Few of this year’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles market their upcoming arcs as well as DC’s “Divergence” does. This issue teases big changes to three titles — “Superman,” “Batman” and “Justice League” — and each preview introduces its concept sharply. As with many FCBD titles, “Divergence” is essentially a trailer, so these entries are written to build anticipation rather than to build story. In that, they succeed rousingly. It remains to be seen how DC will execute on these ideas, but they are certainly attention-grabbing.
Note: The stories in this issue are short and entirely dedicated to setting up their premises, so it isn’t possible to substantively review them without discussing those premises. I’ve avoided spoilers where possible but, if you really don’t want to know what the big pitch is for these series, I’d recommend you read “Divergence” first.
“The Rookie,” Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman” story, introduces a new status quo for Gotham. Snyder’s affection for the character shines through in a dramatic opening that, though it waxes sentimental, establishes how this arc will treat and view Gotham as a character. From there, the city’s newscasters discuss the (apparent) death of Batman and Powers International’s proposed replacement. Capullo and inker Danny Miki keep the issue engaging despite the talking-heads structure, using the streaming feeds and video clips of a modern news segment to vary the visuals. Fewer, wider panels also make it easier for the page to carry the dense dialogue that Snyder provides. There’s certainly plenty of intrigue here, as this arc is transforming a vigilante into the corporatized right arm of the police force but, whether the execution will boldly capitalize on this idea or hang back is yet to be seen.
Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr. are bound to upset some readers with the events of “Exposed.” In this “Superman” story, Clark’s gone incognito after Lois revealed his secret identity to the world. While the central idea is shocking, the execution is predictable. Superman is discovered by a supervillain, who threatens a nice old couple, and Superman must reveal himself by fighting to protect them. Romita’s disguise for Clark, a hoodie and a five o’clock shadow, is similarly expected, though the action itself is conveyed vividly and clearly. While this isn’t the most daring way to approach the story, it is an example of how “Divergence” is built for anticipation. From a simple story perspective, Lois’ motivations are more complicated and engaging, but watching Superman deal with the fallout piques the reader’s interest more effectively.
“Darkseid War Prologue Two: The Other Amazon” is perhaps the most effective as a single story. Here, Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok recount the birth of Grail, daughter of Darkseid. A birth story is inherently a type of prologue, and so this works quite naturally as an ominous foreword to the coming event. Fabok’s art is very much in the DC house style, detailed and heavily inked, and — though it occasionally feels a bit weighed down — it matches Johns’ tone quite well.
“Divergence” accomplishes what an FCBD book is meant to do: intrigue readers with an idea so that they’ll pick up the first issue of the new arc. What happens once they do is up to the creative team.