Convergence: Infinite Earths Book Two. It seemed to me to present a "catch-all" week, miniseries about pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths alternate Earths unconnected to one another by continuity and relating to no particular DC "event." As compared to the return of characters lost in Flashpoint, how could these multiple-Earth miniseries hold up?
The answer is that Infinite Earths Book Two comes off surprisingly well. Though other books may have had stronger individual miniseries, the presence of five consistently good miniseries in one book here ranks the second Infinite Earths fairly high. Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner's Shazam is bar none; Simon Oliver and John McCrea offer perhaps the best rendition of Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters in recent memory; Brian Buccellato and Phil Winslade's Crime Syndicate is surprisingly touching.
As well, the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold miniseries offer the Ted Kord we've been waiting for since the Justice League International miniseries. If Infinite Earths hiccups at all, it's in that latter book, unfortunate for as much as I anticipated it, but the volume's still a winner overall.
[Review contains spoilers]
Jeff Parker's Shazam feels like one of those most fully-realized Convergence miniseries. Whereas others have attempted this formula before, Parker succeeds in a first issue that reads as a standalone Captain Marvel story, feeding into a second Convergence-focused issue that buttresses the first without being required reading. Shaner's art has classic elements without being cartoony, and ultimately the Batman: Gotham by Gaslight characters, in similar style, are a perfect fit. I especially liked that Shaner had a chance to design some additional Gaslight-style villains for Marvel and Batman, including Harley Quinn.
I'd happily read a Shazam series from Parker and Shaner. Indeed, in Parker's positing that Billy and Cap can see and communicate with one another, and in the suggestions Parker makes about Billy's transformation, there's plenty fodder here for further stories.
The "villains" of the book overall are a lot of fun. Depending on the story, the Convergence antagonists have sometimes been one-note, but the authors here tend to avoid that; also pitting these somewhat "old fashioned" characters against modern concepts offers plenty visual joy. Gotham by Gaslight is one thing, but we also see the Zero Hour-era Legion of Super-Heroes plus the Bronze Age Superboy's Legion again, and then inspired pairings as well of the Crime Syndicate versus DC One Million and the Freedom Fighters versus Brother Eye's Futures End drones.
I've been excited by, and patient with, Dan Jurgens's New 52 Booster Gold saga for a while, from his appearances in Justice League International warning about Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship, through to a Futures End tie-in issue short on answers, and now to this miniseries. The mini, however, is equally short on answers. We get that the older Booster is from pre-Flashpoint or another universe, though how then he could have hooked up with ARGUS (which only exists post-Flashpoint) isn't clear; also I'm still not sure what was this Booster's original mission (to be fair, neither is he).
I didn't mind some mystery in the Futures End story, knowing it lead here, but as I think it's unlikely Booster's story continues from this point, it feels a letdown. This reminds me of the New 52 set up for Trinity War, a lot of hinting and laying of groundwork that, with editorial shifts, finally goes nowhere. That said, I'm a sucker for Jurgens's concepts like Vanishing Point and (especially) Waverider, and simultaneously I'm happy for Jurgens to spin whatever nonsense he likes, with an eventual payoff or no, if those kinds of concepts are involved.
Again, Convergence: Infinite Earths Book Two ought be fairly disconnected from the current events of the DC Universe, but the presence of Beetle and Booster especially ties it all in. On the cusp of Rebirth, it's hard not to read a bit into this Convergence book (even as Convergence lead to "DC You," not Rebirth), as when the Zero Hour Beetle notes that he and Booster were "a team. ... Blue and Gold! ... How can anyone let that go?" It's a good question, hopefully one that Rebirth will answer positively.
And it's Oliver's monk in Plastic Man who explains that "rebirth means nothing if your heart cannot accept and learn from all that has come before in your past lives." That sounds like fine advice for DC Comics past to send to DC Comics future; hopefully the next era of DC Comics takes the suggestion.
[Includes covers, biography pages, sketchbook section]