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Five 'Convergence' tie-ins worth reading, even if you didn't read 'Convergence'

Concluding this week, DC Comics' Convergence put the big in "big event": There were 89 individual comic books – a nine-issue weekly miniseries and 40 two-part miniseries – created by more than 75 writers and pencilers, plus a comparable legion of inkers, colorists and letterers.

Because of the sheer size, it's difficult to review the event in its entirety, so I'm not going to bother picking it part here. The main series wasn't particularly good, while the 40 tie-in series varied from terrible to excellent, with most of them falling somewhere in between.

In case you've watched this leviathan of a superhero event passing by without reading much – or any – of it, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some of those excellent books, the ones that you should read if you decide to pick up any of Convergence, regardless of your interest in, or affection for, particular characters.

The essential premise of Convergence is this: Superman villain Brainiac, who has long made a habit of shrinking cities and putting them in bottles to collect, discovered the Multiverse, and traveled to different times and realities to collect cities. Rather than shrinking and bottling these, however, he "domed" them and relocated them to a sentient planet outside of time and space called Telos.

Telos decided to pit characters from these cities against one another in death matches, with the destruction of the losing city and all its inhabitants serving as incentive for the heroes to participate. These fights unfold in the 40 miniseries, while Convergence proper dealt with Telos running afoul of superheroes from the Earth-2 comic book and Mike Grell's old Warlord comic.

These are the five best series, which I'll list in order of most to least awesome:

CONVERGENCE: THE ATOM

Written by Tom Peyer, drawn by Steve Yeowell and Andy Owens, and colored by "Hi-fi" with covers by Steve Dillon

This has been the stand-out, and with good reason. Writer Tom Peyer treats the premise of the entire series as insane as it is, and goes to great lengths to respond with a crazy story.

The Atom Ray Palmer is stuck in Gotham City, like all the other "pre-Flashpoint" characters of the first week. Unlike the other heroes, however, he still has a superpower, just not his superpower. While he can no longer shrink, Palmer can grow ... but just his hand. That he can grow to enormous proportions, and the arm its attached to seems to be able to stretch as well.

That's just one of the mysteries regarding the character. The other is how and why the brilliant physicist -- a certifiable genius among the superhero crowd -- has gone completely around the bend. Seemingly living on the streets and wearing his costume 24/7, Palmer has begun constantly talking to himself. Whenever he shows up, still wearing his Atom costume, to save the day, anyone who sees him responds with dismay.

Meanwhile, he hasn't given up hope that he'll one day be able to avenge the death of his protegee and fellow Atom, Ryan Choi, who was murdered by Deathstroke (a character who, as the unlikely coincidences of Convergence would have it, is also stuck under the dome in Gotham).

The Atom's opponent is some minor character from the post-Crisis world of The Extremists (if that doesn't mean anything to you, don't worry; it's not important). The real exciting part of the second half of the series, however, is the revelation of how The Atom's new power works, who the voice is in his head, and how he will be able to gain vengeance and/or justice for Choi.

The answers basically boil down to "comic book science," which is, of course, The Atom's whole deal. Peyer presents logical-enough explanations that are wild but not completely nonsensical, and artist Steve Yeowell provides perfectly straight, even generic superhero art, except for when weird imagery is called for, and that, invariably, looks all the weirder in the context of the straightforward work.

It all comes down to growing and shrinking, essentially, adding and subtracting. So The Atom has the power to grow his hand to gigantic proportions. Then, at one point, his hand gets chopped off (a nice cut at pre-Flashpoint DC Comics' fascination with dismemberment, whether intentional or not), and as for Deathstroke's punishment?

That's some Stardust The Super Wizard-level crazy right there.

There were about a half-dozen of these miniseries that I wished were ongoings – Batgirl, Nightwing/Oracle, Hawkman, Shazam – but this is the first one that made me think that.

CONVERGENCE: SHAZAM

Written by Jeff Parker, drawn and covered by Evan "Doc" Shaner and colored by Jordie Bellaire

It's ironic that Captain Marvel is the character DC seems to spend the most time on figuring out ways to alter in order to make him work, but whenever the publisher simply portrays him straight, he does just fine.

Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner are the second creative team to prove this in recent months, following Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart's Thunderworld Adventures issue of The Multiversity.

This storyline lacks the layers that the Multiversity issue did, but it's remarkable in how good a Captain Marvel comic book can be if the creators work with the characters as they are, rather than trying to beat them into new forms they seem reluctant to fit into.

With the Marvel Family powerless, The Monster Society of Evil concocts a sinister plan, with the dome falling and the Marvels' abilities returning just in time to stop them. Cap, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr. (and their alter egos), Sterling Morris, Uncle Dudley, Mr. Tawky Tawny and even fellow Fawcett Comics heroes Bulletman and Bulletgirl all appear, as do much of the Marvel Family's impressive rogues gallery. Dr. Sivana, Ibac, King Kull and Mister Atom all play fairly substantial roles, while Mister Mind, Black Adam and Captain Nazi get cameos of sorts. It's like Captain Marvel 101, really, a greatest-hits collection of characters that feels organic rather than forced.

The Marvel Family vs. Monster Society conflict is enough to drive the conflict of the entire first issue, while the second is devoted to the fight with a steampunk version of Gotham City (very loosely based on, in fact more extrapolated from, 1989's Gotham By Gaslight one-shot). While Captain Marvel does square off against Victorian Batman, it remains a Captain Marvel story, and the various Gothamites involved are merely extensions of a Captain Marvel villain's plot.

The story is straightforward, colorful, optimistic superheroics, with a nice mixture of fun, humor, action and some clever ideas. Above all else, though, it's a great showcase for Shaner's artwork, which falls closer to Mac Raboy than C.C. Beck; in fact, his style seems much more like that seen in the 1970s, DC Comics revival of the characters than their Golden Age heyday, which is appropriate, as that's the time from which this story is set.

It's an eloquent, elegant argument that sometimes all a comic book publisher needs to do to make a character work is simply get a great writer and a great artist to chronicle his adventures.

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