A slightly different Issue #1 review this time – because DC Comics have exploded with a multitude of #1s of the like unseen since the New 52 revamp. I hate a massive sprawling comics event as much as anyone else (seriously, does anyone enjoy these?) but the premise for this one had me at “Nightwing and Oracle,” so…
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? DC Comics have taken a two month break from continuity to tell a story that involves sneak peeks into that multiverse they’ve been struggling to distance themselves from since 1985. So they’ve thrown out all their regular comics and instead are telling one core ‘event’ book, orbited by a bunch of two-issue mini series which are designed to a) hit us in our nostalgia wallets, which are much like ice cream stomachs, apparently of endless capacity & b) remind us of all the great characters that DC Comics threw under the bus with the New 52 reboot.
DC if your aim here is to make us extra trepidatious about what the hell Marvel is going to do with its own universe reboot later this year, then good job. Well done there.
I actually really love multiverse stories, and DC’s use of them is probably at least partly responsible for it. But is this a good multiverse story?
SHOULD YOU READ THE CONVERGENCE EVENT BOOK?
Well, you can. I’ve read the first 3 issues, though, and am underwhelmed thus far. If you get the premise of the event – a powerful being has ripped whole cities out of different realities and put them under glass domes on his planet so they can fight each other – then you don’t actually need to read the central book which is ridiculously expensive per issue. In retrospect, I’d dip into the side books of interest now and wait for the trade. Grayson is the most interesting of the characters we’re supposed to follow, but his narrative doesn’t provide anything groundbreaking, and even in a post apocalyptic sideways future, there’s still only one girl on the team. Oh, DC. This is how you lost me in the late 90’s. Do you never learn?
Never mind that, let’s look at some Issue #1s! I was picky with which books I picked up, because there are so many to choose from, and they all have such intriguing covers. Mostly I acquired the ones that made me go ‘damn it, DC, why isn’t this a regular book already?’
WRITER: Gail Simone
ARTIST: Jan Duursema (pencils), Dan Parsons (inks), Wes Dzioba (color)
WHY DID I PICK IT: Nightwing and Oracle, come on! The lack of Oracle in the current DC universe is one of my greatest sadnesses about it (up there with the lack of the proper Black Canary and the disappearance of Wally West). Also, I love these two characters together under any and all circumstances, but written by Simone is what made it tempting.
WAS IT WORTH IT? Eh, I’m not sure. I like Oracle’s voice and her perspective on how life in the city has changed since it got stolen and put under a dome, but I am just hella confused by the actual personal relationship between Dick, Babs and Starfire (though having real Starfire back, hooray) and it doesn’t seem like something that can be resolved in one more issue. Babs is drawn far too cheesecakey for my liking, though to be fair so is Dick (always a plus) and they’re continuing the weird New 52 thing of her referring to him as Richard, which is wrong on so many levels. But evil Thanagarians make a great villain and the gleam of kickass Oracle at the end (with her killer last line) is enough to make me tune in to find out what happens next.
WRITER: Ron Marz
ARTIST: Mike Manley
WHY DID I PICK IT: Because Justice League International is my favourite and my best, it is the reason I fell in love with comics and there is a tiny engraving of Blue Beetle permanently lodged in my heart. This is where my nostalgia lives, and if you ruin this for me, I will break something.
WAS IT WORTH IT? My hopes actually weren’t high, which was probably for the best, but I did enjoy some of the creative choices here. Instead of going for the more iconic and well-established-as-nostalgiaworthy Bwa-Ha-Ha era of JLI, they chose to make use of the much later era of the comic, which I was deeply attached to (though I kind of thought no one else was). So we have Blue Beetle as a calm, competent but slightly melancholy leader, a far more military iteration of Fire (without the boobs-are-a-character-in-their-own-right artwork that marred her characterisation in the mid 90’s), and Ice as the reliable co-worker and friend.
It doesn’t work well. This issue is a love letter to Blue Beetle in many ways – showing how he has coped and brought everyone together as a leader when all their powers were stolen by the dome (because he never had any) and that he’s been busy inventing things, etc. But it’s at the expense of other characters – I can’t believe for one second that Captain Atom would just sit there and let Ted be leader, powers or no powers, and his dull, out of character presence actively detracts from the story.
Ditto for Red Tornado. Why is he here? What does he contribute? He wasn’t part of that era of comics and he is super boring under all circumstances. In this issue? He’s wallpaper. Boring wallpaper.
Thing is, the era that they have supposedly been snatched from? It was full of drama and action and major character development, all of which has been shoved to one side here, which is a shame – makes the team feel a lot more generic than specific to the pre Zero Hour era. And yes I am saying that because I’ve read those comics so many times that they are still blazoned across my memory. Shut up, what are you looking at?
The power of the JLI comic was always the story behind the battles – the friendships and the conversations. There wasn’t nearly enough of that here to make this feel authentic to any era of Justice League International.
On the other hand, I’m glad I got to read this because finally someone other than me is shipping Blue Beetle with Fire, and COME ON, about time, people.
ARTIST: Rick Leonardi, Mark Pennington, Steve Buccellato
WHY DID I PICK IT: Steph and Cass, Steph and Cass, Steph and Cass.
WAS IT WORTH IT? Yes, this is my favourite so far! Kwitney has taken the (kind of stupid) premise of isolated dome cities fighting each other, and told a rich, interesting story about how Stephanie Brown gave up being Batgirl, only to be called back into action as a champion for her displaced city. Her tensions with friends Tim Drake (Red Robin) and Cassandra Cain (Black Bat) come across really powerfully in this issue, which looks at the Gotham social chaos as well as the pressure of representing your people’s entire survival. I would read an ongoing Kwitney-Steph Brown title in a hot second.