Monday, April 13, 2015

A Confluence of Conflicts: Convergence #1

The following is my review of Convergence #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


As kids, we all like to keep track of our toys. We do this because when we lose them, our first instinct is to throw a fit and hope that our parents wave a magic wand to fix everything or buy us a whole new toy, whichever comes first. The many universes of the DC Universe are like a giant sandbox of toys where kids of all kinds try to keep track of those toys and pitch a fit whenever someone kicks sand on them. But instead of parents, we take to Twitter and Facebook to complain. It's not nearly as effective as whining to our parents. However, it does reveal something about the structure of the stories that DC tells.

With an event like Convergence, DC Comics is trying to make it easier to keep track of all these wonderful toys that so many have come to love. We can argue to the farthest reaches of the multi-verse, but stories like Crisis and Flashpoint have helped refreshed and/or rebooted the overall context of DC's continuity in a way that helps streamline the narrative. It doesn't always lead to quality or even a satisfying resolution. Anyone familiar with the concept of a continuity punch can attest to that. But also like some kids, there will be fans who complain no matter how the situation resolves itself.

The premise of Convergence #1 isn't the same as Flashpoint or Crisis. It isn't the same as Crisis on Infinite Earths either, but it utilizes the same tools. There's a huge threat to the multiverse. Multiple versions of DC's iconic characters will be effected. And somehow, this threat needs to be confronted in a way that won't make anyone who hasn't read any of Stephen Hawkings' books too confused. In that sense, Convergence #1 does sort of handicap itself in establishing a coherent narrative. However, that doesn't keep it from being at least semi-coherent enough.

For those who have been following the events of Earth-2, there is a sense of progression. These versions of DC's mightiest heroes act as tour guides for this multiverse-level crisis, their war with Apokolipse being the anchor that gives context to their role. For anyone who hasn't been following that conflict or anyone who isn't familiar with DC's catalog of alternate universes, much of that progression is going to be lost. However, it's not entirely necessary for the story to carry weight. Like tuning into a Simpsons rerun halfway in, it's fairly easy to surmise the nature of the conflict.

That said, it takes a while for the weight of the conflict to set in. There's a teaser in the beginning that helps offer a clue as to how badly this will go for certain universes that were already screwed to begin with. However, the details are fairly generic and more forgettable than the last three winners of American Idol. It only offers clues as to what the heroes of Earth-2 are up against and it's always worth knowing that one screw-up could lead to the destruction of an entire universe.

Even with this clue, it takes a while for the characters to catch up to the conflict. They spent a good chunk of their time arguing and whining. But unlike the Avengers movies, there's none of Robert Downy Jr.'s charm or Chris Evan's charisma to tie it all together. It's only when the mysterious planet they find themselves on starts attacking them that they start to understand that arguing and whining is about as productive as spitting yelling at a TV to affect the outcome of a football game. Even so, the act of the planet attacking them isn't as epic as it sounds.


There's no subtle message from Al Gore here or anything. At times, it looks like the characters are fighting ghosts. It's hard for the conflict to feel epic when they're basically doing the work of a superpowered mime. It eventually does get the necessary detail when Brainiac shows up. Brainiac is essentially the arbiter of the Convergence conflict. He's the one bringing these universe's together and the heroes of Earth-2 just ended up drawing the short straw in that they came from a world that was already on the business end of Darkseid's wrath. Their terrible luck still ends up being the catalyst for a much larger conflict.

Eventually, the details do become more concise and the scope of the story comes into perspective. Brainiac sees this anomaly as an egregious error in an otherwise perfect system. So like an overly-zealous IT manager, he demands that this error be purged from his system. And also like an overly-zealous IT manager, he has a method for doing just that and it doesn't involve rebooting.

Brainiac essentially becomes the hype man before a rap concert, announcing to the entire DC multiverse that all their worlds are about to take part in a universe-level version of Wrestlemania. He's not nearly as charismatic as Vince McMahon, but he still gets his point across. This is how he's going to cleanse the multiverse of one too many errors. And he's going to have each universe prove that they're worth saving. It sets up a galactic-sized cage match, complete with some creative word play that will satisfy fans of certain worlds.

Convergence #1 takes a while to become coherent and the characters involved who aren't named Brainiac don't really distinguish themselves. They're not pawns as much as they are a bunch of rats being put in a cage with only a finite amount of cheese. Those not already familiar with these versions of DC's characters probably aren't going to become cos-players at the next Comic Con. But they still play a role and they succeed in that role, triggering the conflict that kickstarts the story. Like a juicy steak without the steak sauce, it's still edible and it still has the potential to become part of an epic feast.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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