So it’s here: the beginning of the latest instalment in a long cycle of DC Universe publishing events. Unfortunately, the first issue of Convergence doesn’t hold up the legacy of its best predecessors and might just wind up annoying the fanbase it’s supposed to energise.
Convergence #0 -- co-written by Dan Jurgens and Jeff King, with art by Ethan Van Sciver -- comes out this week, bringing with it older and alternate versions of DC Comics’ various heroes and villains. Like Marvel’s coming Secret Wars publishing event, the overarching plot will mash up different timelines and universes to create a fresh new gestalt reality where heroes battle each other.
Warning: Spoilers follow for the plot of Convergence #0.
As you can see in the trailer above, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio thematically links Convergence to the mega-crossovers of years past, like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. This time, bygone eras and voided possibilities will get dusted off and presented to readers in a months-long orgy of could-have-beens. Premised as it is on a superhuman recall of a fictional continuity that stretches back more than 75 years, Convergence is the kind of happening that can simultaneously be the best and worst thing about superhero comics. If you know about all of different Supermen who’ve appeared over the decades, you’ll enjoy how they get used. Even if you don’t know the difference between an Ultraman, a Superboy-Prime or a Kal-L, a good crossover give you just enough to make you curious about these alternate versions of Clark Kent.
But Convergence #0 doesn’t do that job well. This issue doesn’t show or do enough to establish what’s at stake here. It’s narrowly focused on the character of Superman, showing the current iteration of The Man of Steel struggling to escape an intradimensional trap set by archfoe Brainiac.
While Convergence #0 does sprinkle in mentions and visual references to various well-known alternate realities, it largely presumes that the reader knows about DC’s multiversal structure already.
The zero issue lacks the scope of, say, 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 or 2005’s Infinite Crisis #1, the entry points for two of the previous publishing resets DC embarked on. Even the first issue of 1994’s Zero Hour, a crossover event that was largely reviled by the DC faithful, did a better job of setting the stage than Convergence #0.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez, opens with the creation of multiple universes...
then shows one reality getting destroyed by a mysterious cosmic threat...
Here’s the opening of Infinite Crisis #1, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Phil Jimenez. Because of the events of COIE, there’s only one Earth now.
There’s a mysterious narrator who seems to know about the universe he or she is watching.
It’s a reality where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman aren’t getting along.
And the comic goes on to show that this is the worst possible time for the Justice League’s triumvirate to have problems. Again, there’s a sense of scope. The reader’s getting primed for something momentous.
=Zero Hour #4 -- also written by Jurgens, the series had a backwards numbering gimmick -- did much the same thing in 1994. Even if you were coming in cold, you knew almost immediately from its first pages that history was going to be re-written.
Then you saw the effects of the chrono-spatial meddling in the down-to-earth setting of Gotham City.
Let’s go back to Convergence #0. It’s a given that it’s going to be an instalment full of set-up since it’s the first part of a rolling event. But it’s just not very good set-up. After the opening pages shown above, the rest of the issue pretty much devolves into extended sequences of Superman yelling, futilely punching Brainiac doppelgangers and acting confused about what the heck’s going on.
The scenes here don’t quite feel like they’re going to have cosmic repercussions; they feel like they could be from any monthly Superman comic.
In that Convergence trailer, DiDio says the following: “And you’ll see ripples from the [two-month Convergence] story moving out in the very next month in some of the new series we’re introducing in June and, more importantly, these stories will be playing out in the months to come.” Because of the vicissitudes of the comics business, we’ve already seen the new costumes and heard about the new titles and creative teams coming to the DC Universe come June. And it looks like the nature of the shifts happening in both new and continuing titles will be more about resetting the tone of certain series and characters than re-writing historical events in a specific way. Thing is, as bad as Convergence #0 is, those coming changes seem interesting and are probably the best hope for recapturing readers who’ve been disenchanted with DC’s editorial of late. So it may not be a great sign that pretty much nothing exciting happens in Convergence #0. It’s going to be followed up by a bunch of miniseries that look into various alternate realities so it’s ultimately a disposable and unnecessary comic.
A shift in tone doesn’t necessarily need the same kind of empty-slate reboot that resulted from, say, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nor does it need a big line-spanning crossover as DC appears to have concocted with Convergence, be it to cover the company’s move from New York to California or to clear the palate before the shifts in June. No, the introducing of an improved line of comics that put story over continuity -- which is what DC is promising for June—is something that can be executed gradually over a series of months or with a change of scenery/creative teams, as was recently done in Batgirl Convergence and its attendant miniseries will probably become irrelevant once the new status quos start falling into place across the DC Universe. If nothing else, Convergence #0 serves as an example of exactly the kind of leaden, joyless comics-making that DC desperately needs to get away from.