Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wednesday Comics: Convergence and Secret Wars Review

A group of heroes and villains from different times and universes are thrust together in a strange world and are forced to do battle.

Is this DC event Convergence or the Marvel game-changer Secret Wars?

Both, actually.

As is often the case in major comics events, there is a strange overlap of ideas.

The problem is that they are both pretty bad.

Let me start with the least bad: Convergence.

The central story is that Brainiac has not only captured cities from different planets but also from different times.  So on this one planet we have heroes and villains from different eras of the DCU: pre-Flashpoint Gotham, Kingdom Come Gotham, pre-Crisis Metropolis… actually I probably couldn't tell if those were even the cities.  Anyway, Brainiac has mysteriously disappeared and a being he created, Telos, has decided that he will pit each city against each other in a strange Battle Royale.

It is a fun concept with a great sense of nostalgia for bygone eras that we miss.  But the problem is that the story is way too bloated in 2 important ways.

The main Convergence story is 8 issues long.  This could easily have been 3 or 4.  It was artificially inflated to stretch it out.  When I read a Geoff Johns epic, I can see the economy of story-telling and how each issue is important and changes the story with each chapter.  This felt wasteful.

The second way involved the countless tie-ins.  There were a plethora of 2-issue mini series focusing on the different battles.  Some were actually entertaining.  Most were boring.  And I am mad at myself for buying all of them.

Here is a rundown of what was good and bad:

The Atom #1-2[4]An interesting story bring back Ryan Choi
Batgirl #1-2[4]A fun return of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl
Batman & Robin #1-2[4]A ho-hum story involving Daminan
Harley Quinn #1-2[4]A sad and funny take on Harley
Justice League #1-2[4]Boring
Nightwing/Oracle #1-2[4]The best tie-in.  It makes me nostalgic for the old Birds of Prey
The Question #1-2[4]Okay, but dull
Speed Force #1-2[4]I've missed Wally West Flash.  This story was fun
Superman #1-2[4]Can't seem to recall what it was about
Titans #1-2[4]A decent story about Arsenal

Aquaman #1-2[5]I like the Peter David Aquaman and I like the idea of him fighting Deathblow, but this wasn't that great
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-2[5]Couldn't care less about Azrael Batman
Catwoman #1-2[5]A strange and touching tie-in to Kingdom Come
Green Arrow #1-2[5]This could have been really good, but it wasn't.
Green Lantern/Parallax #1-2[5]Nothing surprising or interesting here.
Justice League International #1-2[5]I love the Dibneys, but this was, again boring
Suicide Squad #1-2[5]Flashing and pointless.
Superboy #1-2[5]I like Kon-El a lot better when he was with the Teen Titans
Supergirl: Matrix #1-2[5]This tried to be funny but really wasn't.
Superman: The Man of Steel #1-2[5]This reminded me why this was my least favorite Superman book

The Adventures of Superman #1-2[6]Boring
Batman and the Outsiders #1-2[6]So boring I don't remember anything about it except Geo Force flying (can he do that?
The Flash #1-2[6]Decent fun.
Green Lantern Corps #1-2[6]Stale
Hawkman #1-2[6]Old and tired
Justice League America #1-2[6]Forgettable.
New Teen Titans #1-2[6]I wish I enjoyed this more, but it felt strange and forced.
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-2[6]Only interesting because of the romance between Superboy and Lightning Lass
Swamp Thing #1-2[6]Actually, a very enjoyable, creative, and exciting story.
Wonder Woman #1-2[6]The opposite of Swamp Thing

Action Comics #1-2[7]Bad
Blue Beetle #1-2[7]Bad
Booster Gold #1-2[7]Bad
Crime Syndicate #1-2[7]It has its moments
Detective Comics #1-2[7]Bad
Infinity Inc. #1-2[7]Nostalgic, but empty
Justice Society of America #1-2[7]Nice twist to the story.
Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters #1-2[7]Good take on making the Freedom Fighters interesting.
Shazam #1-2[7]Decent
World’s Finest Comics #1-2[7]Boring

But in the end, the story felt very insubstantial.  I didn't really care about what was going to happen, which is death for a comic.

But Secret Wars is even worse.

This is Marvel's Crisis on Infinite Earths.  (which is ironic considering that the Crisis was a response to the original Marvel mini series Secret Wars from the 1980's)

For those who recall, Crisis was the game changer for DC that pulled all of the multiverse into one shared universe.  You can argue the effectiveness of doing this, but the story itself was excellent: epic and heart-wrenching with big, bold action.

Secret Wars is boring.

Part of the problem is that it is written by Jonathan Hickman.  Now, if you read my review of his Fantastic Four run, you know that I think he is incredibly talented.  But he is a long-form story teller in the worst and best sense.  His style only works if you've ready everything he's written for the past 10 years.  You cannot simply jump on in the middle.

If you were to start Secret Wars with issue 0 or 1, you would be completely lost.  

What has led to this is that the Marvel Multiverse is collapsing and there is a convergence (wink-wink) between the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Marvel Universe.  As a result, the two have formed a new reality called "Battleworld" where Dr. Doom is king and there are weird "Flashpoint"-esque variations on the main heroes.  But unlike Flashpoint, you don't care about any of these altered characters.  The whole story feels like a ploy to change the status quo.

There is nothing wrong with shaking up your universe.  But do it with some sense of importance.  I can barely remember a single scene from the first 2 issues.  The art is nice, but it feels like its going through the motions until we can do the big reboot.  If this is Marvel's Crisis, then it is gigantic let down.  At least DC is ramping up for the much anticipated Darkseid War, which should be all kinds of awesome.

In the end, you may have some fun with Convergence, but Secret Wars should have stayed secret.

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