Best Shots Reviews: CONVERGENCE #3, BLACK VORTEX OMEGA, NINJAK #2, STAR WARS #4, More

Valiant April 2015 Solicits
Credit: Valiant Entertainment
Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Wonder Woman #1
Written by Larry Hama
Art by Joshua Middleton
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

There's a crisis under the dome, but we're talking about infinite Earths just yet. Legendary G.I. Joe scribe Larry Hama teams up with contemporary hot-shot Joshua Middleton for Convergence: Wonder Woman #1, a return to Diana's much-beloved late-'70s to '80s status quo. Diana's first Convergence issue proves to be a fun little skip back in time with evocative artwork and a devilishly fun set of vampiric villains.

The ultimate power couple of Diana Prince and Steve Trevor are back. Trapped under one of Telos' domes and stuck without powers, Diana Prince makes the best of a bad situation, helping out in Gotham's slums alongside Etta Candy. After Diana and Etta bring a terminally ill old lady to church, she falls down dead. The clergy quickly turns to violence as it soon becomes apparent that the more religiously-inclined of Gotham have turned to the dark embrace of a cult. But when the dome opens and the vampires of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones' Batman & Dracula: Red Rain universe descend, it soon becomes apparent that only one woman can stop them...

Joshua Middleton's pencils can sometimes seem flat, although he packs a lot of character into his clean and simple figures. He colors his own work in that same simple style, trending towards flat color and clean shadow instead of shading and gradients. His palette relies on flashes of vivid color atop purposefully grey and dull backgrounds, which makes for eye-catching pages. A special mention must also go out to Middleton's Vampire-Joker: a gaunt, pallid monstrosity with literal bulls-eyes and impossibly high eyebrows. Middleton's coloring also becomes saturated in a sickly green when the vampires descend, switching to a fitting Hammer-Horror style aesthetic that helps to sell the threat of the vampires and the general gloom of the church's catacombs.

Larry Hama has acclimatized to modern comic book story-telling better than some of the older guard, but cheesy Silver Age style exclamations still creep in every now and then. “Whatever they are, their corporeal mass still obeys the laws of physics!” says Steve Trevor as the vampires descend, before launching into one of the most awkward lines I've ever read in a modern comic book: “Hydrostatic shock from a jacketed 9mm will stop their forward motion.” Still, such silliness is infrequent enough that it adds just the right amount of charm to Hama's competent script. If we're going back to the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths timeline, we've got to take the bad with the good.

The script moves along at a steady pace, making sure to introduce readers to the dynamic of Diana and Steve's relationship before launching straight into action. The dialogue in these first few pages suffers a little from blunt exposition, but it evens out by the issue's midway point. Naturally, Hama makes sure that Diana is all tied up as the dome breaks and her powers return, giving her an obligatory escape scene that Wonder Woman creator William Marston would have been proud of. Hama and Middleton work in perfect synchronization for Diana's “suit up!” moment here, casting Wonder Woman as a truly imposing figure in both narration and illustration.

Convergence: Wonder Woman #1is a book which represents exactly the right approach to the amazing Amazon. Larry Hama provides a confident and capable script with just the right amount of Silver Age fun, and Middleton's realistic and clean pencilling style is as equally adept at action sequences as it is dialogue. You'd be a fool to miss this one.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Omega #1
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Ed McGuinness, Javier Garron, Mark Farmer, and Marte Garcia
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men have more in common than you might think. They both go on wacky, space-faring adventures. They both are labeled as misfits. But most of all, they both function as family units. This feeling of camaraderie is the spark that burns bright at the center of Black Vortex Omega, the woolly and expansive finale to the latest Guardians/X-Men crossover. Writer Sam Humphries goes all out with this final issue, not only in terms of action, but also in terms of emotions and relationships that exist within the team. Coupled with some great art from Ed McGuinness and Javier Garron, Black Vortex Omega stands as a solid finale with a beating heart underneath all the explosions and laser fire.

Black Vortex Omega picks up directly after the previous issue’s final scene, which found Kitty Pryde giving herself over to the Vortex in order to rout the Brood forces that were attempting to lay eggs in the amber-encased citizens of Spartax. As Kitty is becoming one with the universe, the rest of our ragtag band must push back the combined forces of the Slaughter Lords and a very, very cheesed-off Ronan the Accuser, still reeling from the destruction of his homeworld. Sam Humphries spins a lot of plates with this finale, but he never takes his eye off the ball. He keeps the action clicking along as well as putting Kitty center stage with some poignant voice-over as she attempts to make sense of her vast new power set. Humphries’ Kitty has been a high point of Black Vortex since the start, but this finale completes her arc in a big, satisfying way as she not only saves the day but also gains a fiancé in Peter Quill. The large space battles and sharp quips found throughout are just icing on the narrative cake that is Kitty Pyrde’s trajectory from mere mutant headmistress to full on space goddess.

Kitty’s arc also speaks to the larger reason why Black Vortex Omega works - the feeling of familial camaraderie that exists between the Guardians and the X-Men. The Guardians' recently boom in popularity has allowed them to interact with the larger Marvel universe more often than they had beforehand, but Marvel has stumbled upon a goldmine with pairing them with the children of the atom. Sam Humphries in particular has fully embraced the weirdness of both teams and allowed them to stand on common ground as two groups that are used to standing apart from the rest of the Marvel universe. Humphries takes full advantage of this newfound pairing by injecting chemistry between characters where ever he can; for example the teasing flirtations between Storm and Rocket Raccoon, or the weird connection that developed between Nova and Magik. For too long these characters have been treated like their own separate niche markets, but Black Vortex Omega blasts all that away with banter and chemistry, making these two teams feel like the bizarre extended family we deserve.

While Humphries keeps the story humming, artists Ed McGuinness and Javier Garron deliver some truly sweeping shots of the climatic battle happening in orbit around Spartax. McGuinness and Garron’s styles meld into one huge set of visuals as the rest of our Vortex-powered heroes do battle with the Slaughter Lords and a gloriously re-designed Ronan the Accuser. McGuinness’ blocky yet imposing character designs mixed with Garron’s expressively cinematic style makes Black Vortex Omega look like another multimillion dollar adventure for the Guardians and X-Men. The densely packed two-page splash that kicks off this issue sets the bar high for the art team, but they handily clear it with the gorgeously rendered pages of Kitty’s consciousness expanding throughout the universe. While McGuinness and Garron go as big as possible, it's colorist Marte Garcia that ties it all together with a beautifully cosmic color palette. Garcia’s colors have been a high point of the X-books for a while now, but his choices here in the expanse of space are a wonder to behold. Black Vortex Omega sends this crossover off with a proper bang narratively, but the art team also makes sure to send us off with some visual fireworks as well.

Black Vortex Omega is a great read on a surface level because it keeps the action coming and never slows down until the very end. But it also goes a bit beyond just surface-level enjoyment. Black Vortex Omega is also great because it is one of those rare event comics that actually delivers a satisfying narrative arc for the team and for specific characters. There isn’t too many crossovers that can say the same. Sam Humphries and his art team confidently bring Black Vortex to a conclusion that will only get better once it is all collected in one volume. The X-Men may stand alone on Earth, but in the expanse of space they have found a larger family in the Guardians and one can only hope that this weird, ramshackle group sticks around for a bit longer.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence #3
Written by Jeff King
Art by Stephen Segovia, Jason Paz, John Starr and Peter Steigerwald
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

The art makes some strides toward making Convergence salvageable, but the plot is still all over the place and has no semblance of resolution. Jeff King gives us another big Batman moment as the tentpole of the issue, but just like the last time, it doesn’t feel deserved in the context of the story. The rest of the characters find themselves wandering around the depths of the planet and fighting even more boring drones. Stephen Segovia’s art is a bit less utilitarian than Carlos Pagulayan’s was in #2, but pretty pictures aren’t enough to make readers forget the mess of a main plot.

If the goal of King’s narrative is to get the heroes from point A to point B so they can learn something along the way that will eventually help them defeat the big bad, then he’s taking an awfully long time getting them there. I don’t know how much of that is his fault and how much of it is just the way this event is set up. Whatever the reason, he’s not able to show any of the smaller battles in the other cities because that’s what the tie-ins are for. Thusly, the main characters don’t really know what’s going on in those cities because they aren’t actually there. Telos’ motivations are still unclear at this point but at least he gets a little bit of characterization in this issue. Of course, that little bit leads to an ending that runs counter to what we know about Telos which is that he is the planet. So a bunch of heroes going underground (or the existence of a portal to Skartaris) seems like something he should be aware of.

I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here, so skip the next paragraph if you need to.

King obviously uses the perennial Dick Grayson/Batman dichotomy to exhume some sort of emotion from this event set-up. But Batman’s sacrifice, while very noble, feels cheap. The connection between the two characters reads as tenuous at best, making it hard for a reader to really feel the gravitas that’s implied in the moment. But there aren’t really any other opportunities in the script for big moments like that. King is simply working with what he’s been handed. Sadly, that’s a title with little going for it in terms of heart.

Stephen Segovia is a very talented artist and one whose style is perfectly suited to a Big Two event comic. His character renderings are strong and the details don’t get lost amidst a flurry of action. His panel layouts and shot selections are effective, efficient and exciting enough to not be drowned out by dull practicality. He’s given a lot more to do here thanks to multiple action sequences and the inclusion of some characters from one of the other cities. That goes a long way to making the book more enjoyable as Telos’ planet seems to be a desert wasteland bereft of any life.

Better art can’t save this issue, though. The plot is meandering. The villain might as well be made of cardboard, he’s so two-dimensional. There are still no stakes, and it’s easy to see why. This is filler through and through. Why else would the event’s main title not carry A-list talent? Don’t get me wrong - these creators are capable, but their names don’t exactly carry the weight that a Geoff Johns or a Jeff Lemire or a Scott Snyder might. Convergence is a disappointment that doesn’t seem too concerned with righting the ship. It’s bad, but not bad enough, and in a few month’s time, when the small publishing changes that come out of it are written away, we’ll forget it ever happened.

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New X-Men #40
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mahmud Asrar and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Life gets incredibly confusing sometimes, mostly because we live in a world of in-betweens instead of polarized opposites. The X-Men are famously known for representing marginalized communities: their stories have echoed themes seen in overcoming racial prejudice and advocating for equal rights for women and the LGBTQIA community. Fresh off the The Black Vortex storyline, the original X-Men (plus X-23) are given some much needed down time as Brian Michael Bendis sets up the next story arc. While the plot point centers around Bobby Drake falls short, the rest of the issue is poignant and exciting enough to propel the team forward into the next storyline surrounding the Utopians.

The Internet fired up yesterday as several pages were leaked prior to today’s release and drew both praise and criticism. These several pages of Jean confronting Bobby about his sexuality and outing him – and it’s important to make the distinction that Bobby did not come out – are the weakest parts of this otherwise strong issue. To be clear, Bendis’ authorial intent is a good one – it’s obvious that he meant well, with his intended message that it’s important to be who you are and embrace your whole self, and recognizing that you can lean on your friends when you need to. That said, even with these positive intentions, there are some other, less positive angles that Bendis might not have anticipated or addressed – in particular, Jean outing Bobby without his consent and robbing him of the opportunity to choose what to label himself and whether or not he wanted to be labeled, which Bobby is surprisingly okay with by the end of their conversation.

Other eyebrow-raising moments include Jean’s comments about how Bobby isn’t bisexual. While the scene can be read as Bobby clinging to his overcompensating act, from the perspective of the LGBTQIA community – this reviewer included – that dialogue comes across as dismissive of those who identify as such. Even looking at it from just a writing perspective, the dialogue feels a bit clunky and out of place. While more diverse characters are appreciated and sorely needed in the industry, within the pages of All-New X-Men #40, this choice ultimately feels like it could have been better to enhance the story instead of just feeling like an inconsequential insert. It doesn’t help after the last issue of The Black Vortex specifically mentioned that characters had the potential to change following their transformations – and that Bobby in particular had a change “in his heart” – which calls into question why this is the time that Jean chooses to confront Bobby about his sexuality.

The rest of the issue is much stronger and more enjoyable. The romance between Warren and Laura is much more interesting and engaging than the rest of the issue, especially because Warren has retained his cosmic powers from the events of The Black Vortex. It’s clear that there will be ramifications for his choice in the future and Bendis does a great job at increasing the tension within the group as they judge Warren for his choice. The Utopians only get two short scenes in the issue, which was a smart choice, as that ups their intrigue. While die-hards will recognize some of these characters, they’re intriguing enough for new readers not to mind not knowing the specific identities of the Utopians and excited enough to continue through with the storyline.

Artists Mahmud Asrar and Rain Beredo do an incredible job throughout the issue. Asrar has quickly become a personal favorite of mine with his art, as he does a great job capturing the important teenage look with the characters. The issue is predominantly conversation – besides the scenes with the Utopians – and Asrar and Beredo make it visually enjoyable enough to have those scenes flow smoothly. Specifically, when Jean and Bobby had their conversation, Asrar did a great job posing Bobby to adequately show his discomfort when the conversation started. Overall, it’s easy to take for granted the quality that Asrar and Beredo bring to the table and it’s important to recognize that the book would not be as good without their talents.

If there’s one thing we can learn from the X-Men, it’s that the world is full of grays. It’s important to recognize that, while the issue was enjoyable as a whole, there were certainly problematic qualities that need to be addressed and called out. The X-Men have consistently stood as an allegory for marginalized communities, which is why it needs to be held to a higher scrutiny. Authorial intent aside, the specific scenes with Bobby and Jean don’t read well from a LGBTQIA perspective. And while we can be displeased with how that played out, and feel uncertain if having another male character outed is the kind of representation we need, we can still be happy that the industry is making strides on a global level, and also recognize the strength of the other parts of the issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars #4
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After Star Wars' explosive first arc, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday give both the Rebels and Empire alike a break to regroup and lick their wounds. Yet thanks to the enormous cultural cache given to Luke Skywalker and company, even this interlude seems massive, moody and portentous.

Thanks to nearly 40 years of mythology and retelling, the cast of Star Wars seems almost effortlessly characterized - but that's a testament to Jason Aaron's writing. Unlike most other pop culture characters, where there is some leeway to their voices, everyone knows Star Wars, and everyone knows how it should sound. There's a rhythm and a cadence to archvillains Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt, and Aaron nails it, as these two warily eye one another as they make business on Tattooine. (Perhaps its even more impressive that Aaron got Jabba's voice down so well, considering he was all gutteral slurps and subtitles in the films.)

But while it's clear he's got a knack for nailing voices, something else that's really enjoyable about Star Wars #4 is how he is able to play within the film continuity to give his characters room to grow - while still keeping the original trilogy sacrosanct. In this case, it's showing strife in the ranks with the Rebel Alliance. After the disastrous mission that took place over the last three issues, our heroes all have to recover. For Han Solo and Chewbacca, it's a physical manifestation - literally putting back together the Millennium Falcon. For Princess Leia, it's rethinking her priorities as both a leader to the Alliance as well as her motley crew.

And for Luke, like always, it's a matter of direction. Aaron has been really great about building up his character development behind the scenes, and while the last arc had him embracing his destiny as a future Jedi knight, his brush with death - and Darth Vader - has made him question where his life is heading. Is he meant to be a Jedi? Is he meant to be a hero of the Rebel Alliance? We all know where Luke is going to end up, but this sort of internal struggle gives this naive farmboy a bit of depth that not even the films had really given him.

But I think the reason why this interlude strikes me so much is the artwork. John Cassaday and Laura Martin are a team to be reckoned with. In particular, their take on Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt is particularly cinematic, and I love the way the contrast between the cool blues and red sunsets that Martin gives Vader. (It's even more striking when you can almost sense Vader bristle as Jabba asks, "Who knew anyone of note was ever born on Tattooine, eh?") Occasionally, Cassaday's inks look a little scratchy in his more human characters - Leia in particular - but he really dives into all the crazy geometric shapes that go into the aliens and armored mercenaries of this series.

While some may say this issue has a little less impact than the previous ones, I'd argue that that's exactly the point of an interlude like this - it gives the characters as well as the readers a chance to breathe before the action rises once again. But given the character development Aaron is giving the cast of Star Wars - not to mention some beautiful artwork by Cassaday and Martin - and this will be one pit stop that you'll be happy to make.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Written by Stuart Moore
Art by Gus Storms, Mark Farmer and John Rauch
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

As Convergence takes readers further back in time, it is only appropriate that the Legion of Super-Heroes makes an appearance throughout the event. The super-powered, time-traveling team from pre-Crisis 30th and 31st century Earth has taken many forms over the years, but it perhaps the classic version introduced in 1958 that continues to be a source for inspiration. Not only was it the version that was “retrobooted” in 2007 in the wake of Infinite Crisis, but it was this team that frequently visited a young Clark Kent as Superboy, the same that would grow up to be Superman.

The best of the Convergence titles so far have taken a snapshot in time from DC’s rich history and given us a chance to dig a little deeper into character motivations. Stuart Moore’s take on Superboy and the Legion is something he has described as a “clash of futures,” and while this is ostensibly a Legion title, the core of the story surrounds Superboy on the cusp of becoming a Superman. It’s a fascinating opportunity, given that this version of Superboy/Superman was effectively “killed off” during Crisis on Infinite Earths, not to mention being the subject of some legal debate between DC and the Jerry Siegel estate.

Cut off from his home, his family and his Earth, we see a Superboy stuck under the dome in a future Metropolis. In a beautifully vulnerable moment, Superboy sheds a single tear and almost whispers “I miss my dog,” itself a possible reference to the forgotten craziness of the super-animals of bygone eras. While Brainiac-5 searches for life outside the dome, Superboy begins to form a connection with Lightning Lass just as Telos drops the dome and they regain their powers. Mirroring the decisions that Clark/Kal/Superman must make throughout the rest of his life, here is a Superboy who must face the difficult choice of saving his homeworld and embracing his destiny or pursuing what is right in front of him.

Gus Storm’s pencils convey the right balance between modern event comic and retro wonder, his 30th century an elegant tip of the hat to the past, conveying a Kal-El who isn’t quite an adolescent, but isn’t entirely a Superman either. John Rauch’s colors deserve a large amount of props as well, making the most of the many shades of the future while simultaneously infusing them with a touch of the muted past. His final “clash of futures” page is a wonderfully surreal mix of styles, and it flags an exciting turn for the second chapter next month.

While the story is still leading to a confrontation with the Atomic Knights of Durvale, themselves an alternative future of a post-apocalyptic Earth, it packs in more heart and insight into the characters of this era than many of its contemporaries have done to date. Convergence: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 may follow a similar structure to all of the other event titles in this series, in that it is ultimately leading up to a confrontation, but how many of those have knights in armor riding around on the backs of giant dalmatians?

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Ninjak #2
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Clay Mann, Butch Guice and Ulises Arreloa
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Valiant Entertainment
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Purple. Not traditionally the first color choice for a master of espionage, but Ninjak just about makes it work. After a thrilling first issue for the ninja/spy, can Valiant maintain momentum for an equally thrilling second issue? Whilst Clay Mann continues to fire on all cylinders with some class artwork, Matt Kindt's script suffers from narrative laziness at times.

After infiltrating the flamboyant Weaponeer group, Colin King continues to prove himself to its portly leader Kannon. Whilst attending a monkey-butlered night-club, Kannon orders King to kill a random party-goer. One cleverly-placed bullet later and Ninjak has Kannon's trust. The question is, can he exploit it?

The opening page, which features a handy breakdown of one of Ninjak's many gadgets, is a nice touch: a throwback to silver-age Marvel where they would often do the same. Each labelled feature is cleverly accompanied by a relevant section from Ninjak's psychological profile. For instance, next to the Augmented Tactile Inputs of his glove is a little blurb which states “...reports indicate a lack of true emotional responses to any stimuli.” It's a fresh and fun approach to character insight that's a more than welcome addition to Ninjak #2.

Writer Matt Kindt's Colin King take heavily from the popular “paranoid prepper” incarnation of Batman. He has planned for every possible contingency, thanks to his omnipotent knack for planning and preparation. It's fun and silly stuff, but it does strike as lazy writing. The pulpy tone of the script gives more of an excuse for it than a more serious book, but there's no ignoring that Ninjak sails through most obstacles with nary more than a block of explanatory text. In one sequence, Ninjak had already poisoned Kannon's wine three days before he knew they'd be drinking it, and in another he locates the location of Weaponeer's party on the day before, scans the entire guest list and deploys mini-drones so he can instantly ID everyone who attends. It's exhausting, repetitive stuff that seems like a crutch when used so often, not to mention the fact that it's such an easy way to solve problems that Kindt might as well have just given Ninjak a Sonic Screwdriver. Hopefully we get a more inventive way of exhibiting Ninjak's superior spy-work in future issues.

At around the halfway mark, we flashback to Colin's troubled childhood. The stylish inclusion of a few pages from a Enid Blyton-esque children's story book provide both a welcome change of pace and a chance for artist Clay Mann to show off his range. Colin's butler-turned-guardian remains the most intimidating character in Ninjak so far, a moustachioed brute in a suit who turns all too quickly to physical punishment.

Art-wise, Clay Mann's capable pencils offer up technically proficient and cinematically staged panels that never seem monotonous, even during pages of simple conversation. Mann paints Ninjak and his foes as realistically weighty and imposing, whilst his action sequences flow steadily from one panel to the next, transporting kung fu cinematography from the silver screen and on to the page.

Elsewhere, there's a few spelling errors in Dave Sharpe's otherwise solid lettering. It doesn't take long to properly proof-read a comic book, so it seems almost unbelievable that more than one slipped through Valiant's net.

Finally, Butch Guice takes on art duties for Kindt's back-up story, "The Lost Files." A more subdued affair than the main story, "The Lost Files" chronicles Ninjak's first (botched) hit. It's an effective little noir strip that benefits greatly from Guice's moody artwork, with some excellent facial expressions. Ulises Arreola smears color across the page in an almost cel-shaded style that, when combined with the heavy ink-work, makes for a striking few pages.

Ninjak #2 is a feast for the eyes, but a lazy script chokes this issue's potential. Still, another snapshot into Colin's tumultous childhood and an excellent back-up strip means that Ninjak #2 isn't entirely without storytelling merit. Proceed with caution.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Justice League of America #1
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Chriscross and Snakebite
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

When you think of the Justice League of America, most people think of the Big Seven, the Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns-era heavy hitters, the icons that make DC Comics one of the biggest publishers in the market today. But with DC's latest event, Convergence, many of those heavy-hitters are scattered, powerless and lost in the face of Telos' multiverse-capturing domes.

Sounds like a job for the Justice League Detroit.

In many ways, the resurrection of one of the Justice League's most quirky eras is a fitting metaphor for Convergence as a whole, and the potential this series has for DC as they prepare for a seismic change to their operations. While many of the Convergence books seems inconsistent in their quality, there's always the chance for some lesser-known properties to shine. We've seen it with Lee Weeks on Convergence: Superman and Rags Morales on Convergence: Green Arrow - and now we're seeing it with Convergence: Justice League of America.

The two smart things that writer Fabian Nicieza does with the beginning of his script is that he gives us a very likable narrator in the form of Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, as he snuggles up to his wife, Sue Dibny, in what reads as almost a direct repudiation of the dark path DC has taken since the days of Identity Crisis. But beyond that hopeful tone, he also paces this issue better than many of the previous Convergence comics - instead of making us watch the same fish-out-of-water stories we've seen ad nauseum of the heroes trapped under the dome, Ralph and Justice League already have their powers back, and they're gearing up for battle.

With this in mind, Nicieza is not only able to quickly give us the exposition of what each character did for the past year - often taking as little as two panels, or even just a caption here and there - but he's also able to give us the structure of this League. Many people are used to the pantheon model that Grant Morrison used for his Justice League in the late '90s, which has influenced just about every iteration of the team since then - but this is a great spin on the League that many of today's readers might not be familiar with. The idea of the "Big Three" being Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Zatara means there's a little more tension at play - there's no unbeatable demigods to save the day - and the rest of the League, featuring Vixen, Vibe and Steel, means there's a lot of interesting visual powers.

To add onto the slick visuals is the one-two punch of the Tangent-verse Secret Six and the artwork of Chriscross and Snakebite. While these two artists possess some crazy nicknames, their talent is undeniable here. Chriscross's art reminds me a lot of a cross between Tony Harris and Gary Frank - there's a realism that sometimes tip-toes towards the uncanny valley, but it's bouncy and kinetic, particularly as you watch the Martian Manhunter floating down to his colleagues or the Tangent-verse Joker leaping and bouncing into battle. Chriscross's action sequences look absolutely superb, and while some might say his expressiveness sometimes goes into the realm of melodramatic, it's a welcome reaction to the often stoic pencilwork we see elsewhere in superhero comics. Snakebite, meanwhile, adds a ton of energy to each page, really straddling that line between realistic weightiness and Silver Age garishness.

While many of the Convergence books have been vastly uneven, I have to say, Convergence: Justice League of America might be one of the best issues they've put out in this event. There's a lot of great pacing, some endearing characters, and a sense of lightness and excitement to go along with all the polish of modern-day execution. The Justice League Detroit might not have gotten a lot of respect the past few decades, but this is one event comic where they - and the creators behind them - have truly tapped their vast potential.

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