Review: Convergence: Crisis Book One trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 18, 2016

After a disappointing end to the Convergence Zero Hour tie-ins, I was delighted to find strong showings in Convergence: Crisis Book One. Due perhaps to the fact that these stories of Bronze Age characters branch from fairly stable runs, the stories themselves come off solid and assured, most notably Batman and the Outsiders and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I'd happily read ongoing series starring those characters from the respective miniseries's creative team.

[Review contains spoilers]

The best of this book is Batman and the Outsiders, not necessarily because of the characters (whom I like but have no significant affection for), but because of writer Marc Andreyko (Manhunter). Andreyko's gift for characterization is on display here; he has the unenviable task of spinning the plights of six different characters under the Convergence dome in just two issues, but manages to give every one of them emotional depth. Not every story has addressed what under-the-dome, de-powered life is like for the heroes, but Andreyko thinks it through for every character, especially the now-human Metamorpho.

Andreyko's final nine-page sequence of the first issue when the dome comes down is wonderfully joyful and tragic all in one. His Manhunter series, starting Kate Spencer, was must-reading back in the day; I'm glad to see Andreyko doing a little work for DC and I'd be happy to see him doing even more. Artist Carlos D'Anda's slightly thicker figures, on the line between realistic and cartoony, work well to present the Bronze Age, especially Batman with the yellow-circle Bat-symbol costume. Again, I'd certainly pick up an ongoing Outsiders series from these two.

Very honorable mention goes to Stuart Moore's Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Moore gets points for not trying to overreach; the Legionnaires are both young and impetuous (Superboy's homesickness; Colossal Boy breaking open Brainiac 5's door), but Moore makes them heroic, not angsty, and neither does he fill their mouths with pseudo-cool jargon. This is a likable Legion, one I'd be happy to follow (and Legion done well reinforces its absence in the DCU). In the first issue, Gus Storms's wide-eyed, manga-influenced figures have a youth and freshness also right for Legion; DC really ought snap him up for a Legion or Teen Titans-type title.

Though not quite as notable, the Green Lantern Corps, Adventures of Superman, and Hawkman stories are each plenty enjoyable. David Gallaher's Corps focuses on Guy Gardner, always a plus, and the hyper-emotion of Steve Ellis's characters resembles Joe Staton from this era; in all the melodrama of this story is commensurate with Corps of the time. Superman has a weird, unnecessary side-trip into the Phantom Zone that, perhaps unintentionally, evokes the era's wonkiness; I'm not sure Marv Wolfman quite nails the Bronze Age Supergirl's voice, but there's resonance in having Wolfman write the just-pre-Crisis Kara. The Hawkman story also has sometimes strange sensibilities, but of course one can't argue with Tim Truman drawing the Hawks (even if not exactly Truman's trademark Hawks). Both Corps, Hawkman, and Legion, among others, also made good mention of the titles' continuity of the day.

Probably Crisis Book One's biggest detraction, and the one that mainly mars the miniseries I favored less in the book, was the use of "Great Disaster" Jack Kirby characters as the antagonists. As has been the case in many Convergence miniseries, the guest-"villains" are not as interesting as the title heroes, and so the story drags with too much space devoted to them. I thought Moore tied the Atomic Knights into the overall themes of the Legion story well, and OMAC is recognizable enough in Outsiders, but I'd rather see Superman and Supergirl in the Phantom Zone than fighting Kamandi's gorillas that I don't know as well, and the same for all the bats and rats in Hawkman.

The rhyme and reason of what "dome city" survived each era has been hard to figure -- there seems to be a lot of Gothams, but with Super-characters trapped in it, and Metropolises with Bat-characters. Here we have another Gotham, and for fans of the tertiary Bat-characters, there's nice cross-continuity with Leslie Thompkins appearing in Corps and Outsiders, and then Lucius Fox in Superman. Those are small additional touches to Convergence: Crisis Book One that furthered my enjoyment. In all this is a bright, optimistic book, faithful to its time period, and how well it works maybe suggests DC might be wise to bring some of it into modern times.

[Includes original covers, biography pages, sketches]
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3 comments:

  1. Interesting. GLC was actually a late grab for me, *because* of the Hercules Unbound characters (loved that series).

    But glad to hear B&tO was the pick of the litter - just the characters were what brought me in, but the art was a great bonus and of course Andreyko is a strong writer to craft something great out of it.

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  2. Thanks for reading it. Glad you enjoyed it. I used to have the Remco Hercules Unbound action figure, so it was a special glee to write that character.

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