Continuity is kind of like the ill-gotten heroin of your neighborhood junky. It’s the thing comics inject into themselves to bolster the appearance of importance and illusion of real meaning. I realize that for people who have poured their heart and soul into superhero comics, this is an unpopular opinion to have. It’s an opinion I developed, however, out of having poured my heart and soul into anything with an “X” on the cover during the 90’s. In fact, it was harsh realizations following attempted assimilation by the Phalanx, universe destroying by Xavier’s son, universe destroying at the hands of Onslaught, yet another sentinel extinction program at the hands of Bastion, and whatever crap Magneto was always up to that caused me to realize events were totally meaningless. It didn’t matter if it was Nightcrawler or Angel or Psylocke who died this time, the next event found a way to reset the clock every time. In an effort to imbue the stories with meaning, continuity had the opposite effect: by necessity, continuity must undo itself the sad truth of continuity is that it grinds everything to dust. The continuity of our lives – of M.A.S.H., of Mad Men, of Battlestar Galactica – is that true continuity has to have an end in sight, or at least a true end of something. This flies in the face of the ever-recursive nature of comics, however, that, for good or ill (probably more good than ill I’d say) there must be more X-Men comics; there must be more Superman; by god, there must be more of the goddamn Batman or we’ll all die of existential ennui.
That means the nature of comics continuity must be cyclical, like Hindu time. Which is fine, in theory: if we could all jointly agree that continuity serves a purpose (and that purpose is making the game go on for as long as it can), then it’s fine. However, that’s not the way the big two, especially DC, treats continuity. Especially with the ouroboros of Marvel movies and DC TV (I would totally watch a station called DC TV. But it can only be live feeds of Washington DC at all times) continuities. Continuity for DC is like a dangerous drug. Which Hawkman origin is the right one? Do we keep pretending red and blue Superman(s/en) wasn’t totally ridiculous? To what extent do we acknowledge it? What’s Brainiac’s true nature? Inconsistencies are the reason why DC started creating Crises in the first place. Dan Didio talks about it here. And it’s a shame; with their highly structured multiverse, it’s a perfect system for justifying or explaining any incongruences in the narratives. But the problem is which continuity do we care about? Sure there are fitty two of them, but anything beyond one Batman (maybe one Beyond flavor), a couple Robins, a dash of Nightwing and Red Hood for seasoning, and we stop caring.
Anyways – Convergence is DC saying, “We give up. You want your universes and your Blue Beetles and your Charlestons and your Fawcetts? Then go ahead.” It’s DC, in DiDio’s words, saying, “Y’know what guys? Ain’t give no f*cks about continuity,” but the fact that they do it with a continuity altering/establishing event makes it feel like their donking with us. “You know how we’ll prove to you that continuity doesn’t matter? By making it part of the continuity!” It’s either god-level trolling, or the least aware guy in the room talking about how he’d know it if he was oblivious. O rly, sir, do go on.
The rough outline for Convergence is that, like, Brainiac? (Or some guy named Telos? But that’s not his name?) kidnaps ALL OF THE MULTIVERSE and puts them in bubble containing their cities of choice. So there’s a bubble for the pre-Watchmen’d Charleston character’s version of New York; Mike Mignola’s steampunk style Gotham; pre-Crisis Metropolis… and every other iteration I didn’t mention and can’t possibly think of. All our heroes, all our bubbles because of reasons. Telos, er Brainiac, wants the heroes to fight so that he can have all the winners form the basis of a single continuous city. That bit seems almost like an unaware metaphor for this entire event.
And this is where DC events don’t hook me the same way Marvel events do. This is apparently an event piggy-backing on two other events: a continuous trickle of once-a-week comics-52-countdown style. So maybe (and I use italics because it’s doubtful) if you’d been following all of that, you’d care about the alternate JLA featured in Convergence.
The heroes are alternate versions of JLA regulars: we have Flash with some nice headgear, African-American Superman, Green Lantern that seems more like Swamp Thing, and a few others. I found it hard to care about them and understand why they should be the center of this book instead of the New 52 crowd that have been around for a few years. In general, I found parallel reality versions hard to care about unless they have very specific hooks to them, i.e. Morrison’s BuzzBat Lightyear from Multiversity, or the children of Batman and Superman. I never figured out if there was a reason to care about these specific versions of these characters, or why they were necessary. Again, maybe if I’d been reading the previous two or three events it’d all make sense, but I doubt it. In contrast, Final Crisis is fantastic whether or not you’d been loyally reading Superman.
They find Deimos – don’t worry if you don’t recognize that name, he’s had maybe three appearances in comics since his creation in the 70s – who they all instantly care about and, more baffling, whose name they know. I don’t know how. Or why.
Then, in the least necessary and most difficult to grasp double-cross in comic’s history, he stabs the team in the back and takes over the planet seductively teasing at the true identity of Telos.
Finally, with two issues left, the New 52 JLA shows up, and then there are events and then the book ends with the two best/worst panels of ever:
The first one is Telos telling us, the reader, and the heroes that, quite literally, everything that just happened is meaningless because it’s about to disappear. I understand this is the end of the story and they need a way to resolve it, but this gets right to the core of what I hate about event books: they end and nothing changes. This goes one step further by lining out that none of this mattered. At least with a Marvel event, you have three months of thinking Wolverine’s dead before there are 35 of him running around.
The second picture is a thumbs up granny. I know right now your brain is prolapsing on itself trying to comprehend that sentence in the context of a comic, but save yourself the herniated gray matter and let me just show you:
There’s at least 3 baffling things about this picture. 1. Who’s she giving this sign too? 2. Why is she looking at us while she’s doing it? 3. Is she having a stroke? Who’s supposed to be watching Grandma??
Overall, the core Convergence story was very disappointing. I know one of the biggest draws of event books are all the peripheral tie-in titles, and most fans (especially DC fans, it seems) prefer the peripheral titles to the central story, but this is probably the most lazily-conceived event book I have ever read. The art wasn’t bad, but at no point did it really stand out, the whole story felt muted, and generally it was hard to care about anything. I think maybe, and I mean maybe, if a person had been reading all the Earth 2 and Futures End lead up, this would have been a satisfying conclusion, but I’ve yet to talk to anyone who thought so.
Convergence seems like the absolute worst thing that can happen when continuity is put on such a pedestal. In the attempt to reconcile such irreconcilable difference, the entire universe becomes just a little uninteresting and rushed. The root of the problem, as is the root of almost all problems in the world (including strained relations with China, and whatever the hell it is ISIS is doing), is DC trying to be Marvel. Marvel’s lucky: they can do the unified continuity because they made all the continuity in house in the real world. DC is a patchwork quilt of failed comic companies and licensed characters, most of whom live in cities that aren’t even real. Marvel has purchased very few companies and licenses, and the ones they buy tend to stay relegated to their own universes or eventually get completely dissolved. DC acknowledging that for them to be successful, continuity must be a bit player would be a breath of mountain air, but the fact that the current comics climate mandates you make continuity mean less by making it a part of continuity feels self-defeating.
Oh, and DC? Have a recap page. Jesus. Just do it.