Written by Jeff King and Scott Lobdell
Art by Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, John Starr and Peter Steigerwald
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
The pitfalls of both DC and Marvel's multiverse-spanning events is that with such sweeping casts, it's easy to lose focus in your narrative. Combine that with multiple versions of recognizable characters, and the number of balls in the air grows exponentially. Case in point: DC's Convergence #1, a 30-page comic featuring the heroes of Earth-2 which feels less like a rollicking adventure and more like an exposition lecture. It's hardly an offensive comic, with some decent artwork by Carlos Pagulayan, but there's little in the way of a strong premise or concrete direction to hold readers' attentions.
While Convergence #0 focused on the New 52 Superman as he struggled against this event's big bad, Telos, this issue jumps to the main cast of Earth-2, which to DC's credit, they've been plugging hard for the last year or so. Still, while casual fans might understand that this is a Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash, there's little context for anyone who hasn't been reading the Worlds' End weekly series, or the preceding Earth-2 series that set it all up. In other words, you've got to be a DC diehard to understand what's going on here, because otherwise beats like the return of the Red Avatar or the losses of the Flash and Dick Grayson's respective loved ones won't quite hit their mark. That said, credit where it's due - writers Jeff King and Scott Lobdell show some savviness by kicking off the book with the dystopian universe from Injustice: Gods Among Us, which a lot of people will know about - but even their star power is underutilized as they become an early casualty to Telos' machinations.
Ultimately, though, this alt-brand Justice League wouldn't be a big problem if there was a little bit more specificity to the narrative. Right now, the Earth-2 heroes fall to Telos' planet, bicker, fight off some sort of metal antibodies, and then listen to Telos explain why he's having DC's multiverses square off. (Admittedly, Telos never actually explains why he's doing all this, but King and Lobdell are allowed to have a little mystery, two issues in. Fingers crossed they have a trick up their sleeves.) But the result of all this is that you'd be hard-pressed to think of any memorable beats going on in this issue, especially given that the threats don't really engage readers visually - Yolanda Montez probably has the two biggest beats in the issue, where she rises from being buried alive and then later uses her Red Avatar powers to claw some machinery off the Flash.
That said, for every cool moment, there are several others that are head-scratching - Yolanda randomly making out with Dick Grayson seems needless, and why would she claw at a machine if she didn't even know that she had claws in the first place? Indeed, six of the last seven pages of the comic are just double-page spreads as Telos delivers a grandiose speech before this mortal combat begins (complete with some strangely inconsistent lettering by Travis Lanham). It winds up feeling like a script that could have a lot of fat removed.
With all this in mind, there's only so much that the art team can do to make this dynamic. Carlos Pagulayan excels when he has his characters in motion, so beats like the Earth-2 heroes fighting off the metal antibodies leads to some explosive moments, reminding me occasionally of a cross between Ed Benes and Bryan Hitch. (In particular, I love the sequence of Batman rescuing Dick Grayson, even if the first panel takes up an inordinate amount of space given how little is actually going on.) The coloring team of John Starr and Peter Steigerwald also work wonders in terms of giving this book some energy and depth, even if the book's desert setting means they're often forced to use bland orange-browns and weird green-purple skies as their backgrounds. But like I said - there's only so much this team can do, given how much talking and directionless action is going on. When they have to eat up six pages of posturing by the villain, how much can Pagulayan and company really do to keep it interesting?
Ultimately, the biggest sin that Convergence has made so far is its tone. While the premise is rooted in DC's long and varied mythology, it feels so self-referential - particularly with its talky villain - that it winds up feeling like naval-gazing rather than high-stakes action. Two issues in means we should already be deep into this story's narrative arc, and instead, we've barely even assembled the main players, let alone had them begin whatever conflict will carry readers through this event. It ultimately makes Convergence feel not like a bad comic, per se, but more of a directionless one.
Written by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Drucker, Paul Scheer, Nick Giovannetti, Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, Scott Aukerman, Jason Mantzoukas and Matt Selman
Art by Mike Hawthorne, Scott Koblish, J.J. Kirby, Ty Templeton, Natalie Nourigat, Mirko Colak, Todd Nauck, Jacob Chabot, Terry Pallot, Jordie Bellaire, Val Staples, Veronica Gandini and Ruth Redmond
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
With 80 pages of story chronicling the death of Wade Wilson, it's clear that Deadpool wasn't going to die without a bang. Weighing in at a cool $9.99, the Merc With a Mouth goes out the way he lived - namely, tugging at people's patience and staying just a little bit beyond his welcome. That said, while six of this book's eight stories don't always hit the mark, the two main stories by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn feel like a worthwhile sendoff to the regenerating degenerate.
For me, the best part about the book has to be the end - and I don't mean the death of Deadpool himself. The final story - "Deadpool Roasts the Marvel Universe: An Infinity Gauntlet Tie-In" - I think sums up Deadpool the best, in terms of his inner plight, his fourth-wall-breaking sense of humor, and his current context as the premier funnyman of the Marvel Universe. Featuring Deadpool wielding the Infinity Gauntlet, Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan assemble the best and brightest of the Marvel Universe... and completely thumb their noses at them. Artist Scott Koblish clearly relishes all the goofy expressions here, particularly the way how all these characters look ridiculous when you have a talking duck in a three-piece suit, or slapping a bow tie on Fantomex.
Once you get the joke of this story - namely, that there really aren't any jokes, just the humor of watching the Hulk totally bomb or Wolverine wearing Madeline Pryor's "Inferno" dress - it actually feels perfect for Deadpool. He's the bad dad joke maker of the Marvel Universe, and so it's particularly profound that Duggan and Posehn actually see him for the crying, Weapon X-tortured clown he really is. They one-up themselves in Grant Morrison-esque fashion as Deadpool then faces his audience, shaming us for our four-color hobby: "My life isn't any less real than yours, but knowing that I exist solely for your amusement will be an endless source of depression," Wade tells us. "So enjoy your funny books. But just know that not everyone finds them funny."
Did I just get schooled by a Deadpool comic? Wow.
With a strong bow to Deadpool as a character, the rest of the stories understandably suffer in comparison - and when you have a $10 price tag, that's a lot to stomach. Posehn and Duggan's first story, which ties up this particular run, feels surprisingly grim for the most part, as Wade takes the fight to Flag-Smasher and ULTIMATUM. Gone are much of the jokes, feeling in the same realm as any Liam Neeson or Fast and Furious action movie, as Deadpool begins shooting and blasting everything that moves. There are some bits that feel a bit discordant - it's hard to reconcile a grim Merc With a Mouth with the black magic-wielding ghost of Thomas Jefferson, for example - but the action as a whole feels strong, thanks to Mike Hawthorne's strong composition. But unlike the story I mentioned above, this story falls on its face a bit with an anti-joke of a conclusion - yes, Wade Wilson dies in this comic, but the punchline is groanworthy, and not in a good way.
The other four stories, unfortunately, drag this book down in a big way. Deadpool as a character is kind of a two-note protagonist - he's either joking, or he's brooding. But that means his supporting cast often feels one-dimensional in comparison, or at the very least, part of an in-joke that you're only in on if you've been reading (and enjoying) every single issue that's come before. Deadpool's wife Shiklah gets an overcolored, Captain America-swiping short by Mike Drucker, J.J. Kirby and Veronica Gandini that only elicits a chuckle or two; meanwhile, shorts featuring a mentally enhanced dog or Michael the Necromancer will barely make you crack a smile. Additionally, some backups featuring Agent Adsit and Thomas Jefferson feel completely forgettable, with the art and story just not engaging enough to hook readers. (That said, these backups aren't complete losses: artists Natalie Nourigat and Jacob Chabot are both great finds, with cartoony and engaging styles that I hope to see more of in future Marvel books.)
Like its titular hero, you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Deadpool #45. The good happens to be really good, and to me, that outweighs some of the dead weight that's upping this book's price and page count. Most books wouldn't get that benefit of the doubt - but there's something that feels quintessentially Wade Wilson of having to make your way through some annoyances before getting to the real meat and potatoes. While the extra content may feel largely self-indulgent, Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan manage to get in two great stories featuring the Merc With a Mouth, and that makes this book worth the hefty price.
Convergence: The Question #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig
Lettering by Corey Breen
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Pre-Flashpoint, Renee Montoya was Gotham's most competent detective turned most mysterious hero. Picking up from where they left off before the New 52 steam-rolled into view, Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner bring us Convergence: The Question #1: the long-awaited end-cap to their well-regarded Detective Comics back-up run.
As you're probably aware by now, Brainiac's up to no good. He's stolen entire cities from different universes and thrown them into the middle of an alien desert in a bid to find the strongest civilization in the DC Multiverse. Naturally, that means that all your favorite alternate universes suddenly matter again, including that of one very faceless Renee Montoya. Trapped beneath an invisible dome, Gotham City's tearing itself apart. While the Question and Huntress try to maintain order in a pre-Flashpoint Gotham, Two-Face is doing everything but. When Renee Montoya shows up at a pharmacy he's attempting to loot, it soon becomes apparent there's some unfinished business between them...
At its heart, Convergence: The Question #1 is a Two-Face story. Rucka has always understood the duality of Harvey Dent better than most, and this issue is a great example of his great depiction of the character. The opening sequence of Renee confronting Two-Face as he loots a pharmacy is thick with tension and the issue's second half, which sees the Question interrupt Dent's nightly suicide attempt, sums up the character's chaotic core in just a few pages. The Convergence tie-in material is barely there at all; just a couple of references establishing that, yup, we're under a dome like all the other trapped cities. It almost feels like Rucka's grabbed a dusty script from under his desk and re-purposed it but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Convergence: The Question #1 isn't just a return to a beloved status quo, it's a meaty continuation of a run cut short.
Hamner's angular style works well here, rendering all the dirt and detritus of Gotham with pages reminiscent of "No Man's Land," but it's not all so effective. Two-Face is bearded and feral on one side and hideously scarred on the other, although his scarred side looks more like rock than burnt and healed tissue, even if Dave McCaig has colored it over in a raw and fleshy tone. Hamner makes great use of shading here to suggest the human features beneath the Question's disguise, as well as moonlight streaming through plate glass windows. Elsewhere, McCaig predominately sticks to a palette of dark blues. Combined with Convergence: The Question's themes of helplessness against the inevitable (we are talking Two-Face here, after all), these murky colors bring to mind Rucka and Ed Brubaker's work on Gotham Central.
Make no mistake, this is a comic for those in the know, and considering “the know” consists of back-up stories in Detective Comics from four years ago, this isn't exactly an accessible book. Thankfully, there's a double-page synopsis to bring us up to speed, but it's the kind of thing that would have been better served at the issue's opening rather than at its end.
The return of Rucka and Hamner's the Question is an inspired addition to the busy Convergence line-up. This is a crossover with limitless opportunity, and it's nice to see an often-overlooked run receive a second look amid more obvious choices. However, if you're scouring the plethora of Convergence titles for books that matter to that crossover, and you aren't already initiated with Renee Montoya: the Question, you should probably give this one a miss. Despite this relative inaccessibility, Hamner's moody artwork and Rucka's great take on Two-Face make Convergence: The Question #1 a fulfilling read.
Darth Vader #4
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
It was inevitable. After a huge first issue, a decent sophomore effort and a superbly twisted third issue, the hangover has finally come for Darth Vader. This issue is far from a bad one, but if anything else, the victim of the high expectations set up by Marvel's previous Star Wars entries, as the Dark Lord of the Sith continues to be overshadowed by his new supporting cast.
It's ironic that I say that, as that very supporting cast is what I raved about when I read the last issue of this series. Droid archaeologist Doctor Aphra is, in many ways, a Darth Vader fangirl, immediately drawn to his power and his Lawful Evil status, and the homicidal droids Triple-Zero and BT are a hilarious take on R2-D2 and C3PO. (In the case of Triple-Zero, he might even trump George Lucas' original droid, as he gives off a hilarious taunt in Geonosian hive-mind.) Like I said last issue, these three add a lot of personality to a character known for his monotone voice and unwavering features, and adds a lot of unexpected chuckles to the most badass villain in sci-fi history.
But in many ways, writer Kieron Gillen has so much fun with these particular toys, that he doesn't quite play Darth Vader to the hilt like he should. In certain ways, given the writer's history, that makes sense - Gillen's gotten the short end of the stick with characters like Thor and the X-Men before, so I'd get why he'd be hesitant to go full-tilt with an icon like Vader - but that makes this issue feel a little lightweight, as Aphra does all of the talking and thus has all of the personality. While Vader gets to show off some of his skills with the Force, his goal - a droid factory hooked into a bitter alien queen - just doesn't feel dangerous or important enough.
That said, Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado are delivering some impressive work. Like I said last issue, Larroca is really hitting his stride here, as he's able to keep Vader on-model while not sacrificing Aphra's expressiveness. (In particular, I love a panel of Vader leaping down to do battle with the queen.) But for my money, the real star of the show is colorist Edgar Delgado, as he bathes this comic with cool blues that play off particularly nicely with Triple-Zero's malevolently red eyes.
Not all chapters of a story are created equal, and I think that applies very much to Darth Vader #4. And considering that this series has done pretty well for itself the past three issues, Kieron Gillen is allowed to have a comic whose biggest sin is that it isn't as exciting or over-the-top as the previous installments. If the ending of the issue is any indication, it looks like Vader will soon have some challenging rivals to conquer, and if Gillen can make Vader's supporting cast this interesting, here's hoping that in future issues, the foes will be just as engaging.
Convergence: The Titans #1
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Ron Wagner, Jose Marzan, Jr., and Chris Sotomayor
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
The battle is joined and the first volley of Convergence storms onto shelves this week in all its Pre-Flashpoint glory. Leading the charge is writer Fabian Nicieza’s Convergence: The Titans #1, starring Teen Titans mainstays Donna Troy, Starfire, and Roy Harper. After a mysterious dome covers Gotham City and all metahumans are rendered powerless, our heroes settle into an ordinary existence, but this being an event comic, they don’t stay there for long. Convergence: The Titans is advertised as a team book, but Roy Harper is obviously slotted into the role of leading man as he navigates through his grief and his new place in a power-free world. This human drama intermingled with the high superhero stakes of the overarching event make Convergence: The Titans #1 a strange read but an interesting one despite its flaws.
Off the top, recognition needs to be given to artist Ron Wagner, inker Jose Marzan, Jr, and colorist Chris Sotomayor who make Convergence: The Titans #1 look like a slick throwback to Titans books of old. Wagner’s artwork hearkens back to the good old days when the Titans were handled by artists like Dan Jurgens and Neal Adams. Wagner’s Arsenal has a good strong jaw and the characters are actually smiling again, which is really great to see after dozens of grim Teen Titans issues. A more apt comparison might be the work of Phil Hester as Wagner’s blocky, yet stylish panels evokes Hester’s work more than a few times throughout Convergence: The Titans #1. Along with the heavy inks of Jose Marzan, Jr. and the vibrant colors of Chris Sotomayor Convergence: The Titans #1 has a great retro look that is sure to be a breath of fresh air to readers tired of the over-sexualized and dark look of the recent Titans efforts.
While Convergence: The Titans #1 looks great, it is with Fabian Nicieza’s script that things start to get a little wonky. After a quick splash-page intro to this pre-Flashpoint reality, we follow Roy Harper as he attempts to make a life in a city without powers. Things seem to be looking up for Gotham and Roy in this post-metahuman life; crime is down, city morale is at an all time high, and Roy has even gone so far as to use a grant from Wayne Enterprises to fund a safe haven for at risk families called Lian’s Place. Of course, this tranquility doesn’t last long as the dome comes down and the Extremists are set loose upon Gotham as that city’s challenge in the great game that is Convergence. As the dome comes down and the Titans move to intercept, Nicieza completely undoes everything he had introduced in the first few pages by revealing that Roy also used the money to fund a personal Arrow Cave, complete with a deadly cache of weapons, including his robot arm, and a security grid that covers the whole city, searching for any wrongdoing.
I understand that this shift is necessary in order to get Roy back in the suit and back into the fray, yet it still rings false to me as a reader. Nicieza spends a great deal of page time convincing the reader that Roy’s daughter’s death has left a lasting, and beneficial impact on Roy’s mindset; one that leaves him in a quiet and contemplative space in order to truly get his life back in order. Yet, at the first sign of trouble, Roy has no problem taking up the bow again and leaping into action, even going so far as to say that even though he built the cave to make her loss mean something, he really did it on the off chance that he may get to make criminals scream again and feel the rush of field operations. It seems just when he thinks he’s out, Roy Harper gets pulled back in and he deserves a bit better than that. Convergence: The Titans #1 ends on a pretty spectacular cliffhanger that will surely add a great deal of momentum to the following issues, but this debut’s schizophrenic take on Roy Harper is a bit too jumbled to land.
All told Convergence: The Titans #1 is a mixed bag. In terms of artwork, the book looks fantastic, riding a wave of nostalgia with a retro look and dense panel layouts. Story wise, this debut issue leaves a lot to be desired. Roy Harper, as a leading man, is all over the place and Donna Troy and Starfire are relegated to cannon fodder as the battle for Gotham’s place in reality starts. Convergence: The Titans #1 is a rocky start for the Titans entry into this latest event, but the seed of a good comic is definitely there, barring a completely disastrous second installment.