It’s an impressive introductory issue that leaves you more confused than you were before you started reading it, but never let it be said that Convergence #0 lacks ambition. Coherence, sure, it lacks that in spades, but ambition? It’s definitely got that. More after the jump, but if you haven’t already heard this week’s episode of the podcast, scroll down a couple entries. I’ll wait.
In theory, this is the issue that sets up the Convergence event that runs through April and May, replacing the regular DC superhero books with a vast number of alternate-world books offering up a mix of Greatest Hits and When Heroes Clash tropes. I say “in theory,” because while this issue does explain that Brainiac has been stealing cities and putting them on a planet for his own purposes, it doesn’t really explain anything in any kind of easily understandable way.
(It also, thanks to some genuinely baffling choices by Ethan Van Sciver, doesn’t really establish the multiple realities that theoretically appear in the issue, nor for that matter show more than one single city under a dome at any one time — something that you’d think would be a gimme for a comic that’s supposed to establish multiple cities under domes. There’re also some layout choices that make the pages very hard to read on first go through, which again feels like a brave — read, “the wrong” — choice for something that should be as new-reader friendly as the first issue of a much-hyped event.)
But as confusing and unhelpful as the art is — and it is very confusing and unhelpful — the writing is even moreso, starting with the utterly inexplicable decision to seemingly set this issue immediately after the end of Superman: Doomed, a crossover event that finished back in September, except without any kind of editorial note to clarify that for newcomers unfamiliar with that storyline. Instead, it opens with Superman’s narration explaining “The last thing I remember is… Brainiac infecting me with the Doomsday virus…”
Superman then has a conversation with Brainiac in which he explains that all the Brainiacs we’ve seen before are “an unknown extension of my consciousness” — something which doesn’t really jibe with the end we saw in Superman: Doomed, wherein that particular Brainiac discovered the multiverse all by himself, but you know, I survived Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis, so this is nothing — before disappearing to get a city from the regular “New 52” DCU, except… when does that happen? Is that a reference to New 52: Futures End? Grant Morrison’s Action Comics? Neither, and something we’ll see in later parts of Convergence?
Maybe it’s the latter, because the issue ends with Superman flying off after him, but as Superman: Doomed showed, Superman didn’t come out of the black hole he shoved Brainiac into saying “I just met a giant Brainiac and he’s going to steal a city on Earth, oh man, I should do something…!”
Such matters of continuity aside, the issue remains filled with strange, nonsensical pieces of dialogue, bizarre jumps in framing — Superman literally goes from floating in space to being chained up between panels, with no explanation, but there is a jump in dialogue; I genuinely don’t know if it’s an intentional cut, or a page is somehow missing from the story — and a Superman that’s not even out of character as much as entirely without character altogether, a central figure that’s somehow entirely absent from the story beyond demanding explanations and punching things. There’s nothing here to convince anyone sampling the event — or, DC comics as a whole — to stick around.
Worse yet, it’s such a misfire of an issue — not even of the start of an event or even the start of a series, but a misfire of an attempt at an interesting single issue that makes narrative sense — that it pretty much deadens my desire to read the rest of the series. Sure, it might be better than this issue (It almost certainly has to be, in some respects), but nonetheless, this issue fails so badly at setting up everything that’s to come, at summing up the basics of everything that’s gone before, and at just telling a story that makes sense on a basic level even as a first chapter of a larger story, that I’m finding it hard to get too excited about reading another eight issues of this.
All told, then, Convergence #0 is a bit of a disaster. For all that DC feels like it’s turning around its creative fortunes — and I really think that it is, with everything that’s coming out in June — this feels like everything that’s been bad about the New 52, all rolled into one comic. To put it mildly, it’s a massive disappointment.
I think the surprise would be if Convergence looked any good. And I don’t mean that in a snarky, dismissive “hur-hur, DC sucks” kind of way, but this is just the nature of these types of big crossovers at this point: everyone involved – from editorial, to the creators actually working on the main books, to the creators on other titles affected by them, to the readers, to the retailers – seem to understand that these things are purely instrumental endeavors designed to goose sales a bit while setting up a rearrangement of other publications down the line. The amount of editorial, publishing and marketing tasks for such a project to accomplish, and the number of moving parts involved, makes these things, first and foremost, a really huge chore, and the idea of the big company-wide crossover itself has been around for long enough that any kind of fun or novelty has long worn off for pretty much everybody. Nothing about it seems exciting anymore; to the point that anyone’s engaged in Big Events, it seems more like an obligation that anything – and I include the writers and artists as much as the readers in that.
I think it was a recent episode of House to Astonish when the two of them were trying to think what the last decent crossover was, and I think they sort of shruggingly settled on Civil War (which was a decade ago – yikes), but if you asked me I’d probably say the Infinity Gauntlet, which, first of all, came out literally a lifetime ago, and second of all was a really weird fucking story. There’s a point in the latest podcast where Graeme disputes the notion that Marvel has actually embraced Starlin’s cosmic stuff, which I think is correct; I think they’ve taken it as a macguffin for their movies and little more. There’s this weird half-remembered notion of that story where the Avengers assemble to take down an omnipotent Thanos, but the actual Infinity Gauntlet is a kind of crazy anti-crossover where all the big-name heroes are killed off halfway through the comic so Thanos can head-trip on the realization that power is actually kind of a drag before losing to Adam Warlock and Dr. Strange. You don’t normally think of the early nineties as being some wonderland of creative experimentation, but nothing like that could get published by the big two today, much less as a big event.
This is a rather long-winded way of saying that these things are horrible almost by necessity at this point; I’m not sure who’s genuinely excited for Secret Wars, but they’re either operating in a mindset completely alien to my own, or are willfully ignoring the last couple decades of comic book publishing history in order to summon up any optimism. It’s telling that much of Marvel and DC’s hype at this point consists of what books will be coming out after these events are done with. Choke this shit down, and then, maybe, you’ll get to some good stuff.
Issue #0 is code for a bad comic with few exceptions. It’s a set up issue that isn’t allowed to tell you anything. This one is just a bunch of Brainiacs saying so many cryptic things. Then there’s an obligatory Superman breaking free of his restraints because he’s strong, and then Superman punches a Brainiac because he’s strong and mad, and then Superman flies after a Brainiac because he can fly. It is stupefying how little can be communicated by so many words and pictures.
I read Convergence #0 in bed before going to sleep and I thought my constant nodding off causing the lack of coherence. The whole thing seemed like a fever dream. I even re-read it right away and still couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Besides Brainiac, there’s also a sentient world? Or Brainiac IS the sentient world? And what was Superman’s purpose besides being someone the Brainiacs could info-dump to?
I did like the art (especially Brainiac-through-the-ages), but yeah, some weird layout choices. I read the digital copy and also couldn’t figure out how Superman was suddenly chained up. So I guess the print version is the same and doesn’t have an extra page that explains it?
I honestly thought there were pages missing from this thing. My small amount of enthusiasm for the whole project has pretty much died as well. As much as the idea of seeing all your old favorites back for another (final?) round is enticing, there’s just no reason to trust DC editorial or the majority of their ‘transition staff’ to do the job right.