Beyond CONVERGENCE Dome: Reaction Roundup

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

Last week, DC’s Convergence event drew to a close. And it went out in pretty spectacular fashion. Part celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths, part cover for DC’s move from New York City to Los Angeles, Convergence has been perceived as a bit of hit-and-miss event. However, the ramifications of the climatic issue – and it’s rollback of the events of Crisis – will set the stage for the DCYou to come.

Convergence #8 cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson

Convergence #8 cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson

Convergence took cities from different time periods, events, eras and iterations of DC Comics and pitted them against each other in a bid for sole survival. The pre-Flashpoint DC Universe fought with their Flashpoint counterparts, the heroes of the 90s did battle with the be-pouched antiheroes of Wildstorm Comics, and Golden Age Heroes had one last moment in the sun to stand as true heroes. Throughout the two month event, we watched classic iterations of DC’s lineup come to the forefront.The heroes of the New 52’s Earth-2 stood as the stars of the event and helped to defeat Telos, the alien intelligence who trapped them all under domes on this farflung planet.

A few intrepid Panelteers found themselves trapped in the nostalgia of Convergence and we’ve assembled them to talk about their experiences under the domes.

Chris Arnone: “As for me, I only read the main eight-issue Convergence mini. Back when I was a big-time collector, the crossover events always sucked me into buying a lot of titles, and I refused to play that game this time. As someone who only read the main title, I really didn’t like Convergence. Right from the start, we had another supposedly multiverse-changing event being driven by a formerly unknown cosmic being. That being was forcing the heroes to fight. Been there, done that. The ending didn’t deliver on the big, multiverse-ending cataclysm promise, either. We still have a multiverse, it’s just different than the one that came before Convergence. Status quo, it remains unchanged.”

Mart Gray: “OK, so Convergence wasn’t a perfect event. The eponymous main series was all over the place, never quite settling on Telos’s background, or how involved Brainiac was in the contests, or what the terms of battle were. Telos was all-powerful, except when Deimos was, or Brainiac, or Parallax… The conclusion in the comic doesn’t jibe with what co-writer Jeff King, in an online interview, says resulted. And so on.

Convergence: Nightwing & Oracle #2 cover by Jill Thompson

Convergence: Nightwing & Oracle #2 cover by Jill Thompson

Yet there was still a lot to enjoy in the nine – counting the zero number – issues, from the desperate heroics of the Earth 2 gang to the stealth return of a Warlord book to the final team-up between heroes from several dozen continuities. And the art, from too many fine illustrators to mention, was gorgeous, with many terrific Crisis-style crowd scenes.

But you know what stood out most of all among the epic moments? Superman in the classic suit, complete with red trunks. DC Entertainment really needs to get a clue.

And the tie-ins? Some of them were glorious, from the happy endings given Superman & Lois, Barbara & Dick and Steph & Tim to the poignant send-offs of the Seven Soldiers of Victory and Wonder Woman. There was the return of a Hawkman & Hawkwoman worth cherishing, a wittily dark Swamp Thing and the Wally West I knew and loved (teamed with the Zoo Crew’s Fastback, to boot). Excellent incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes abounded, Supergirl teamed up with Ambush Bug in a hilarious hop through the captive cities and the classic heroes of Earth Two lived and fought once more. Several of the comics were admittedly pretty average, but outright clunkers were rare.

Convergence: Detective Comics #2 cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

Convergence: Detective Comics #2 cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

And standing above them all, Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner’s Shazam!, a sublime reminder of who the Marvel Family are and why they really don’t need to be updated – the old magic is still there, needing only to be summoned with one magic creative team.

While I admit that something as simple as a logo of years gone by fills me with joy – just look at the Detective Comics, Justice Society and Shazam! mastheads, for three – I’m not undemanding. If I’m committing to a two-issue micro-series I want a beginning, middle and end, and plenty of these titles provided just that. And that’s not easy when the first issues of most were forced to tell the same basic tale – ‘heroes after a year living under the Dome, Telos pipes up, powers return, enemies appear’. Yet still creators found room for such surprising delights as the lunacy that was the Atom, and the harsh heroics of Suicide Squad.

I’ve had a great time these past two months, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

Jess Plummer: “Hoo boy, that was a mess, wasn’t it? As was clear from the moment it was announced, Convergence was always going to be plagued by too many cooks, and the broth they produced – simmered in a dome, mixed by inconsistent battles and an unexplained earthquake, and full of weird ingredients like Waverider and far too much Skartaris – is not going to be a good base for any quality soup(erheroes). Have I pushed this metaphor too far yet?

Convergence: SHAZAM! #2 cover by Evan "Doc" Shaner & Jordie Bellaire

Convergence: SHAZAM! #2 cover by Evan “Doc” Shaner & Jordie Bellaire

And yet there was a lot I enjoyed. Sure, the main series was nonsense, and it’s not generally good storytelling to have the day saved by three random time travellers who show up at the end, and I still don’t totally understand the repercussions for the various worlds (i.e. is there now a pre-Zero Hour universe separate from the pre-Flashpoint universe somewhere?). Most of the tie-in books were unavoidably hamstrung by the restrictions placed on them, and a lot were rife with continuity errors and speech bubbles pointing to the wrong person. Some actively offended me – I never want to see another upskirt shot of Supergirl again, ahem, Justice League and Matrix.

But like Mart, as a diehard fan of DC’s storied history, it was kind of all worth it to me to see characters and relationships that have fallen by the wayside: Steph and Cass! Ollie and Connor! Beetle and Booster! The Park-Wests and the Lane-Kents! And then there was Convergence: Shazam!, two utterly perfect single issues that —  honestly? — might have been worth plowing through the other 87 to get to them. (Oh God, I read 89 issues of this. Well played, DC.)

And though I’m not entirely sure what the DCU’s going to look like from here on out, I’m excited by the “anything goes” approach and the previews I’ve read. I’m not sure all this folderol was necessary just to say, “Hey, sometimes we’re going to tell left-of-continuity stories about Bizarro or whoever now, okay?” but this wouldn’t be comics if problems weren’t solved in the most flamboyantly melodramatic way possible. I’m ready to see what comes next! (Psst, DC: IT HAD BETTER BE MORE SHAZAM.)”

Dave Accampo: “So, I took a DEEP DIVE, and I read all of Convergence. Yes, the main “spine” series and every single one of the two-part spin-off stories. I did all of this knowing that there’d be a lot of bad, but I guess I just really wanted to see what DC could do, and I guess I was also feeling a lot of nostalgia for the elements of the DCU that I loved, and that have since ceased to exist.

Convergence Question #1

Convergence: The Question #1 cover by Cully Hamner & Dave McCaig

The main series was, for me, fairly dull. It hit all the plot points it needed to hit, and it focused on the surviving Earth-2 characters, spinning them directly from the destruction of their world in their recently concluded weekly series. But, it all really amounts to a lot of punching, followed by standing around listening to exposition, followed by more punching, then more standing around, and then off-panel, the entirety of Crisis was was apparently undone, allowing for a new alignment in which — depending upon your read of it — everything has now happened and is included in one larger meta-continuity (which is how it appears to have happened in a recent New 52 Justice League issue), or the original pre-Crisis multiverse has now evolved into the Grant Morrison-charted Multiversity multiverse. Or both. Or neither. I’m not entirely certain. And maybe that’s okay.

On the upside, I got to see Warlord, Deimos, Shakira, and Skartaris again, however briefly.

But for me, the fun was really in the two-part spin-off stories. Most of them were pretty mediocre, but I don’t blame the creators. The framework was incredibly difficult: you had to explain the version of your character and the nature of the dome world they are currently inhabiting, and then you had to match them up with another version of another world, which also required explanation. And you had two issues.

I think this worked best when the creative teams focused on smaller stories, like Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner on The Question, which was simply another short Question story that just happened to be set in an unusual landscape. Rucka and Hamner wisely focus on a different version of Two-Face, Harvey Dent, and use it to reflect the need of Renee Montoya to save someone.  Nightwing and Oracle got a lovely little happy ending in a two-part scenario that Gail Simone and Jan Duursema paced nicely.

Convergence: New Teen Titans #1 cover by Nicola Scott & Annette Kwok

Convergence: New Teen Titans #1 cover by Nicola Scott & Annette Kwok

I think the stories also worked better in this framework when they sprung from a more Silver or Bronze Age era: Marv Wolfman and Nicola Scott’s New Teen Titans seemed to fit fine under the dome and in the midst of a cross-over with a Tangent universe. Jeff Parker and Tim Truman’s Hawkman worked, using Space-agey concepts for an all-out battle. And Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner showed us how well a wholesome Captain Marvel family concept can work amidst this goofy backdrop.

At the end of the day, I think Convergence made me realize just how eclectic the DCU could be, if you let all the flavors of all the eras mingle together in fun ways, rather than trying to smooth it over into a more cohesive whole. I hope this points the way for a new, looser editorial regime that lets creators take the DC characters in new directions without worrying about how everything ties together. Let’s have the Bizarros and the Bat-mites and the Tawky Tawnies all play in the same sandbox! Let’s let the DCU be as weird and patchwork as we know it can be! And when someone questions what version of Jay Garrick that is… just shout: “Convergence! It all fits!”  And let that be the end of it.”

Brian McNamara: “Like everyone else here, I found Convergence to be a bit of mess. But it’s kind of an endearing mess. The main book was by far the weakest part, feeling muddled and strangely paced. The most damning bit is that the most interesting thing the book does happens off-panel. I want to see Parallax go back and enact Zero Hour during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Like, that’s the book we should have gotten!

Convergence: Justice Society of America #1 cover by Dan Panosian

Convergence: Justice Society of America #1 cover by Dan Panosian

But the real star of this event has been a good many of the tie-ins. Two issues is a tall order to accomplish everything the event needed, and many books struggled to make it all happen. However, books like Shazam!, Green Lantern Corps, Harley Quinn, The Question, Crime Syndicate, Justice Society of America, and World’s Finest really stood out. They all managed to find interesting territory within the event to tell stories with characters at the forefront. From recovering from PSTD to dealing to the realities of the dome or just finding ways to honor the heart of the characters these books all succeeded. Superman, Batgirl, Infinity Inc., Nightwing & Oracle, Detective Comics also gave us a sense of closure that usually can’t happen with characters in an ongoing, neverending narrative. While the misses tended to weigh down a lot of the hits, I found something to enjoy every week and I found myself enjoying these glimpses of the DCU past. For me, weeks 3 and 4 felt the strongest, but these are eras and worlds that resonate more strongly with me than the 90s. While I’m not totally certain about how far reaching the promise of editorial and the rollback of Crisis really is, I’m definitely reenergized for this months new DC comics, in a way I haven’t been since before the New 52.”

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