CONVERGENCE - NIGHTWING AND ORACLE #1

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[ FLYING THREW A SALE
Citizens of my world! I have brought this convergence upon thee. Now is the time. The hour is near. Judgement is here. Only one city shall survive, only the strong. Since your arrival, I have been the air that you breathe, the water you drink. I am the very ground you walk upon. I am your starless sky. I am this world. I am Telos. And I have trapped Gail Simone, Jan Duursema, and Dan Parsons, in a very special dome where they've kindly agreed to create for you, via DC Comics, a little tale of Dick and Babs which you shall read this April, 2015. Or else I will make it so that you never even existed.

To QUOTE William Goldman: “True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops”.

THE STORY:
Holy cr*p!  You're not trying to jump into one of these spin-off issues of Convergence without reading the core story, are you?  Man, that's treacherous.  In a nutshell, Brainiac (the God Machine, not some puny old-school Brainiac) found this sentient planet, Telos, and somehow ported him (it?) into a dimension outside of time and space. 

On this planet he's been gathering cities that he's harvested from the assorted and sundry timelines, 'just before they cease to exist'.  Not just different worlds from the multiverse, but the different eras. or incarnations, of each, over DC's 77 year history (as well as the worlds of the comics they've acquired the rights to from other companies).

So, he's got these pop-o-matic bubble domes up over, for example, Pre-Crisis Gotham, Pre-Zero-Hour Metropolis, some version of Kandor, Flashpoint Gotham, and El Inferno from that Elseworlds “Justice Riders” tale.  And so on, and so forth.  Oh, and the survivors of New 52 Earth 2 are running amuck on the surface because, apparently, Brainiac never returned from harvesting any of their cities.  Presumably because Future's End Superman beat him up before he could make off with New York City

But then, low and behold,  he managed to harvest a city from the “30 years later” version of Future's End.  It's still a bit fuzzy.  Let's just roll with it, because the inconsistencies don't end there.  The exact mechanics of it vary from tie-in to tie-in, but essentially, after a year under the dome, which suppresses superpowers, and sometimes, but not always, unrealistic strength, and sometimes, but not always, unrealistic technological advantages, Telos drops the domes and invokes the “battle for your city” instructions that Brainiac apparently left him with.

So all these cities need to do, is battle one another, sometimes via champions selected and extracted by Telos, sometimes via projecting opponents from other cities in to the sky that champions somehow felt were “intended” for them, and sometimes apparently leaving the citizenry to do as they see fit to launch an all out assault on another city.  Also, Telos claims that the winning city will be returned to the timestream, and everyone else will be, well, returned to oblivion with the rest of their reality.

Got all that?  No?  Oh well. Doesn't matter.  The best of these tie-ins are the ones that are enjoyable without all the background.  And I think Simone nailed it with her instalment.

THE GOOD:
The real juice of these tie-ins is to give you one last glimpse of characters -- or versions of characters -- that have ceased to be, due to the cancellations, reboots, and retcons of yesteryear.  In this case, we get ourselves a starring role from the titular Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon in their pre-Flashpoint incarnations.  While some characters in Convergence were conveniently on vacation in a different city than their typical 'hood, Dick and Babs are right where we left them, chillin' at home in Gotham.

Dick's background didn't get too overhauled with the New 52, but Babs got her Oracle persona completely removed, thanks to some experimental surgery that got her out of the wheelchair and back to fighting crime in skin-tight kevlar in about two years from getting shot by the Joker.

So, yeah, that's the big draw for this issue.  If you love your Dick heart Babs romance, and want to see Oracle running Gotham and kicking ass without anyone knowing, here you go.

The Wonder Twins, also known as Jan and Dan, do a mighty fine job of bringing Dick and Babs to life.  There's an odd look here and there, but when the emotion matters, they BRING IT.  As you might imagine of a story that picks up the tale of everyone's favorite young vigilante lovers (who've been trapped under a dome with limited resources for a year), there's a lot of emotion going on.

And, of course, because it's Gail Simone, there's also magnificent moments like taking what appears at first glance to be a dirty joke and turns out to be a very sweet gesture.  Plus, on the flip side of things, we get an additional hard look at the emotional issues that our weary heroes are dealing with, as well as the villains who have no real reason to pull capers any more.

Did I mention Flashpoint Thanagarians?  There's Flashpoint Thanagarians.  They're not nice at all, but they're wickedly beautifully drawn.  If you're keeping track at home, this is where you cross off El Inferno from “cities in contention”.

THE BAD:
To be honest, I don't have a whole lot to criticize here.  There's the inconsistencies between the different tie-in titles, but that's more an issue with the Convergence event as a whole than anything wrong with this issue. 

Dick likes smashing windows, and for some reason it's more reasonable for him to smash in a museum's side window than their skylight, because apparently, life under the dome still has a brisk flat pane glass business going on?

Other tie-ins have shown resourceful villains shift their priorities to control things like  medicine and the limited food supply instead of running drugs or weapons, but this tale is focusing on the ennui of both hero, villain, and civilian, which feels a bit slower paced at first.  Yet in the grand scheme of things, that's something I'd happily exchange, for the beautiful character portraits we've gotten.  (The Earthling lovers, separated from everything save one another. The Thanagarian lovers, gladly waging war on-demand but caring for none but themselves. The former Tamaranian lover, meeting clandestinely and speaking so cryptically it takes on a whole different meaning the second time around. And the man who long ago lost his lover but has so lost his way he doesn't even know why he's a villain any more.)

THE MUSIC:
Man.  I went through a whole slew of love songs trying to come up with the right match for this issue.  Because at its heart, this issue is a love story, right?  A love story with sentient worlds pitting alien warriors against wild west cowboys before crashing a dinner date at a fancy waterfront restaurant with a post-apocalyptic menu.  But a love story nonetheless.

I'm pretty sure Warren Zevon had penned “The Ballad of Dick and Babs” at some point, but unfortunately never recorded it.  Bummer, as that'd be perfect.  Ultimately, I settled on Lynn Anderson's “Rose Garden” mostly because the melancholy of it all matches the efforts of love under the dome so well.




And while we didn't see what life under the Flashpoint dome was like, I imagine that Katar and Sharia were having similar woes (did the ability for a Thanagarian to fly count as a “power” that they lost?), so they deserve a theme too.  In the interest of keeping everything all convergarific (Yes. That is a real word. A real made up word), they get the Suicide Machines cover of “Rose Garden”. You're welcome.




THE COMPARISON:
Do you remember the 2011 Stanley Cup riots?  Sure you do.  The Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins were tied at three games a piece in the best-of-seven series.  On the 15th of June, the Bruins won the seventh game, in Vancouver, 4-0.  Aaaaaaand, the populace of Vancouver decided that would be a good reason to start a riot.

When all was said and done, over 140 injuries were reported, plus millions of dollars in theft and property damage.  And in the middle of all this, photographer, Richard Lam, snapped a photo of Scott Jones and Alex Thomas making out in the street between walls of riot police.  Some say it was staged, but the official story is that Alex fell down injured and Scott decided she needed some loving reassurance as he tended to her.

Granted. That doesn't exactly happen in this comic in any way, shape, or form.  In fact, all the romance is put on hold when the Thanagarians show up.  But the theme of this issue revolves around finding and maintaining hope and love in terrible conditions.  Good thing Dick Grayson is the eternal optimist.

THE CONCLUSION:
It's Dick 'n' Babs forever, with Koriand'r showing remarkable aerial dexterity for a girl who usually relies on her alien “powers” to fly.  What's not to love?  It's practically Archie, Betty, and Veronica.  If Betty were paralysed from the waist down and Veronica were orange.  Archie, paralysed Betty, and orange Veronica, versus the greatest warriors of Thanagar.  (Can someone make that happen? Please?)

Maybe you never cared for Oracle?  Maybe you think pre-Flashpoint Dick is a boring old man with no clue what's good for him?  Maybe you only like Mr Freeze when he's played by Arnold Schwarzenegger?  (What the hell is wrong with you?)  Maybe you're more of a Kendra Saunders type of person? 

Well, if all that is true, dear reader, you should probably check this issue out anyway.  It's a refreshing change of pace from all the smash-and-stab Convergence stories.  There's still plenty of smashing and stabbing -- and burning, mind you. These are Thanagarians after all -- but the real guts of the issue is about the relationships and the toll the dome is taking on all the characters.

Each Convergence tale has a slightly different point of view of how they represent the host city (each of the four weeks has a “star” city versus three or four novelty cities) and how they show the characters handle the ultimatum to challenge one another.  My personal favourites -- and the ones that I think make the best standalone tale for readers who just pick up a title or two rather than the whole crossover -- are the ones that have a twist at the end that is unique to the characters they are in charge of.

Some just threw the opponent in there on the last page, but others put some thought in to it and used the unique device of having established characters as “enemies” of lead characters who don't know them to put something unique as a bargaining chip.  Titans did this beautifully with the one thing that would stop Roy Harper.  Superman pulled an interesting twist with the ostensible enemy realizing their own weakness.  But Nightwing / Oracle has sort of a triple twist that is very unique to the characters involved that has left me eagerly awaiting part 2.

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.