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DC’s ‘Convergence’ begins, while its weeklies end … weakly

by  in Comic News Comment
DC’s ‘Convergence’ begins, while its weeklies end … weakly

Fans of the weekly format — like yours truly — had an interesting new comic book day. That’s because all three of DC’s weekly series concluded on Wednesday, and the publisher kicked off its next weekly series with a zero issue.

When it comes to weekly comics, the first and last issues are the most important. Weeklies have a distinct advantage over monthlies, in that readers tend to be more forgiving from issue to issue. Perhaps the art is rough, but we excuse it, because we understand the brutal deadline pressure. Perhaps the story drags and stalls, but because a new issue arrives each week, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the flaws — and there’s always the hope it will get better with the next installment, which, of course, is just seven days away. But when we reach the final issue, that hope is gone, and readers discover whether their investment in the story— time and money — was worthwhile.

My colleague Tom Bondurant took a look at all three of the weeklies in turn last week, on the occasion of their penultimate issues. Today I’m going to cover similar ground, at least in terms of discussing some of the same books. If you haven’t been reading Batman Eternal, The New 52: Futures End or Earth 2: World’s End, but plan to and want to keep their endings a surprise, you should know there may be spoilers.

Let’s start in Gotham City, with Batman Eternal. I just wrote at some length about the series two weeks ago, when co-plotters Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV revealed the big mystery villain behind the events of their 52-issue series … or at least they seemed to. I guess it’s a good thing I included the qualifier “barring any last-minute swerves in the final two installments” before plunging into my praise of the reveal, because there was indeed a last-minute swerve.

While Cluemaster was the villain who came up with the brilliantly simple plan to destroy Gotham and kill Batman, he had a financial backer, in the form of a character I suppose should be considered Batman’s archenemy during Snyder’s run on Batman at this point: Lincoln March of The Court of Owls, the man who says he’s Bruce Wayne’s brother.

That reveal, on the last page of the 51st issue of a 52-part series, rather undermined the mystery aspects of the comic, as 1) March was never a suspect, and, indeed, was never even mentioned within the series until his appearance; narratively, then, he was as random a villain to appear as, say, Earth-3’s Owlman, the Composite Superman or Gentleman Ghost, and 2) it contradicted Cluemaster’s grand plan, which was entirely contingent on Batman looking for a big, formidable foe like Lincoln March, and never finding him, because the real bad guy was a loser that Batman — like Batman Eternal‘s readers — never would have suspected.

The reveal doesn’t add much to the 38-page final issue; he’s just one more end-level boss for Batman to fight. The resolution is an interesting one, however, with Snyder and Tynion (and consulting writers Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley) definitively answering the question of Batman’s legacy in a way that echoes Grant Morrison’s work on Batman Incorporated: Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman; we’re all Batman.

More interesting still is the denouement, where we check in with various characters and get hints as to their new directions after the series. Selina Kyle’s new role as the button-phobic kingpin of organized crime in Gotham and Detective Jim Corrigan’s new ghost-hunting police squad have already been established in Cawoman and Gotham By Mindnight. Jason Todd heads off to hang out with Roy (in June’s Red Hood/Arsenal) and, in a scene penciled by David Lafuente, we learn that Stephanie “The Spoiler” Brown is moving in with Harper “Bluebird” Row and her brother, and we get to see Stephanie and Red Robin meet for the first time in the New 52. Those three don’t have a new book announced yet, and maybe between Gotham Academy and Batgirl Gotham has all the young detectives and crimefighters it can handle, but I sure wouldn’t mind a book starring that trio.

So Snyder, Tynion and company didn’t exactly stick the landing, and there are some loose ends that don’t make sense in retrospect. But it was nevertheless a pretty good comic book for an entire year, and the weekly format prominently featuring the Dark Knight’s extended family co-plotted by the writer of Batman proved a good way to feature fan-favorite characters who can’t sustain their own monthlies and make for a story that seemed to matter.

It also can’t help but look good when read in the same sitting as the other weeklies.

The New 52: Futures End was only slightly shorter a story than Batman Eternal: It kicked off with an oversize zero issue, and ended this week with Issue 48. As with BE, it had rotating artists and a team of writers, but while the former had two plotters and four writers who took turns scripting, Futures End had four writers sharing credit each issue, so that apparently Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen wrote the book “rock band”-style, the way Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison and Greg Rucka handled 2006’s 52.

This book’s biggest difficulty was an existential one, as it began in the Brother Eye-ruled dystopian future of 35 years from now, with Batman Terry McGinnis jumping back in time to the dystopian future of five years from now in order to stop Brother Eye from taking over the world. In other words, every single scene of the book was set in one alternate future or another, and thus none of it really seemed to “matter.” Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, sales seem to support the notion that one thing super-comics readers look for in their super-comics is stories relevant to the shared-setting universe, so a 49-part Elseworlds story was probably a non-starter for a lot of readers.

The book did offer generous amounts of panel time to characters whose own books had been canceled — Grifter, Voodoo, Firestorm, Frankenstain, Amethyst, StormWatch, etc. — but as it went on, it became clear that most of those characters weren’t really doing anything relevant to the plot; they were just there to help fill the pages until the book reached its pre-ordained conclusion.

I can’t imagine that anyone who stuck with this series for nearly a year is going to be too pleased with this final issue, which is set after the Tim Drake of five years from now puts on the dead McGinnis’ Batman Beyond costume and seemingly completes his mission … only to find that Brother Eye still rules the world of 35 years from now, so we’re right back where we started.

Looking at DC’s publishing plans, it seems as if this series was nothing more than a year-long setup for June’s Batman Beyond series, although at least a few elements seen here will have some bearing on Convergence (the big, scary, god-like version of Brainiac in Convergence #0 was first introduced in this book).

As pointless as Futures End might have been, World’s End was worse still. At just 26 issues, it was by far the shortest of the three weeklies, but if you’ve read the title, you’ve read the book: It was a 26-issue storyline in which the heroes of Earth-2 fought against the forces of Apokolips to save their world, and ultimately failed.

Earth 2 has been a deeply weird series from the get-go. It was launched with the premise of being a brand-new version of an alternate Earth where only the Golden Age characters existed, now in new, rebooted and contemporary forms. Original writer James Robinson started off with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman giving their lives saving their world from an Apokoyptian invasion five years in the past — a deliberate echo of how Geoff Johns introduced readers to the New 52’s Earth-0 in Justice League — but after he left the book a few story arcs in, it got pretty garbled, with Earth-2 being less of a new version of the old Earth-2 concept, and more of a just another random alternate world.

In the pages of World’s End, the battle between Earth and Apokolips that dominated the monthly Earth 2 title just went on and on and on. Here it reaches its end…sort of.

Some of Earth-2’s heroes lead millions of refugees into space on starships, while a handful of Earth-2’s heroes are trapped on the planet, which is sealed in a new, flame-spurting metal mantle to become a new Apokolips.

As is always the case, the credits are a complete mess. Marguerite Bennett, Mike Johnson, Cullen Bunn and Daniel H. Wilson all share “written by” credit, while Wilson gets the lone “story by” credit, and a small army of artists are credited under a simple “Art by,” with no indication of who drew what. There are 13 artists responsible for the 39 pages in this issue, and it looks like it. I’m not even sure what happened on some of these pages.

As ending’s go, this one is a particularly disappointing one. Not only did the series devote itself to nothing more than one big, long, visually garbled battle to end an alternate world, it doesn’t even actually end. The final panel reads, “Find out what happened to the heroes of Earth-2 in Convergence #1 on sale next week!”

Convergence #1 may be on sale next week, but Convergence #0 arrived Wednesday. This semi-official kickoff to the eight-part weekly event series isn’t exactly a must-read.

The 30-page comic, co-written by Dan Jurgens and Convergence scribe Jeff King, features New 52 Superman meeting the giant, cabbage-headed, multi-eyed version of Brainiac that appeared in Futures End. This Brainiac encounters Superman somewhere outside of time and space and, after a brief conversation, he leaves the Man of Steel trapped there long enough to grow a beard.

Once Superman breaks his chains, other versions of Brainiac talk at him for most of the book’s remaining pages, eventually establishing the premise of Convergence: Brainiac has captured cities from doomed timelines in forcefield domes of some sort, and stored them on a giant planet. The planet is sentient, however, and after having a very long talk with Superman, it decides to have the cities fight one another to see which should live and which should die.

So the comic basically just tells you what you likely already knew about Convergence if you read the solicitations for the first issue, although DC does include a handy 10-page illustrated prose feature in the back, detailing which cities from which continuities will be participating in the series. I’d like to call it a nice bonus feature, but given that the book costs $4.99, it’s not exactly a “bonus.”

While little in the way of story actually occurs in the zero issue, it is a nice showcase for artist Ethan Van Sciver, colored by Marcelo Maiolo, who gets to draw all the Superman a man could want to draw, and pretty much every conceivable version of Brainiac from every era and every medium.

As the first issue of a weekly series, it’s not a promising one, but this is only an eight-issue event series, and thus rather unlike the three that just concluded in it’s shorter length but much bigger intended impact. Hopefully it gets better with the next issue, and can finish more strongly than the weeklies it’s following.

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