.
Timothy Truman’s Kubert-esque line work accentuates the sinewy builds of the characters, making every thing unapologetically sexier. Said sexiness is so much more rewarding when you consider how good this couple is for each other. They’re in sync, mind and body, and there’s some beautiful artwork later in the issue, when they share a vision of the past and future. In the end, the Hawks decide that all they need is each other and in that way, declare their ending as happy on their own terms. I thought this was a beautiful issue, especially John Kalisz’ colors on those last two pages — did you enjoy it as much as I did Spencer?
Spencer: Absolutely Patrick, and like you, I especially enjoy how in-sync Katar and Shayera are, both in and out of battle. The “sci-fi barbarian” tone of the Thanagarian version of Hawks is a perfect match for the backwards technology of the Kamandi world, making the two teams natural enemies, but the best part of the battle is how well Katar and Shayera fight together, how easily each understands the others’ abilities and strategies. It’s effortless for them, and a joy to watch.
And that ending — man, that ending.
The Hawks see the end of reality as they know it — be it in Convergence or Crisis on Infinite Earths — but they also begin to see new realities forming. It’s a reminder that, even when this version of the Hawks ceased to exist, new ones came into place for the audience to enjoy. But Katar and Shayera don’t need it — all they need is each other — and this is a beautiful example of the way characters live on even after their books (or continuities!) cease to be published. As long as love for the characters still exists, as long as their old stories or even just the memories of them are still around in some form, they’ll continue to live on. I can’t think of a more beautiful end for this couple — or any character, really.
Justice League of America 2
Spencer: Out of all the various iterations of the Justice League, the Detroit League has the unfortunate distinction of being known as the “worst League ever.” These eight heroes never had a chance to prove their naysayers wrong during their original run, so it’s up to Fabian Nicieza to give them the opportunity to do just that. We actually see two different types of naysayers represented by characters in the issue itself, with Sue Dibny representing fans who wanted to like the Detroit League but just weren’t taken by it, and Vicki Vale filling in as the readers who openly and aggressively opposed the team. By the end of Convergence: Justice League of America 2, both have been won over by the team and its new members — just as the readers likely are — thanks to their bravery and perseverance.
Meanwhile, Chriscross and Snakebite Cortez put in an impressive showing on art; the action can occasionally be a little hard to follow, but the composition itself is always dynamic, and the colors and effects look like nothing else we’ve seen in Convergence. It’s an impressive showing for a surprisingly deserving group of characters.
Patrick: I always find that I have a hard time sussing out the action in a Chriscross comic — and the sheer number of characters in play here didn’t help matters any. That become doubly true whenever Vibe and the Flash are on the page, as the visual chaos generated by their powers tends to muddy up the scene even further. Cortez is quick to make outrageous color choices — employing a vast array of palettes to express magic, action, fire, explosions, and even more simple concepts like motion. I may not always be able to track who is where (and who is capable of doing what), but Cortez’ coloring tells the tale pretty damn effectively.
That’s a pretty bold mix of stylized and… differently stylized. I wish I could head praise as unilaterally on Chriscross, but in addition to the aforementioned lack of clarity, I find some of these faces a little wonky. Also there’s one point Steel throws Vixen over his shoulder and there is some ridiculous bubblebutt going on. Like, just out of control.
New Teen Titans 2
Check back on Wednesday for Spencer and Shane’s full conversation!
Superboy & The Legion 2
Drew: As popular as it is to pit superheroes against one another, there’s always an awkward hangover afterwards where either or both have to excuse why they would fight a stranger (or friend) in the first place. Convergence has largely avoided this by pitting its protagonists against decidedly unheroic versions of DC’s heroes, but Stuart Moore finds a way to maintain the heroism on both sides of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes 2. I can’t claim to have any familiarity with Durvale, but Moore manages to quickly explain how their survivor psychology might cause them to lash out against the Legion. More importantly, it gives Superboy the opportunity to deliver the kind of stirring speech that makes him such a legendary hero of the 20th century.
It’s a touching beat that offers a surprising amount of dignity to the defenders of Durvale. Of course, there’s still plenty of undignified beats for them, as well. I mean, how seriously can you really be taken when you’re riding around on a giant, muzzled dalmatian? That’s not a fault of Moore or artists Peter Gross and Mark Farmer — Durvale is just a goofy as fuck concept, which makes the seriousness they squeeze out of it all the more inspiring.
Shane, I know you’re a fan of the Legion, so I’m curious if you felt like they got a fair shake here — much of the emotional weight seems to fall on Durvale and Superboy. Also, we got some odd exposition about Telos at the end of the issue. Do we care about that?
Shane: Well, I mean, I’m pretty sure the information we got about Telos coincides quite nicely with events in this week’s main Convergence title, as the planet enters the New 52 universe, so there is that nice bit of synchronicity absent from most other tie-ins for this event…but it still seems pretty out of place and just generally unnecessary for this story. After all, we’re not here to explore some tangential super-science plotline — we’re here to see the Legion! But, yeah, Drew, we don’t get a whole lot of that, either. I praised the book last month for showcasing how each member of the Legion was unique even without their powers, but this issue barely acknowledges half the established cast. So that’s a shame, especially as this is probably the only Legion comic we’ll have anywhere in the near future, but at the same time I loved spending time with the Atomic Knights and really getting a feel for those characters. I don’t think most of the Convergence titles treated the alternate-reality antagonists as much more than that, but I could see myself rooting for Gardner Grayle and his crew as they try to save their already-damaged universe from even more pain at any cost. So as a fan of good stories, I really enjoyed this issue and thought that the entire miniseries worked well…but if you came to this looking for a Legion of Super-Heroes story, you’ll probably end up disappointed.
Swamp Thing 2
Patrick: It’s too bad the first issue of this mini was all set-up for “Swamp Thing: Vampire Hunter,” because that means we were only left with one issue of Swampy kicking some undead ass. Granted Lein Wein’s way-compressed method of storytelling means that he’s able to cram quite a bit of vampire murder into a scant 20 pages (and that’s with giving one whole page over to re-cap: unheard of in a DC event). The premise is actually sweet, and totally turns one of the core principles of Convergence on its head — Vampire Batman is ready (almost eager) to sacrifice his vampire-ridden city to help save Swampy’ Gotham. In return VAMPIRE BATMAN AND SWAMP THING TEAM UP TO FIGHT VAMPIRES. Hell yes. We’re the ones who win in that deal. There’s really not much more to it than that: Batman and Swamp Thing set themselves up to do something awesome, then they do something awesome. I love all the plant-based solutions to the vampire problem — fingers are stakes, garlic is everywhere — and it’s just sorta cool to see one of these minis head toward an ending that seems universally positive. Sure, Batman sacrifices himself to a sunrise, but it’s knowing that he’s actually saved his city. There’s a moment earlier in the issue where Batman admits that he’s basically failed at his mission, and it’s oddly heartwarming to see that reversed by issue’s end.
Mark: I don’t think I liked this one as much as you, Patrick, but it’s hard to ever be upset at the idea of Vampire Batman and Swamp Thing taking out a city full of vampires. I did really enjoy the illustrations and coloring by Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen, who manage to capture the look and feel of a throwback comic in a way I wish more art teams had attempted during Convergence (which makes sense given Jones’ pedigree). It’s the attention to detail that I love, like Vampire Batman slicing off Swamp Thing’s threatening stake-finger during their first meeting, and then Swamp Thing regenerating in the next panel. This issue just goes to show how Convergence tie-ins can shine when there’s care behind them.
Wonder Woman 2
Shane: To be honest, when I read last month’s issue my primary praise went to Josh Middleton for his absolutely amazing work, blending lights and shadow into his art to create something extraordinary. That’s not present in this issue. Aaron Loprestri is a fine artist, don’t get me wrong — I’ve been a fan of his since his Ms. Marvel days, and I’m usually happy to see his name in the credits — but the best part of this series was rare Middleton interiors, and with that gone, we’re left relying on the strengths of Larry Hama’s script. I find a slight bit of appreciable meta-commentary going on in the story: I had been wondering why, of all the eras, we only got one Wonder Woman issue, as both pre-Zero Hour and pre-Flashpoint featured some really unique points in Wonder Woman’s history… but pre-Crisis was not only classic, but it showcased Wonder Woman with her iconic supporting cast of Etta Candy and Steve Trevor. Their significance was stripped away with the post-Crisis reboot, and here, in a story set immediately beforehand, the characters are taken from Wonder Woman as well — albeit in a very different (and more brutal) way. It’s definitely the most somber of the Convergence titles I’ve read, with an ending that left me feeling more than a little down. How about you, Patrick—shed any tears?
Patrick: No tears from me Shane, but as you mentioned, we effectively said goodbye to those characters 30 years ago. You’re spot on about the weird tonal shift brought about my Lopresti replacing Middleton, but the storytelling seems to have changed to match the visuals. Where we were able to praise the previous issue of atmospheric and lingering on some more dense and challenging ideas about gender and religion. By contrast, this one is a punch-em-up and Lopresti can deliver violence when it is called for. Poison VampIvy spends the later half of this issue with an eyeball dangling out, and that’s gross. In fact, the first time we see Wonder Woman and VampIvy interact, Lopresti’s violence is off the charts.
Ah, yes and a nice soothing THWACK CRACK to go with it. There’s a little disparity between the glee with which Wonder Woman beats up vampires and the idea that Vampire Steve Trevor (Steve TreVampire?) still has some good in him — are these things we can guiltlessly butcher or do they demand the dignity of a human being? Turns out a Wonder Woman mini-series isn’t the appropriate place to explore those questions.
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!