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Subj: Convergence #7 - The Clash of Two Worlds.
Posted: Sun May 24, 2015 at 01:44:09 pm EDT (Viewed 826 times)
Back in the early 1990's Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley brought us a tale of an altered reality which was based around an Egyptian theme and masterminded by the power of a newly overhauled incarnation of The Sphinx. This was in The New Warriors, and as a plot was nothing original even then, Chris Claremont had done it in the X-Men for example, what made Nicieza & Bagley's story memorable though was in its creation of an intriguing society based on the notion that the Egyptian empire had never ended - the story had a backbone that asked "what if...?" and set about building a response. It was inventive, as were all of Nicieza's plots for this series, and it offered a plausible scenario wrapped up in a touching story of one immortals unreuited love.
This has nothing to do with anything, I know, certainly not Convergence, but in a week where my reading material consists of three titles from independents, three from Marvel Comics, and two from DC Comics, it is Convergence which by far draws the short straw in terms of quality and by turn reflects many of the problems with DCs publishing line as a whole. The desire to turn out the best possible work was what made Nicieza & Bagley's New Warriors series a surprise hit, in many ways The New Warriors and Fabian Nicieza were the forerunner of the David Goyer/Geoff Johns JSA revival a few years later in 1999. Both were attempts at a launch where no one, least of all the respective publishers, were prepared for just how successful and instant a hit these two launches turned out to be. And the reasons for their success were entirely bound by the same qualities - two sets of creators out to prove their credentials and do the best, most innovative, work possible. Nicieza and Johns both shared the same qualities with the same passion for the assets they had been entrusted with, and both poured those philosophies into their work. The results speak for themselves. Even the most tired of storytelling plots can be given new life so long as it is invested with an emotional element and characters the readership cares for. And in Convergence these qualities are almost completely absent.
There is one particular point in Convergence #7, out just this last week, where the waste of the obvious potential in both this series and the broader Earth-2 story becomes dissapointingly clear. Last week, and carried over here, amidst the eyebleeding visual chaos of an endless procession of cross-time supertypes battling it out writer Scott Lobdell turned one brief moment over to the first meeting between the Earth-1 and 2 Flash, a classic and historic moment which was promised by James Robinson at some point in the future and indicated to be intended for a first meeting between the Earth-2 gang and their Earth-1 counterparts. Obviously this JSA/JLA team-up never came to anything, but the anticipation for the first historic meeting between the two teams remains an obvious draw.
So DC Comics' considered venue for this exciting first meeting? Scattered brief moments seen through the last seven issues of this book... here we finally see Jay Garrick meet with both Wally West and then Barry Allen, with no great character moments, and no suspenseful build-up, just a couple of panels with Jay literally bumping into Barry and saying "Hi".
I'm skirting around the issue again. I apologise. As I said in my look at issue #1 books like Convergence are pretty much review-proof, they are what they are, fan pleasers filled with what the publishers thinks fans want and double-sided pages with lots of supertypes beating each other up for little or no reason. Plot is merely an unwanted accessory to the spectacle of it all.
So in the best spirit of the worst of 1990s crossover eventstyle stoytelling we see a brazen hijacking of the plot from Marvel's Secret Wars as a seemingly omnipotent entity draws heroes and cities to a strange world and forces them to fight the other while these entities look on and await the results. In Secret Wars The Beyonder is unsurped by Doctor Doom, here Telos is unsurped by obscure sorceror Deimos. Deimos takes over the game but is in turn unsurped by Parallax, who in turn... no, never mind. In the same vein as his work on Marvels Onslaught storyline, and any number of other X-Men events, this is Scott Lobdell at his most hackneyed and superficial, the plot in Convergence is made up as it goes along and things happen purely in order to shift the scenes and get the book towards its climax. That is all you need to know. Things happen. For little or no discernable reason.
Searching for positives in issue #7 it must be said that Aaron Lopresti does a solid job on art duties, with a decision to go for double page layouts there are plenty of widescreen vistas featuring the cast of Continuities from yesteryear, in this, the ultimate nod to the most banal and unimaginitive of fan-fictions. Convergence #7 is pretty to look at therefore, even if Lopresti is unable to replicate such detailing as Pre-crisis Supergirl's distinctive costume! It is In particular the much missed pre-crisis Supergirl who gets some time and attention given to her in the series, and here she gamely deals with the vicious Flashpoint Wonder Woman, declaring this to be no fit Wonder Woman in any universe, it is good to see such a firm example set by someone in this book, and fitting that is is Supergirl to stand firm to such distorted morality. Her cousin from another reality also comes in for respect from Lobdell as the Superman we all know from before the 2011 reboot shows his authority and inspirational qualities. That DC would sanction all of this is a bizarre concept in itself, compared to this Superman the one seen in the new continuity is a shadow, a sham. Further strengthening the growing flaw in this series in that undertaking a two month long revisiting of past glories only goes to show just how shallow and superficial the present set-up is.
But as we were saying - Issue #7 is another issue of visual chaos and 'stuff-happening' which contains some thrown in moments of tease and bait for the fans. Opening with the NEW 52 Justice League observing the planet of Telos entering their solar system it seems reality itself is beginning to break down a a result, The omnipotent Oracle arrives and shows his fear, and below them in a neat scene switch we the reader see the conflict between heroes from numerous captured cities as sorceror Deimos sends out those who have sided with him to meet them head on. Aaron lopresti duly furnishes well orchestrated battle scenes, though one does wonder at some of the match-ups. These opening pages again highlight the problem in Convergence and the thinking behind its set-up, from the opening salvo of the zero-issue and NEW 52 Superman's ordeal at Telos' hands DC as a publisher has teased the readership with the notion that every one of their past continuities does in fact still exist. They are all out there somewhere in the multiverse or beyond and Telos has drawn them here on his battleworld, which is now entring the Modernday DC Universe, the Justice League and its Superman are watching its entry and the effect it is having while below in a very deliberate visual we see the classic Superman, the one everybody remembers best, in a take charge position. The dichotomy between this scene and the previous one of NEW 52 Superman is unnerving, as it asks us to choose, choose who you like. Who do you prefer?
That is surely not the question with which DC should be floating in any such series, with their relaunched publishing line still not entrenched it serves nobodys interests to serve the audience up with a direct comparision between two versions of Superman and ask who is the best. The truth is the pre-2011 Superman is everything the NEW 52 Superman isn't. And despite the two being only a few thousand miles apart here you can bet with confidence that they will not be meeting and more than likely will not even be aware of the others existence by the end of next issues climax... so why do it?! Why the constant empty tease and bait that is this series? Perhaps the fact that the publisher is confident enough in the make-up of its audience to issue two months worth of retroactive titles that include archaic examples of Matrix-Supergirl, The Seven Soldiers of Victory, and of course Infinity Inc, tells us the reason. That the 'new' audience is in fact just the same old audience...
So with scenes that tease us with the imminent possibility that the NEW 52 will be being made aware of their past selves the only real course that DC can chart here is to cheat the readership and NOT have them made aware of just that. In this way the integrity of their rebooted continuity is preserved, but the price is a readership that has been taunted with a possibility and left cheated by the fact the publisher was only ever cheating anyway. With contempt like that for its audience it is no wonder the publisher battles constantly for markershare.
With Superman's arrival into the narrative page-count for the Earth-2 cast is sparse with this issue. Jay Garrick has his fleeting moment with Barry Allen and Dick Grayson's rise to importance continues as he is the one forming a friendship with the fallen Telos. At this point Dick Grayson's inaugruation as the new Batman seems a mere formality, quite how a mere War reporter goes from his day job to being worthy of the mantle of The Batman is something we shall have to just accept and move on from, after all Thomas Wayne's credentials were no less improboble, but Grayson remains a character shoehorned into the series rather than a natural progression of an existing character. Why it should be he who is so important in Convergence is never satisfactorly addressed, he just is. All part of the plan to evolve him into the Batman role. But if Dick Grayson lacks convincing motivations Yolanda Montez is no better. Rescued from the clutches of Desaad and freed from the curse of The Red Yolanda is fiery personality, potentially a worthy addition to the cast, but thus far there has been no time to develop her and her origins are set in a confusing slurry of events culminating in the destruction of Earth. That is no way to put a successful character across to the audience. But like Grayson at least she is given a key supporting role within the plot, as Deimos' brief confidante Yolana has an insight into his psyche which others do not, and it is this which leads to her being able to distract him at the right time for Parallax to strike him down. What happens next though is par for the course for a Scott Lobdell 1990s production as it triggers the end of the universe within which the planet now finds itself in - and above the newly aarived world the Justice League and Oracle see the power pulse from the planet as Deimos power bubbles forth to begin the unravelling of time and space. As a climax it is suitably grand and apocalyptic. But here again is a curious moment where the threat at hand is being seen in two very different ways - On the surface of Telos are the various heroes and villains fight for their cities, and by proxy worlds, against all-powerful jailers. Above are the Justice League, oblivious to all of that drama and seeing only a mysterious and threatening incursion into their solar system. We the reader then are privy to the overall story, but for the League they are barely seeing anything other than the planets arrival, and the cast on the planets surface are equally ignorant of anything other than the events of their immediate vicinity. This mutual ignorance is both an ironic element and, by next issue, likely an irritating one. As one can see where this story is going to end... all in a neat bow with no one side of this incursion the wiser to the other.
As an overall production Convergence is an explosion. An explosion of sound and fury, colour and confusion. Very much the diametric opposite of the spirit powering the NEW 52 project it is confusing enough spectacle for oldtimers, never mind newer readers, and this indulgnt binge is still the brainchild of the very people who implemented that 2011 overhauling and its firm jettisoning of the company's past. A bizarre thing to consider. But while the stated aim was to produce the series as a celebration of the publishers past it cannot gloss over the fact that such 'celebrations' are actually commonplace, whether it be the continuity fan-fic exercise of Infinite Crisis, or the Retroactive series of titles which preceded the Flashpoint event. The nature of the 2011 rebooting though meant that such nostalgia exercises would be furthermore discouraged, if not virtually impossible. So quite what is going on at DC given Convergence and the equal fan-service of Geoff Johns' current Justice League issues is very hard to fathom... all it is at this point in the proceedings is empty nostalgia from a publisher that appears to be running out of ideas on what facets of its catalogue of characters and their history its future direction is best served by. This is a publisher showing acute schizophrenia.
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