Convergence: Crisis Book Two lives up to the high standard set by the first volume. The Wonder Woman story that starts the book threatens to go off the rails a bit, setting a bad precedent for the rest, but a bevy of stronger stories builds it back up again -- Swamp Thing, New Teen Titans, and then a surprisingly strong Flash Barry Allen tale. As I said before, these Crisis on Infinite Earths-era miniseries were not necessarily the ones I most looked forward to, but in total the two volumes have offered some of the best of the Convergence tie-ins so far.
[Review contains spoilers]
The various Convergence tie-in books have used their respective eras for better or worse. The Flashpoint-era Superman sticks out as using that timeframe well; alternatively the Zero Hour books were a morass of continuity confusion. The Crisis Book Two books succeed; Dan Abnett's Flash uses Barry's impending death to much greater emotion than Marv Wolfman did Supergirl's in Adventures of Superman, and Len Wein's Swamp Thing literally branches right off of Alan Moore's Crisis tie-in. Though not directly tied to Crisis, legendary Titans writer Wolfman does a seamless job projecting how the Titans' lives would have evolved after a year under the Convergence dome, such that one could even believe this to be a "real" and not "divergent" continuity.
Indeed, though I felt Wolfman's Adventures lacked a bit of gusto, his Titans is a pitch-perfect callback to the classic. Nightwing and Starfire have wed (and without Raven's troublesome body-snatching this time), but they still face the conflict between Dick Grayson's Bat-moral code and Princess Koriand'r's warrior upbringing. Donna Troy, isolated from husband Terry Long by the Convergence dome, has buried herself further in her mothering role, though Wolfman -- with the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity for alternate-history storytelling -- hints more strongly than ever at a potential Nightwing/Wonder Girl relationship. In the same way Wolfman also rolls back the clock and has Jericho come out as gay to Kole, a welcome bit of retroactive continuity that aligns the character with his creators' reported original intentions. And artist Emanuela Lupacchino delivers the emotion of the characters perfectly, a fine stand-in for Titans artist George Perez.
Wolfman's well-told tale might even be the book's best, if not for Dan Abnett's Flash. Different books have dealt with Convergence's period of the characters being de-powered and re-powered differently. Abnett makes one of many daring choices in leaving Barry de-powered almost the entire first issue. The benefit is a focus on the man and not the superhero. There's also a kooky appearance by Bruce Wayne that called back, for me, to Flashpoint.
Next, Abnett is brave enough to allow for a mistake -- Barry's mentioning of the Speed Force, something he shouldn't know -- in order to turn the plot on it in the second issue. When a number of writers have actually messed up their character's Convergence-era continuity, I give Abnett credit for being willing to be blamed for an error temporarily for the benefit of the story overall. Finally, the second issue offers eleven-or-so pages of just talking, mostly Barry and the Tangent Superman, far outweighing the seven quick pages of action, a kind of math that's unusual for your average comic. All of these risks pay off in two issues that speak well of Abnett, Barry Allen, and the godly Tangent Superman.
Unfortunately, the Tangent universe does not come off quite so well in the other books. Many moons ago I was quite the Tangent fan, and I still hold the miniseries' modular interconnectedness -- a precursor to Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers and etc. -- in high regard. But these Convergence books could use biography sections for the "villains" as well as the heroes, because I felt pretty clueless about Titans's Tangent Doom Patrol, and I even struggled with the Tangent pseudo-Justice League, the Secret Six, in Fabian Nicieza's Justice League of America. Nicieza's story was fine if not necessarily hair-raising, but I felt his Tangent characters came off one-note.
The antagonists in the other miniseries in the book come from Doug Moench and Kelley Jones's Batman: Red Rain trilogy, which makes it all the more fitting that Jones should draw Len Wein's Swamp Thing. Though this is not Wein's Swamp Thing era, again he picks up well from Alan Moore's stories, and further the two issues serve as an exceptional coda to the Red Rain books, too, when most Convergence miniseries have treated the "bad guys" just as window dressing.
But Larry Hama's Wonder Woman story doesn't fare as well. It starts strongly in the "Diana Prince" era with art by Joshua Middleton that shows a sexier side of Diana than DC dared post-Crisis. But the conflict of Hama's story is confusing, why Diana objects to a religion that at first doesn't seem to be bothering anyone, and then Hama plays the Red Rain Joker and company more comically than the story needs. I've liked plenty of artist Aaron Lopresti's work, but similarly the second issue with his pencils comes off too cartoony. That's on top of the fact that Hama kills off Diana's best friends Steve Trevor and Etta Candy here -- I've mentioned before that, give or take a bit, I'm inclined to favor happy endings in these alt-continuity "what if" stories, and seeing Diana left alone and in mourning hardly fits the bill.
In all however three of the book's five tales are very strong here, which works out to good math for me. Again, Convergence: Crisis Book Two wasn't a tie-in I anticipated highly, but there's plenty good work here to remind of the highlights of the era.
[Includes covers, biography sections, and sketches]