J&STAC: Convergence

-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature  and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”

April and May mark the DC Universe event Convergence, a smashing together of all DC stories and timelines. For many readers who have watched the “New 52” era with frustration and disdain, Convergence offers the possibility of bringing back some of the characters and writers that made them DC fans (once upon a time).converg

Or maybe it won’t. Because after diving into this supposedly-epic event, we’re only sure of one thing: there are way too many books tied into it. But we read them all–

Steph: Please no more. I can’t. There are so many Convergence titles, and they just keep coming…

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Steph: Convergence is an all character/universe/timeline event where a super-Brainiac has taken a planet, bent it to his will, then collected major cities and stored them on said planet, each under a massive dome.

-J.: Not just any major cities. These are collector’s items — cities that were home to superheroes, cities that were wiped out of existence by cataclysmic crises of time and continuity (Zero Hour, Flashpoint, Infinite Crisis). Brainiac has collected them mere moments before said cataclysms would have erased the city in question. He then seals the “rescued” city in an impenetrable dome, and plops it onto the living planet.

Steph: Of course a living planet, after years of being painfully manipulated, will gain sentience and name itself Telos. At least, thats what it has led itself to believe.

-J.: Naturally. Telos sees itself as the caretaker of all these cities. And it obviously stands to reason that when one of the collection attempts misfires, Telos believes it’s a sign of the prophesied times.

Steph: In an attempt to try and please his absent master, Telos begins cleaning house. He pits cities against each other by choosing champions to fight for every person trapped there. The winner lives and the loser is destroyed. In the end only one city will survive.

-J.: Thus, Convergence is like The Highlander on a grand cosmic scale. Which probably sounded really cool when someone pitched it, but having to read through all these damn single issues is anything but cool. It’s mind-numbing. If the Anti-Life Equation actually exists, it can be found by reading every Convergence title.

Steph: There are currently 40 individual Convergence titles, like Batgirl: ConvergenceBooster Gold: Convergence, Wonder Woman: Convergence, etc. There is also a regular, plain old Convergence, now on its fifth issue. I have a feeling by the end of this discussion, the word “convergence” is going to look and sound really weird.

-J.: Convergence. CONvergence. ConVERGence. Converse Gents, superheroes in dapper dress who only wear Chuck Taylors. … I think we might already be there.

Steph: Anyway… each book takes place one year after the domes went up.

-J.: Which is one hell of a time-bending trick, since these cities are from all different points in (alternate) histories.

Steph: Every super-powered individual lost their powers under the dome, but the “regular” heroes and villains didn’t. It’s a bit inconsistent, since some of the tech still functions and some does not (e.g. Roy Harper’s mechanical arm not working vs. Steel’s mechanical super-suit working). As the domes come down, Telos declares the “convergence” (yup, looking weird) and all powers are returned, along with who has to fight whom.

The Good: Favorites Return!

Steph: I did find it interesting what everyone was up to during the year under the dome. Like in the Nightwing/Oracle: Convergence titleNightwing is about to stop Mr. Freeze from robbing a museum. But then Fries stops and just gives up, because… what’s the point anymore?

-J.: That was a great scene. Hell, that was a great issue. Gail Simone deftly balances a “what-if” tale with the ennui that accompanies “what’s the point?” There’s a meta-fictional resonance here — what is the point of trotting out the Nightwing and Oracle we loved and remembered if they’re nothing more than a snapshot in a faded collection? But Simone gives us reason to invest emotionally in this story. It’s top-notch storytelling.

Steph: Gail Simone is a top-notch writer, and Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson are two voices she has down pat. convergence-question-cover

-J.: I also loved seeing Greg Rucka back writing a Convergence title for Renee Montoya / The Question. Rucka draws us back to the Batman era of “No Man’s Land,” where characters like Montoya and Two-Face were quarantined within Gotham — not dissimilar from the situation they find themselves in here. The author’s ability to tell a story through even simple interactions had me pining for the days when Rucka helmed GCPD or Detective Comics or 52. The fact that this issue was titled “Just One More Thing…” is another meta-fictional aside that really hits those of us who loved this character.

Steph: All of these Convergence stories are trotting out beloved characters that haven’t really seen the light of day since the reboot of the DC Universe four years ago with the New 52.

-J.: Like Stephanie Brown, who hangs up the cape and cowl to devote herself to helping others through her medical background. Or the old-timers of the JSA from pre-Infinite Crisis Metropolis, who are able to stave of death and old age one last time to take on an enemy. Actually…

The Bad: So Many Titles

-J.: The Justice Society of America: Convergence title is when the “one more / one last time” theme started to get stale for me. The JSA heroes are old and faded, partially due to the dome, but also due to the echoes of the Zero Hour crisis. That 1994 DC event gave birth to the  Starman and Johns/Goyer/Robinson JSA series — titles that explored the concepts of older heroes fading out and passing on their legacies. They were some of the best stories that either major publisher ever produced, in my opinion. And now they’re trying that formula “for one last battle” in a two-issue series. Hrm.

Steph: I think Harley Quinn: Convergence was a particular point of frustration for both of us. Harley spent her year under the dome fighting her demons, and with the help of her patient, former cop boyfriend, she begins to build a life for herself. When its announced that Harley is the champion for her city she is shoved very hastily back into her role and costume, in two pages that felt extremely forced. To me, her book could’ve been in entire story arc by itself.

-J.: It could have been a fully-developed arc, though I did enjoy the way the story went in the follow-up issue. Unfortunately, too many of these issues remind me of the ‘Jose Canseco bat’ from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie: “A Convergence issue? Tell me you didn’t pay money for this.”

Steph: I do not recommend reading all of these titles in one sitting. It got to the point where I couldn’t focus my eyes, and all the stories blended into one giant convergent mess.

-J.: And they didn’t need this many gods-damned titles. Why the hell did we need Parallax Hal Jordan to fight the denizens of Electropolis? The characters of Hal Jordan (and of Parallax) have gone through so many interesting developments since this point in time (pre-Zero Hour), it beggars belief that anybody would want to revisit it. Much less revisiting it in order to justify two issues of a fallen Green Lantern battling a third-rate Crisis on Infinite Earths reference?

Steph: Thats the danger with the “Big Two” publishers and events like this. When you restrict your universe (or universes) to the same characters over and over, you begin to run out of stories to tell about them. Death becomes a means to a temporary end, and characters that made that sacrifice for the greater good in the moment are resurrected, because you only have so many to choose from. I mean, DC just started over! Even amidst promises (which were promptly broken) that there would only be one Universe so as to not confuse new readers, they’re literally bringing everything back, even if it’s in passing. What was the point of the reboot? Are they already running out of ideas?

The Ugly: Convergence

-J.: I think you pinpoint the perfect question: What is the point of all this? DC keeps mentioning this in the same breath as Zero Hour, or Infinite Crisis, or all the other continuity-changing events. But halfway through Convergence, it’s obvious that continuity rebooting isn’t the point. It’s also obvious that Convergence lacks a basic cohesive through line.

Steph: It might be that they just needed some filler stories during their corporate headquarters move from New York to L.A.

-J: After reading it, I wouldn’t doubt that. What’s worse is that I feel like I’m reading a corporate event. It doesn’t matter how good the side issues are, it doesn’t matter that some moments and scenes resonate, because I can see the seams. I can see the overdone appeal to nostalgia, the desire to do a soft “reboot,” and the need to sell the hell out of what feels like two months of filler and stories left untold during previous reboots. I don’t buy Telos or Brainiac or most of the conflicts in all this. Verisimilitude is not only absent, someone tied it up and locked it in a trunk.

Steph: In the back of my mind I kept thinking there has a to be a way to fix this from the outside. At least one of the superheroes should be able to defeat Telos, because if they can’t then DC is basically committing mass genocide (universe-cide?) again, as a plot device. Again.

-J.: After reading today’s issues, I don’t think that’s the end game. The problem is that the narrative is a jumbled pile of Ultra-Humanite excrement. The plot has been completely lost, and the Thunderdome aspect of the series has already started to die off with a whimper. At this point, I barely care what how they’re going to wrap this up.

To Sum It All Up…

The individual Convergence titles have some good stories, and its nice to see characters who never made it to the New 52, but DC’s latest event might be too many side stories and not enough coherence in its main story. With only the second issue of each side title hitting stores today, we’re already completely converged out. We recommend that you read volume 2 of Rat Queens instead.

-J.

-J.

The entity known as -J. would be at home in a place like Carcosa or Night Vale, but instead lives near a far more dreary place -- Wrigley Field. He is the patron Addisonian of whisk(e)y and tabletop games, and is often adorned with a waistcoat & his ridiculous mustache.

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