Review: Convergence: Infinite Earths Book One trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 25, 2016

I've been remiss not to mention that the Convergence tie-in trades have been for the most part very nicely organized. Related miniseries have tended to appear together in the same book, whether tied by common antagonists or affiliated heroes. This has made for books that feel part of the same tapestry even if built from separate miniseries. Convergence: Infinite Earths Book One is a good example, with the five miniseries each involving a different aspect of the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth-2 Justice Society universe and with subtle ties between them.

The stories themselves leave something to be desired. They all feel a bit rushed, with niggling problems as to characters or art or both. In some ways, the various non sequiturs and repetition evoke the Silver and Bronze Age from which these characters sprung, but not definitively enough to overcome the needs of modern sensibilities.

[Review contains spoilers]

Dan Abnett impresses again here with his Justice Society of America story, following his great Flash in Crisis: Convergence Book Two. The first issue -- with JSAers Flash Jay Garrick, Green Lantern Alan Scott, Hawkman Carter Hall, and Dr. Fate Kent Nelson adjusting to life without powers under the Convergence dome -- is especially strong. The second issue, like many second issues here, is mainly a prolonged fight sequence, but Abnett succeeds in portraying the JSA as inspirational figures. I've heard good things about Abnett's Earth 2: Society issues, and this miniseries (the first issue of which is called "Society") upholds that.

That the Justice Society heroes recognize a weapon from the parallel Qward dimension on sight, however, is just one of the book's many oddball details. In Detective Comics Len Wein's adult Robin and Huntress have been mysteriously summoned to Metropolis (and to a building strangely duplicate of their New York headquarters), for reasons never explained beyond again the needs of the story trapping them within the Convergence dome. Robin repeats twice in the span of a couple pages how he's forgotten they're even under the dome; as well, Huntress acts so brashly out of character (even for Huntress) that Wein feels need even to have Huntress acknowledge how oddly she's acting. In Jerry Ordways' Infinity Inc., Jade is threatened with assault in both issues; in Justin Gray's Action Comics, Power Girl's boyfriend Andrew Vinson's feelings of emasculation are obsessively mentioned in almost all of his scenes. All of it makes for weird reading, distracting from the stories themselves.

I did like that structurally, Convergence: Infinite Earths Book One starts with some of the era's biggest names -- Power Girl, Robin, and Huntress -- then turns to the Justice Society, leading directly into Infinity, Inc., and then the Infinity team gets a bit of a mention in World's Finest. This is about the first time I really believed all these characters co-existed under the Convergence dome together. I wasn't thrilled that Abnett's Justice Society retires at the end of their book and passes the torch to Infinity Inc. in Ordway's -- the younger heroes still come off whiny in comparison to the elder -- though the way the characters act is true to the source material. The torch-passing, too, is believably in line where the original titles might have gone under these circumstances.

The book's prominent "villains" are the Superman: Red Son characters (how long until DC Comics drinks again from this particular well?). Gray doesn't use that Wonder Woman terribly well in Action -- as she cat-fights with Power Girl until Superman comes to break it up -- but he does write an interesting, entirely separate plot that seems to imagine the last days of Hitler with Lex Luthor as the dictator and Lois Lane as Eva Braun. Wein gets more of Red Son's nuance, again entirely separate from the main action, in the Communist Superman's attempts to hide his power loss in Detective. The Qwardians in Justice Society and World's Finest don't fare as well, coming off rather bland and one-note, though I can't say that's much different from Qward's use in most cases.

On the art side, I don't always favor Tom Derenick's work, but in Justice Society he brings a humanity to the de-powered heroes and a majesty to them in costume. Of course Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, on Detective, always please, and their work would be fitting for a modern Huntress series. In Infinity Inc., Ben Caldwell brings a hipness to the young heroes in the first issue, as well as sneaking in some Keith Giffen influences for Jonah Hex and his Dogs of War; June Brigman, in the second issue, evokes Ordway's own Infinity Inc. work. At the same time, I found Claude St. Aubin a bit wooden in Action especially toward the beginning, with characters staring off into space.

Jim Fern's characters in World's Finest similarly seem to stare off at nothing, and some of the poses are awkward as well. I respect that Paul Levitz brings back Golden Age character Scribbly Jibbet, and in all the Seven Soldiers story has a Julius Schwartz-esque "creator as character in the story" kind of feel. However, despite being billed as a Seven Soldiers story, it's really just a Shining Knight story (following the surprising death of the era's Green Arrow and Speedy). I feel the creative team's ambition with nine-panel pages and such, but ultimately Levitz can't eke enough emotion out of the threat of attacking Qwardian hordes, and Fern's flat, posed figures don't give the story the extra pep it needs.

That's the overall feel of Convergence: Infinite Earths Book One: the stories are respectful to the characters, more so than some other books, but a bit of zip is missing among the stories. Seeing the original Justice Society on the page again is surely welcome (less of a relief now that their return seems to be on the horizon), not to mention Infinity Inc., but if I had to choose just one Convergence tie-in book, this might not be the one.

[Includes original covers, biography pages, sketchbook section]
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1 comment:

  1. Off topic, but I just finished reading the recent Azreal TPB. You have been signing the praises of the Azreal series since the TPB was announced, and it totally lived up to the hype. I loved it. Quick read, entertaining action, doesn't take it self too seriously, decent art. Just a solid entertaining book.

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