Comic Review – Convergence #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of DC’s ‘Convergence’ event, a collection of several tie-ins or mini-series taking place around a main 8-issue story. The event has been touted all over the internet as effectively a stop-gap series taking place while DC Comics moved their head offices from New York to Burbank in California, with regular comics pausing mid-story until June.  Some of the main titles will continue, some will not, and a few new books will start up too. Convergence #1 was written by Jeff King and Scott Lobdell, with pencils by Carlos Pagulayan, inks from Jason Paz, colours by Aspen MLT’s John Starr and Peter Steigerwald, with lettering from Travis Lanham.

Convergence opens in an alternate Gotham City, looking like the Injustice: Gods Among Us Gotham, as the surviving heroes face down a newly released Superman, the despotic madman who took control of the whole planet. As they try to get him to see reason, the city tears itself apart, erupting into a volcano that claims Batman, Harley Quinn, Flash and Cyborg, while Superman tries to fly away – until the earth forms a giant hand that crushes him. As the city falls, a voice pronounces it a failed experiment.

Above a desert wasteland, Earth 2 versions of Batman (Dr. Thomas Wayne), Dick Grayson (a journalist), The Flash  (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott, magic GL), Yolanda Montez (the Red Avatar of Earth) and Superman (Val-Zod) all appear ripped from their final stand against Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips. Their Earth was moments from destruction, and yet they now find themselves on a strange planet. Metal constructs turn up and try to contain the heroes in a dome, before Telos, a new antagonist appears and asks why they have not appeared with a city. After incapacitating everyone, he tells them that he is working for his master, Brainiac, and has been collecting cities from various realities on the exact moment that they were on the brink of destruction, containing them in domes on this planet. Telos is the planet, they are one in the same. But Telos has now decided that the inhabitants of all the cities must now fight, competing until only one is left standing.  In his transmission to all the cities, he references Flashpoint, Infinite Crisis, Zero Hour and Kingdom Come, amongst whatever other Elseworlds realities and continuities that have cities on Telos. The Convergence will result in one world being returned to the universe.

Full disclosure: I did not read the whole of the Earth 2: World’s End weekly series that finished last week, or the monthly Earth 2 series, and it looks like at least the end of the weekly series may have led straight into this. It doesn’t seem completely necessary for the story, and I doubt that it would make the Convergence event any clearer. The #0 issue that came out last week may help to understand who Telos is, but not really why he is doing this. In that issue, Superman (from the current DCU) found his way to Telos after his fight with Brainiac during the Doomed storyline. That issue seemed to indicate that the events of Convergence would have a wider effect on the DC universe, but issue #1 doesn’t seem to indicate what that would be. King and Lobdell write well here in this first issue, with the character dialogue being solid and while Telos drones on and on, it seems like it would be fitting for a living planet who has gone a little bit off the rails. The art from Pagulayan and Paz is very decent superhero fare, with some nice looking action that is brightened by the colour work of Starr and Steigerwald (especially compared to the darker pallets of the normal ‘New 52’ DC Universe). The web of reaction shots of the different worlds behind Telos as a screen looks pretty crazy and interesting too.

Convergence #1 works fine as a set up issue, but I’m not sure how relevant or interesting the actual event looks at this point. Decent art and writing make this a worthwhile read, but if you’re not particularly invested in the DCU you may not care that much, and even if you are and want to see how it will shake up the status quo at this point I can’t really see how it will. The huge number of tie-in series is daunting, and potentially ruinous to the wallet, but may provide access to areas of DC history that many may be missing and want to catch up with. My experience with tie ins of this nature is that they are often a bit hit or miss, or aren’t at all necessary to the story (which is probably a good thing), so if you are thinking of picking any up just go for your favourite creators and characters over trying to complete the story (I’ll be grabbing Nightwing/Oracle by Gail Simone personally). If you want to check out Convergence, pick it up from your LCS or digitally.

Score: 6.5 Domed Cities out of 10

Comic Review – Superman: Doomed #2 (Finale)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

Actually fairly full spoilers because I rambled.

This week I picked up the finale of the recent Superman crossover, Superman: Doomed #2, from DC comics. This is a storyline that has been running since April/May, crossing over into Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman, Superman and Supergirl. The story was written by Greg Pak and Charles Soule, with art from Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes and Norm Rapmund (that is a lot of artists!), colours from Wil Quintana and letters by Taylor Esposito.

Briefly, the plot of Doomed started the rampaging villain Doomsday turning up. After various attempts to stop him, Superman decides that the only course of action is to kill him, as violently as possible apparently by fully ripping him in half. Superman somehow becomes infected with a Doomsday virus, and constantly battles with a primal Doomsday version of himself in his psyche that wants to destroy everything, eventually transforming into a fully formed creature himself. As he succumbs to the virus, he becomes an enemy of the state and leaves the planet to avoid hurting anyone else. It turns out this was all an elaborate (and circuitous) plan from Brainiac to get rid of Supes, allowing him to come and steal the mind energy from everyone on the planet. Using a mind controlled Lois Lane, with psychic powers that he also gave her, he paralyses anyone without adequate shielding as energy erupts out of their eyes and into his giant mothership nearby.

In this final part, Superman has finally given over to the ‘Superdoom’ personality (actual name used) and goes to destroy the ship and free the 7 billion captured minds that Brainiac has stolen. As Brainiac invades his mind, he uses the opportunity to convince Clark that his plan to remake the universe can give him and all his friends exactly what they want. Superman doesn’t bite though, and with some help from Lois (now free from Brainiac but having retained all the powers he gave her) and Wonder Woman (still in the phantom zone, this part seems fairly important but little attention is given) defeats him and saves the world, seemingly sacrificing himself to dispose of Brainiac through a black hole. The final page has been commented on a fair bit online already, with a confused Brainiac seeing images many of which seem to be of a pre-new 52 DC universe.

That wasn’t at all brief. I stuck with the Doomed storyline because I liked the concept and have largely enjoyed the plot, and I wanted to read a bit more Superman. And this finale is good, Pak and Soule have given a decent and well written action comic. A few parts of the narrative didn’t make total sense, in particular as I mentioned before I felt that given the importance of Clark and Diana’s relationship throughout this crossover, her appearance in this issue was minimal and inconclusive (though I assume this will be followed up in Action Comics or Superman/Wonder Woman). Considering how infrequently I read Superman comics too, Brainiac seems to turn up way more often than he should, which lessens the impact of any big reveal of when he is behind the curtain.This isn’t even unique to Superman titles, as it happened in Futures End too. I feel like there must be other villains that can be used, or new ones can be invented, before reverting back to the same big bads. And considering this was a crossover largely themed around Doomsday and the infected Superman, it felt odd that the Brainiac storyline was there at all rather than as the main story in Action Comics. Which leads me probably onto a point that has been made by most people already, that this crossover has gone on far longer than it should have really. The quality has stayed pretty high throughout, but around 15 issues across various titles (not including the prologues) over 5 months has led to the plot dragging a great deal, with Superman beating and succumbing to the Doomsday virus at least 3 times.

Mostly minor complaints though, and I did enjoy this issue and the arc in general. I might just be bitter because I was really enjoying Superman/Wonder Woman as a series, and it seemed to get entirely derailed and sucked up into this plot. Regardless, well written story and dialogue. The art was a little bit all over the place at times, mainly because there were 9 pencillers and inkers which gave the art a fairly disjointed feeling. However, none of the art was bad by any means and I would have been happy for any of them to have done the whole issue. The tease of the existence somewhere, somehow of the pre-new 52 universe will certainly be tantalising for many of the new 52’s detractors. Personally, I don’t hate the current DC universe on the whole, in fact I like a lot of it, but I understand a lot of the yearning for the way things were. It will be interesting to see if that goes anywhere, and how messy continuity will get if it does!

Overall I did enjoy Superman: Doomed. It probably isn’t for everyone, but it kept my interest going and I made me want to keep up with Action Comics to see where things go next. If you like Superman, but wish he looked like he was covered in sharp rocks and growled a lot, then this will be your bag. Check it out in your local comic shop or digital comics platform.

Score: 7 Crises out of 10