Today, Michael leads a discussion about Convergence 8, Action Comics 2, Blue Beetle 2, Booster Gold 2, Crime Syndicate 2, Detective Comics 2, Infinity Inc. 2, Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters 2 and World’s Finest 2.
Michael: When’s the last time you read a true finale from Marvel or DC? I’m talking final word, last story, completion of a hero’s journey, close-the-book-on-it ending. I could probably only count a handful of those types of finales in the past couple of years; maybe. Like any analysis of the Big Two, it can be seen in two ways: cynically or inspiringly. Cynically, there will never be a “final story.” The Coca-Cola and Pepsi of comic books always leave a door open for potential future stories because they want your money. Inspiringly, we are witnessing the sagas of modern mythology: endless heroic epics. These stories will never come to a true end because their legend continues and the heroes never say die. It can be impossibly cheesy, but the end caption “Never the end” always clutches at my heart strings. After eight weeks, 41 books and 89 issues Convergence has finally met its end. I think there is a strong argument for the inspiring read of “Never the End” present in most of these finales. Conversely, Convergence been criticized as a sales stunt, so the more cynical finale read is just as viable. Two months later what have we learned? For one, nostalgia can be expensive.
Michael: In its final chapter, Convergence 8 proves itself to be an unworthy Crisis successor. It has the Crisis tent poles of imminent Multiversal destruction and heroic sacrifice, but ends up not actually having an identifiable antagonist of any kind. Like Telos, Brainiac has a revelation in a Grinchy “heart grew three sizes that day” kind of way. Brainiac becomes an exposibot and gives us yet another “DC Multiverse history lesson” (a la Mr. Mind from 52!) and advises the heroes to essentially prime punch the past Crises out of existence so the Multiverse can live. That’s a hard sell to begin with, but when their entire mission to “prevent the collapse of the Multiverse” takes place off panel? Oh Misters Lobdell and King, why leave such a silly and potentially amazing visual out of the book?
The two Multiverse double-page spreads by Ethan Van Sciver are finale-worthy, but an additional “un-Crisis-ing” spread is absolutely necessary. In fact, there are 15 spreads; that’s over half of the damn book. Many of these, particularly those near the end, feel like they’re simply there to take up space. The spread covering the wiping of Telos’ planet is just one large panel of dust wiping over two pages with a couple of adjoining sliver panels with similar scribbles.
I could write a full article on the backdoor that DC opened for future Multiverse stories. For now, I’ll just say it’s nice that DC isn’t completely taking those old favorites off of the table again. I think?
Patrick: Nothing is ever really off the table, right? If telling characters to “fix” the original Crisis, without elaborating on what that means can re-write all of existence, that what is and is not possible within a DC Comics narrative it totally arbitrary.
What I do find particularly interesting are the three characters that reveal themselves to be the the largest players in this issue pre-rebooting: Parallax, Wave Rider and Brainiac. I see all three of these guys as representative of some of the more corrupt classes of comic book fans. Parallax represents the angry fan — the malcontent that always knows how something should have happened. Notice how Parallax volunteers himself to go back and fix Crisis so Barry wouldn’t have to sacrifice himself. He also destroys Telos without a thought for what Telos’ absence would lead to. Wave Rider, the original Booster Gold, tricked out by Vanishing Point Power, represents the continuity-obsessed fan — he’s seen all the futures and just wants to make sure they can all play out. Lastly, there’s Brainiac — the collector. For Brainiac, it’s enough to have collected the memory that these characters existed. None of those are particularly flattering portraits of comic fans, but it’s not really like King and Lobdell offer us an alternative. Unless you want to count the new Earth-2, which is a clean slate — literally a brand new planet.
Action Comics 2
Patrick: I’ve always been attracted to the title “Action Comics.” The promise is so simple: action. Convergence: Action Comics 2 is that promise realized in a nearly pure form, with three quarters of the issue dedicated entirely to the high-flying battle between Powergirl and Red Son Wonder Woman (which is coincidentally what the cover promises as well). Artist Claude St. Aubin brings this fight to life with a liberal helping of streaks through the air, tracing Kara’s ultra-fast flight path. Of course, it’s not just Powergirl zipping around: Wonder Woman’s jet, ground-based Soviet munitions, missiles — everything get the same energetic treatment. My favorite panel in the encounter distorts the whole action down to a kinetic set of parallel lines and colors.
That’s really the aesthetic of the issue distilled into a single, awesome panel. Later in the issue, Lex attempts a coup that is IMMEDIATELY shut down by our mighty heroes — seriously, there’s a single panel of Superman, Powergirl and Wonder Woman smashing robots and then it’s over. Hey, it’s not “Thinky-Planny Comics,” it’s “Action Comics.”
Michael: Convergence: Action Comics 2 is a book with Lex Luthor plotting, Superman hero-ing and Joseph Stalin power-struggling; but the true stars of the book are the women. Not only do you have Power Girl and Wonder Woman exchanging fisticuffs; but also Lois Lane, who is the one holding Luthor’s leash. The book opens with Andrew Vinson pleading Karen not to fly off and save the day. He says he’s old fashioned and wants to be protecting her and not the other way around – this is the Silver Age after all. Karen quickly dismisses that notion as ridiculous; she doesn’t need to be protected or rescued by any man. Though Karen shares the spotlight with her cousin Kal-L, she does the majority of the heavy lifting in the Wonder Woman fight. Like Karen, Lois refutes her husband Lex’s attempts to “protect” her. She’s horrified by the idea that Lex would nuke the city that has been her home in her name. True, the cape-and-tights crowd are the ones who stop Lex from pushing the button, but Lois took a stance against her husband. Justin Gray’s use of Stalin in this book always made me giggle a bit; he gets stepped over at every turn by the rest of the cast of the book. Poor Stalin, he’s the leader of the Soviet Union, but he doesn’t realize that he’s merely a guest star in someone else’s comic book. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a propaganda book in Moscow like “Comrade Comics starring Super Stalin.”
Blue Beetle 2
Drew: The award for biggest tonal shift in this whole event might belong to Convergence: Blue Beetle. Issue 1 had us wringing our hands about the bleakness of its opening, while issue 2 ends with the most optimism any Convergence issue has managed to muster. Hopelessly outgunned by the Legion of Superheroes, Blue Beetle relies on his wits to come up with a solution nobody sees coming. It’s a big win for Blue Beetle, but all of the Hub City heroes get a moment to shine. I’m particularly enamored of how the Question stupefies Brainiac 5.
Of course Vic Sage can stymie the world’s smartest computer with a riddle — he’s the Question. Between character beats like that and an almost cheesily uplifting ending (seriously, there’s an image of Telos beaming from the sky), it’s hard to dislike this issue. There’s enough clever nonsense to totally overcome whatever discomfort may have been lingering from the first issue, leaving this as perhaps the most fun issue of the week.
Mark: What’s funny about that last page with Telos smiling from the heavens is that he’s smiling because he thinks Hub City has been destroyed. The image fits the mood of the happy ending, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in context. This whole issue is kind of like that, though. Like, is the earthquake the same one that happened in the other tie-ins? If so, how did Blue Beetle know it was going to happen? Or is it just serendipitous that the earthquake happened to coincide with the deployment of Blue Beetle’s plan?
Luckily the whole thing is fun enough that the loose plotting is easily forgiven. I’m a huge fan of The Question, so now with the end of Convergence having both Vic Sage and Renee Montoya in play for future stories makes me very happy.
Booster Gold 2
Spencer: I ended up reading Convergence 8 before I tackled this issue, meaning I wasn’t aware of the identity of Waverider throughout its conclusion. While, with this new knowledge in-hand, I feel that a reread is in order, it’s actually kind of fitting that Booster’s fate played out in reverse order for me — it’s not as if his life ever followed any sort of chronological order, after all. Shifting timelines, multiple domes, and a grand crisis give Dan Jurgens and Alvaro Martinez the perfect backdrop to say goodbye to the Booster Gold of old. There’s some serious timey-wimey shenanigans going on here, and I’m not sure I follow the science or logic of them all, but ultimately it doesn’t matter — the real meat of this issue is Booster saying his final goodbyes to his best friend, sister, and son before (wave)riding off to save the multiverse one last time (and doing it anonymously, I might add — he’s “the greatest hero you’ve never heard of” to the very end, it seems). This ending eschews the greedy, capitalistic Booster Gold who once was and embraces the selfless time-cop he became, and it’s hard to think of a better tribute to the character Jurgens created 30 years ago and all the growth he’s undergone since then.
But hey, we’ve also got the New 52 Booster in play, and it seems like Jurgens might be seeing a juicy role for him in the near-future. Any idea where he’s going with that, Patrick?
Patrick: Oh I never know what’s going on in a Booster Gold story. He’s gotta be anchored to something or someone to get any kind of reaction out of me. And hey! Ted Kord totally fits the bill in that regard. Ted’s childlike enthusiasm exclaiming that Gold and Blue can ride again is just about the most adorable thing I could hope for in one of these tie-ins. It looked to me like Alvaro Bueno was playing fast and loose with Booster’s age depending on what he deemed most emotionally effective for a character beat, but, y’know: whatever. I can even believe that Booster’s age fluxuates sporadically. Dude’s traveled through time a lot.
I love Chris Sotomayor’s coloring in this issue, especially once Waverider shows up. It’s like reality is being warped by his very presence.
It may not make the most sense, but Booster has always been about putting on a good show. That means that Booster Solid Gold should be nuthin’ but fireworks!
Crime Syndicate 2
Drew: The New 52 was ostensibly about eliminating buy-in for new readers, but virtually every #1 that DC debuted in September 2011 kicked off several-issue-long arcs. It’s an understandable choice — more storytelling space means fans are more invested in the story, and there’s no better way of insuring repeat customers than only giving them half of what they need — but Convergence: Crime Syndicate 2 demonstrates another approach. I would never claim to be familiar with the pre-Crisis Crime Syndicate or the Justice Legion Alpha, but with just two issues, writer Brian Buccellato manages to make foreknowledge an utterly moot point. This issue delivers satisfying conclusions to character arcs — a feat all the more impressive considering I didn’t know these characters at all a month ago. Virtually all of the characters get to bounce off of their counterparts, but the real emotional heavy lifting comes at the end of the issue, as Owlman confronts the Wonder Woman of Justice Legion Alpha.
That’s a beat that becomes more meaningful when we consider how unlike Batman Owlman’s response to grief is, but we don’t even need that context — everything to make that turn compelling is presented in the two issues of this mini. Even Lois gets to conclude her “I wish I had been a hero” lamentation from the first issue, rising from the dead to face off against (and maybe defeat) Wonder Woman. Artist Phil Winslade bends over backwards to make it ambiguous just who is emerging from the rubble at the end of the issue, but I think the more satisfying “they’re equivalent!” is structural — Wonder Woman opens this issue much like Lois opened the previous one. In that way, I suppose it’s more appropriate that Wonder Woman die here, but ultimately, the beauty of this issue lies in something bigger than those individual plot points.
Michael: Convergence: Crime Syndicate 2 posed a question that I find myself frequently returning to: how does Superman still have his powers when he’s in another galaxy? It’s silly and nitpicky, but I was pleased to see Buccellato use the “depleting solar battery” argument as a way to bring down Ultraman and Superman. Not sure how they still had solar energy stored up in their cells after a year… but I digress.
I’m a bit conflicted about the Superwoman coming back to life after the Dome falls. I thought it was a ballsy move to have us sympathize with Owlman in jailbreak mission, only to have him fail and Lois die. Resurrecting Lois threatens to undercut Owlman’s emotional journey. Fortunately the pace of the script doesn’t allow Owlman much time to think things over, since he’s knocked out as soon as he sees Lois alive. Lois is ready to turn over a new leaf and become a hero, just as soon as she dooms another planet to destruction. This “one last job” mentality conjures similar famous anti-hero/villain struggles; e.g. anything Walter White EVER did on Breaking Bad.
Detective Comics 2
Michael: The reason that a story like Red Son works is because that despite significant changes to a hero we know and love like Superman, he’s still recognizable to us. The Superman in Convergence: Detective Comics 2 wears the banner of the Soviet Union, but (Cold War notions aside) he is still a hero. Huntress and eventually Robin attack Superman in a bunch of different ways, but the only violence he responds with is self-defense. When the new dynamic duo say that they have no choice but to fight him, Superman replies wisely and benevolently with “there is ALWAYS a choice.” That’s a Superman right there. Len Wein continues the Silver Age spirit he implemented last issue with a recap of events and some character moments that veer on the edge of over-the-top. Where Superman has a sterner and more believable voice, Wein gives the ushanka-capped Batman a more outlandish dialect that reads as a literal translation. “Into the darkness! The darkness is my friend.” The secret weapon that Batman gives Huntress and Robin is clearly kryptonite, but their shock and subsequent hindsight is also very Silver Age in its explanation.
From what I have read so far, Detective Comics is the only tie-in to deal with life post-Convergence. Did Wein know that it would be published the same day as the Multiverse-restoring Convergence 8? Huntress reflects on their Superman battle with Dick, noting that she acted “out of character.” Is this implying that the Convergence influenced contestants’ minds?
Drew: Or it’s a convenient way to explain why they would fight in the first place. As affirming as it was to see Superman being Superman, it was weird to see two disciples of Batman working so hard to kill somebody. Perhaps more importantly, it’s strange to see two characters who were trained by Batman to fight with so little regard for tactics. Michael references how many different ways Huntress and Robin try to attack Superman, but any child even casually familiar with Superman could have told you they wouldn’t work. It’s good of Wein to acknowledge how bizarre Huntress’ actions were, but when those actions are driving the entire issue, just having the characters shrug and say “hey, that was kind of weird” doesn’t really feel like enough. Wein may have managed to make Superman look like Superman, but in the name of keeping the fight going, he sure didn’t make Helena or Dick look like themselves.
Infinity, Inc. 2
Spencer: I’m going to be up-front with y’all: much of what I loved about the first issue of Convergence: Infinity Inc. was Ben Caldwell’s bright, dynamic art, and I miss it greatly this month. Issue 2 features June Brigman on pencils, and I certainly don’t mean to knock her work — she’s got a clean, competent style that actually reminds me of (this book’s writer) Jerry Ordway’s work, and that’s not faint praise — but without Caldwell’s art the book just loses a lot of its youthful charm. Even Ordway’s dialogue, which surprised me last month with how sharp it was, feels more old fashioned this time around.
Maybe it’s just because the first issue focused more on character and less on action, but I don’t remember its dialogue being this blatantly expository (or being used to describe events the viewer can’t see) — and who actually addresses their sister as sister?
Fortunately, I’m still happy with the plot. Infinity Inc.’s battle is essentially a final exam — the path to peaceful reconciliation feels a bit drawn out, but reaching that point runs Infinity Inc. through a gamut and tests both their ability and their morality. Their final admittance into the Justice Society feels earned, and it’s indicative of the growth they’ve undergone that they fight to keep part of their original name. As an ending for the kids of Infinity Inc., Convergence: Infinity Inc. 2 works fantastically, but it’s not quite the fun follow-up to its first issue that I was hoping for.
Shane: I call my sister “Sister” all the time. But yeah, although last issue felt snappy and smart, this issue is pretty stale. I think you touched on the reasons why, and I actually don’t know if I’d consider it just a lack of Ben Caldwell interiors (although you may note that his layouts on the first nine pages carry a little more of that energy than the rest of the book, even if he isn’t on full pencils); the action scenes are just so much more traditionally superhero, so we lose a lot of the innovative focus on interpersonal dynamics and dysfunctions that helped make the first issue so interesting. That’s not to say that Jerry Ordway doesn’t write some good superhero battle scenes, because he does, balancing all of the many characters without any of them becoming simply set dressing (I’m pretty sure each of the Infinitors gets a real moment to shine), but yeah, it’s sort of a shame that it’s such a step in a direction away from the first issue. The first issue was quirky! I loved it. This issue, even with the strong ending, is just solidly B-grade.
Justice Society of America 2
Check back on Monday for Mark and Spencer’s full conversation!
Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters 2
Patrick: The second half of Convergence: Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters posed the ever-important question: what’s worse? Nazis or killer robots? Plas teams up with noted Nazi superhero Silver Ghost to launch an assault on the evil robotic versions of the DC heroes from Futures End. Silver Ghost is weirdly bad ass — I’m just not used to cheering Nazi characters — but how can anybody resist a dude that’s tough enough to rip robot Superman’s head off with a chain? Actually, artist John McCrea is doing his damnedest to make everything look awesome in this issue.
I don’t know whether we can attribute that zip-a-tone technique to McCrea or colorist John Kalisz, but I love it in every panel. It’s perfect for the kind of pulpy adventure these two are on.
What I still don’t totally understand is how we’re supposed to view Plastic Man himself. We get a glimpse of his toxic-waste-and-monks origin story, the solemnity of which is undercut by the persistence of those stupid sunglasses. And then, later in the issue, Plas is able to anticipate that Silver Ghost was interested in securing blue prints for the killer robots, but totally misreads the charges he’s given as “fake explosives.” Is he a competent hero or a fucking idiot? Writer Simon Oliver sets up a similar question in Plas’ voiceover, only he’s more focused on the character’s morality, which never really seems to be in question in this this issue.
Shane: The entire ordeal with the fake/not-fake explosives is absolutely nonsensical. Having them be fake is a great way for the plot to progress, and fits well enough in with the Silver Ghost’s plans — so why write in a total about-face on that matter? Because EXPLOSIONS. Isn’t that reason enough for everything? Setting that aside, though, I don’t think Plastic Man’s competency really bothered me, but it’s also worth noting that I have little experience with the character outside of Morrison’s JLA, so I really enjoyed how Simon Oliver took the time to dig into his conflicted nature and attempts to justify his criminal decisions. The first couple pages stress a rebirth, turning away from his old nature for the right reasons—a nice contrast against the Silver Ghost’s inability to do so in the main story.
Speaking of contrasts, the story starts to explore the notion of who’s worse—the Nazis that plague Earth X, or the super-cyborgs from Future’s End that have invaded it—and it’s an intriguing concept, but one that sort of loses a lot of its oomph in execution. Teaming up with the Nazis is anathema to everything that should make a good Freedom Fighters story, and although sure, it makes sense in context, it makes me wonder… what’s the point of telling this story, then? There’s some cool stuff in this issue (and agreed, Patrick—McCrea’s art, fantastic), but it just didn’t work for me.
Check back on Tuesday for Shane and Michael’s full conversation!
World’s Finest 2
Mark: As comic book fans, we all look at the authors and artists who get to work with our favorite iconic characters and consider them lucky. Paul Levitz spent a good portion of his career working for DC, and he acknowledges how lucky he was being able to do so in Convergence: World’s Finest 2. Levitz’s avatar in the story, reporter/cartoonist Scribbly Jibbet, narrates over and over about how lucky he is to get to participate and witness these events.
A lot of the characters here are pretty obscure in the modern comics age (my only real knowledge of most of our heroes comes from the Justice League Unlimited animated series), but Shining Knight definitely leaves an impression on unfamiliar readers who might have picked this issue up. I mean, stopping a sword with your bare hands and then breaking the blade in two is incredibly badass.
This is one of those weird Convergence tie-ins featuring random characters that I can’t imagine sell well, but unlike, say, Convergence: Justice League of America from a couple weeks back, it’s clear the creative team cares about their work, making it secretly one of the better tie-ins overall.
Shane: That level of caring absolutely comes through, and becomes even more intriguing when you explore further the notion that Scribbly Jibbet is a stand-in for Paul Levitz. After all, Levitz was DC’s head honcho for quite some time, and although he still works for the company, it can’t feel the same—and when Jibbet finishes his adventure, there was a panel that evoked a real sense of melancholy for days past.
Not only has Jibbet just finished the ride of his life, but there’s even a literal giant in the background. Levitz often remarked that these characters were bigger than any creator, and here, that’s literally the case, as Telos dwarfs Scribbly Jibbet and the Shining Knight. This notion is spelled out even clearer on the last page: “I lived in the age of heroes…I walked among giants…I told their tales that I know will somehow, somewhere, live on. Even if it ends tomorrow, what more perfect life could a cartoonist have had?” Levitz may no longer be in charge of DC comics, but this issue is his love letter to an era many already miss.
Well, that’s it: eight weeks of Convergence coverage. We did it guys; we really did it! Kudos to our contributors and editors for pulling double duty on Roundups with Convergence these past couple of months — it was definitely a team effort. And thanks as always to you for following us here at good ol’ Retcon Punch. How do you feel now that Convergence is finally at an end? Are you thrilled beyond words? Are you going to miss some of your past DC heroes? Sound off in the comment section!