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

Monday, April 04, 2016

Convergence: Flashpoint Book One may have the most important job to do of all the Convergence miniseries collections. Letting alone that this book contains the sole two-parter to continue directly into its own post-Convergence miniseries, I'd argue the Flashpoint characters are who fans most want to see. The pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths characters are long since gone (or have themselves been resurrected) and the Zero Hour characters for the most part continued after the fact. It's the Flashpoint characters, half of whom appear here, who truly disappeared from continuity and who the fans have been asking for.

By and large Flashpoint Book One is a success, though it trips over itself fairly often. The book is bolstered, not coincidentally, by good pairings of writers and their trademark characters -- Dan Jurgens and Superman, Greg Rucka and Question Renee Montoya, and Gail Simone and Oracle -- and these are enough to outshine the book's rougher chapters. But there is a clear haphazardness that comes through on the part of editorial, in that the circumstances of the characters vary from book to book (maybe not such a sin in a book about vying continuities). I frankly expected Convergence's "band-aid" moniker to have been overstated, but here it seems more true, mitigated again by the strength of the stories.

[Review contains spoilers]

Again, Greg Rucka's Question, Dan Jurgens's Superman, and Gail Simone's Nightwing/Oracle all shine in the light of familiarity. Rucka's story is the best of the book, with Rucka and artist Cully Hamner at the top of their games; quite aside from Rucka's expert fight choreographing and witty banter, Renee Montoya's strange, destructive fascination with Two-Face Harvey Dent -- and his with her -- remains compelling reading as always. Jurgens's uses best the actual continuity of the Flashpoint characters whom the pre-Flashpoint characters are meant to fight here, and Jurgens's drawing of the full-costumed, underwear-on-the-outside Superman in the second chapter gave me chills (Norm Rapmund inks Jurgens excellently here, too). Simone's Nightwing and Oracle aren't exactly what I want from these characters any more, but Simone's voice for Oracle Barbara Gordon still rings true, and Jan Duursema draws a powerful Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

But for all that this series plays with continuity, the book's own internal continuity is immediately problematic. All of the pre-Flashpoint characters seem to live in Gotham City, but none of them seem to know one another -- Superman operates alone and in secret, even as (per the Justice League chapter) Supergirl also lives in Gotham, and similarly Question and Huntress seem relatively on their own even as Oracle, Nightwing, Black Canary, and Starfire are around. The pre-Flashpoint Batman Bruce Wayne is strangely absent, even as we see him in Convergence proper.

This extends to the nature of Convergence's central conflict. In Alisa Kwitney's Batgirl story, Stephanie Brown is chosen specifically as her dome city's champion and teleported to a wasteland arena to fight the Flashpoint Catman, while in Nightwing/Oracle the Flashpoint Hawks appear able to pass through the domes with ease, trailed by Telos's robots that appear nowhere else. In the Superman book, the Flashpoint characters appear to decide to fight on their own. And if, in Convergence, the pre-Flashpoint world is ultimately destroyed (Superman can't go home), then Nightwing and Oracle's post-Convergence wedding is equally puzzling.

There's no way to reconcile it all, of course, but rather it seems the writers received broad outlines of the rules of the Convergence world with no one making sure one matched up to another. That doesn't take away from my general enjoyment of the book, but it betrays perhaps the swiftness with which the event was assembled. Story-wise, it also seems a bit easy that the antagonists are supposed to be Flashpoint characters, but the Question story invents a nondescript Harvey Dent doppleganger and the same with the Hawks in Nightwing/Oracle, instead of either using actual characters from the Flashpoint event or otherwise being less strict about antagonists from the same world throughout the Convergence "week."

Frank Tieri's Justice League here makes me nervous for his Catwoman. In a story spotlighting an all-female League, artist Vicente Cifuentes's overly sexualized figures are already troubling, but Tieri's heavy-handed slang doesn't help, like Vixen calling the other woman "girlfriends" twice in three pages. The story ends with Vixen seemingly being forced to shoot herself in the head by the Flashpoint Aquaman, only mitigated from a kill shot by a line of dialogue. Even then, we never see Vixen again or learn what happens to her, and what minor epilogue the book has focuses on the Flashpoint Aquaman and not the heroes. Convergence is meant to be a celebration of seeing old friends, and brutally wounding and then ignoring one doesn't seem in line with that.

Kwitney's Batgirl falls into the easy trap of making Stephanie Brown a bit more tentative than she ought be. Stephanie has often been misused as an easy "whiner character" in stories, and Kwitney writes her from too early in Bryan Q. Miller's great Batgirl run, if not from earlier, than from the end of Miller's run where this character should come from. At the same time, I'd have happily bought a Batgirl/Black Bat/Red Robin ongoing back in the day (Edit: "Rebirth delivers!), and Kwitney does get the stilted self-righteousness of this era's Tim Drake just right. If we posit this as the last pre-Flashpoint Stephanie Brown story (though it's hard to top Miller's conclusion), I'm glad Kwitney subverted the typical romantic conclusion for something that better reflects Stephanie and Tim's missed connections.

Coming out of Convergence: Flashpoint Book One, I would oh-so-happily read a Question Renee Montoya series by Greg Rucka in the DC "Rebirth" universe; clearly the character reads just as freshly as she did back in the day. But I'm also plenty eager to pick up Dan Jurgens's Superman: Lois and Clark now; that Jurgens uses Professor Hamilton, for instance, shows the kind of deference to the past that I'm hoping for from the miniseries (though I also hope Jurgens leaves behind such dated dialogue as Jimmy Olsen saying, "Do watcha gotta"). In all this is a good start, plenty to make me continue on with the Convergence miniseries.

[Includes original covers, biography pages, issue pencils]
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  1. That theory about the outlines really rings true when you consider that all of the first issues have the same "I am Brainiac! Let the games begin!" page in the middle. That got really annoying by about the third mini I read.

    1. By the twentieth miniseries, I don't even read that dialogue, except to check in once in a while to see if any of the writers do anything different with it.

  2. Yeah, the Question, Nightwing/Oracle, and Superman were the top 3 reads of Convergence. Unsurprisingly, those are all characters that are actually paired with writers that made them work, as opposed to just surface-level fanservice, like with Alisa Kwitney's Batgirl.