|[ A NEW DIRECTION FOR DC? ]|
This way lays spoilers. You have been warned. And also madness. Because the multiverse is like that.
To QUOTE Shriekback: “Nothing is for free the story goes. You hear it and believe, now don't you grieve or look behind. He's saying why, why do we do this? This is the very thing that's preying on his mind”.
The God Machine . . . Domesday . . . The Planet Incarnate . . . Time Bomb . . . The Return . . .
? . . . Teamwork . . . Showdown . . . Last
Stand. These are the voyages of the
starship Enter – wait, no. No they're
not. These are the nine issues that made
up the primary story of Convergence. Liberty
While some initially suspected that Convergence might be some huge universe-modifying event that would reshape the whole line (especially after the announcement of the “New 52” tagline being replaced by “DC You”), it was clear very early on that this was not the case. While the zero issue really only teased the setting of this tale through the eyes of a soon to be amnesiac Earth-0 Superman, the first proper issue made it fairly clear that this Convergence tale was first and foremost an Earth-2 tale.
For those who haven't been following Earth 2, or at least David's reviews of it, Earth 2 has been telling a tale of a world that lost their three greatest “Wonders” in a successful defense against Darkseid's forces. Of course, the remaining World Army and fledgling new Wonders find themselves woefully unprepared when the forces of Apokolips return to finish off the planet. The story continued in the weekly series World's End, as the primary Earth-2 title changed formats to tell origin tales first of the Female Furies, then of the late Bruce Wayne, Kal El, and Diana of Themiscyra through the computerized eyes of Red Tornado (the robot formerly known as Lois Lane).
One thing leads to another, as things so often do, and a fraction of the population escapes on multiversal spaceships while a half dozen heroes (or, in some cases, proto-heroes) get zapped by Omega Beams and find themselves on the barren surface of Telos in Convergence issue 1. Their arrival means it's time to start the festivities, so festivities happen - including forty tie-in two-shots - as the remaining seven issues of the main story make all of those tie-ins completely moot.
A little razzle, a little dazzle, Telos destroys some cities, a bigger bad guy is revealed, then huffs a whole bunch of temporal energy from imprisoned time travelers, Brainiac is summoned, then banished, Telos gets all moody and introspective, Dick woos him over to the side of survival, and thanks to a little tempus viator ex machina everything is undone and the multiverse is saved. (After Brainiac is re-summoned and then vanishes again, of course.)
Yeah, that's right. Convergence affects nothing outside of the Earth-2 continuity. Well, almost nothing.
Over the course of the series and its tie-ins, we see a number of cities turn to dust. The nerdier among us might have tried to build an elimination bracket from the tie-in splash pages and maybe kept track of who beat who, but it didn't take many issues to realize that was an exercise in futility. In the end, the best thing to do was simply make an effort to keep track of which cities were listed on the current DC Map of the Multiverse and which ones weren't.
In the main series we see glimpses of a half dozen different continuities battling one another or refusing to battle, as the tie-ins focus on these battles or truces more specifically. Some win, some lose, some team up and bring the battle to Telos.
But, apparently, in the end, none of this matters, as Brainiac's big solution to prevent the planet from shattering the entire multiverse involves reality-hopping time travel and actually resetting the multiverse. As he explains this, we even see a dome that looks suspiciously like the Earth-18 dome, magically restored despite being left burning in Nightwing & Oracle #1.
So where does that leave us? Does the two month break between issues 40 and 41 (or 8 and 9, 11 and 12, 16 and 17, etc, depending on the series) of the main line of DC Comics mark a decisive change in direction due to the events of Convergence? No, of course not. The story itself doesn't even take place during that break for most series. The few touchpoints with Earth-0 continuity set Telos' incursion in to the universe some time between Red Lanterns #31 and Annual #1, prior to Batman #35 (Endgame) and likely prior to Batman Eternal, and prior to Justice League #35 (The Amazo Virus).
By the time we all read Convergence, it had already happened in the continuity of all the monthly series that take place on Earth-0. The “new direction” of the post-New 52 “DC You” is purely editorial direction – a “Divergence” from the prior trends and perhaps a “Divergence” in the style and tone of the books, not nothing to do with the fact that “Divergence” rhymes with “Convergence.”
BUT SO-AND-SO SAID IT BLOWS THE MULTIVERSE WIDE OPEN
No. No it doesn't. DC may have indicated that from an editorial perspective, but the story doesn't do that. The multiverse was ostensibly fused into one universe during 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, but then cloned back out into a multiverse in 2005's Infinite Crisis. The multiverse wasn't gone during these 20 years between COIE and IC – we just called those stories “out of continuity” or Elseworlds or some such. But none of that matters, since Flashpoint clearly affected all universes, not just Earth-0, as the structure of our multiverse does not match the “pre-Crisis” multiverse, nor that which Alex Luthor left us.
Just to make everything clear (as a multiverse can be), Grant Morrison's Multiversity gave us not only glimpses in to many of these different realities, but trashed a few, introduced the heroes of all these worlds to the existence of one another, and gave us a god damn Guidebook. What's left?
All Convergence did for the multiverse is overtly send four characters back to Crisis on Infinite Earths and prevent the multiverse from fusing in the first place. So those old comics you have? They're no longer accurate. And . . . presumably, all these Elseworlds tales are part of those worlds' histories. Before they got reset/modified by Flashpoint. So we didn't really need to undo COIE. But we did, and we sent pre-Flashpoint Clark and Lois and pre-Zero Hour Hal Jordan with them. So did they prevent Zero Hour as well? (Does it matter?)
SO, JUST EARTH-2, THEN?
First and foremost an Earth-2 story. And, in the end, just an Earth-2 story. Our little tribe of survivors of Earth-2 manage to survive the epic CTRL-Z because Brainiac getting sucked back to Earth-0 resulted in Alan Scott's ability to tap in to the Green of the planet formerly known as Telos. And since Telos had a little bit of temporal superpowers left, they were able to pop back in the to the Earth-2 universe. A little teraforming, a little summoning beacon for the refugees, and we've got ourselves a bridge from World's End to Earth-2: Society. (No, nothing to do with the Justice Society of America that inhabited Earth-2 once upon a time, but a reference to their need to rebuild society with a fraction of the world's population on a planet with no established industry.)
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
The big “deal” with Convergence is that for the first time we're getting a multiversal tale that not only deals with the different universes, but also acknowledges the different continuities created over the years by prior events. For those who didn't grab any of the tie-ins, DC clearly split their publishing history in to four distinct continuities (despite many characters and series spanning each of the dividing lines);
• Pre-Crisis (multiverse)
• Crisis on Infinite Earths to Zero Hour (referenced as “pre-Zero Hour”)
• Zero Hour to Flashpoint (referenced as “Pre-Flashpoint”)
• Post-Flashpoint (the current, “New 52” or “DCYou” continuity)
These four worlds were ostensibly collected by Brainiac as they were ceasing to exist, but then pitted against worlds that, for the most part, are part of our current multiverse or are possible futures of our current multiverse. With Flashpoint and Injustice thrown in as their own continuities as well. All in all, we saw evidence of 35 worlds, 20 of which exist (in their “evolved” post-Flashpoint state) in the current multiverse and 6 of which either have been merged with, exist parallel to, or are a possible future of a world in the current multiverse. Which just leaves three worlds unaccounted for prior to Convergence;
- The Superman 162 Universe (home of the “Imaginary Story” Superman Red and Superman Blue, Pre-Crisis Earth-162)
- Hex Continuity (home of post-apocalyptic Jonah Hex, Pre-Crisis Earth-898)
- Skartaris (is it still inside New Earth-2 or did it get returned somewhere?)
None of which really sound like the next great series which required Convergence to lay the groundwork for it. But regardless of the impact the story has on the multiverse, Jeff King has indicated that beyond the map of 52 worlds, “the number of Worlds is now infinite. There may even be more than one Multiverse.” Which in some ways is too bad, because the four prior continuities (Pre-Crisis, Pre-Zero Hour, Pre-Flashpoint, and Flashpoint) plus the three unaccounted-for worlds add nicely up to the seven worlds as-yet-unrevealed on the map.
Which of course raises the question as to whether any of the new post-Convergence titles will fill those gaps. Most of the new titles continue directly out of their characters' pre-Convergence Earth-0 (or Earth-2) continuity, but a few beg some multiversal questions;
- Batman Beyond is now the continuation of Futures End. The prior volumes of Batman Beyond and Batman Beyond 2.0, as well as their Justice League Beyond counterparts, presumably inhabit Earth-12 (though end up on Earth-50). Meanwhile Futures End starts with what appears to be a different Terry McGinnis from a different 30 years in Earth-0's future travelling back to 5 years in the future, leaving Tim Drake to return to a somewhat modified future. Has this all been simply a possible future of Earth-0 or did the Earth-12 of original Terry get replaced by that of Futures End Terry and left as a highly unpleasant and deadly gift for Tim?
- Dr. Fate is telling the story of Khalid Nassour, a young med student in New York City with a very coincidental first name, that discovers the helmet at the beginning of a huge flood in a world that thus far has made no reference to either superheroes or Nabu existing. Is this really Earth-0 and he just gets to save NYC solo for story's sake, or are we on a different world?
- Prez takes place in the not-too-distant future where the events of Futures End appear not to have taken place and, once more, we thus far have no mention of superheroes existing. Are we in a different possible future of Earth-0, or a separate continuity?
- Bizarro, Bat-Mite, All-Star Section Eight, and Harley Quinn/Power Girl all have the feel of stories that don't belong in the same continuity as our core Earth-0 adventures. But as the longer established Harley Quinn has proven, you don't need to match the tone of the universe to peacefully coexist in it. Yes, Batman behaves very differently in Bat-Mite compared to Detective Comics, but only slightly more so than Green Arrow's behavior in Justice League United compared with his solo title.
- Justice League 3001, like Justice League 3000 before it, doesn't really have a spot on the map of the multiverse. It's just another possible future, like Prez, Batman Beyond, Damian, Son of Batman, Legion of Super-Heroes, and any other possible future tale published in the past few years that I'm forgetting. What makes some futures worthy of a spot in the multiverse while others are simply possibilities?
- And what continuity does Tiny Titans take place on? Do they get excluded from the multiverse because they proposed an Earth-53 where the Coconut League protects the Coconut planet from their Secret Orange doppelgangers?
- The Dakotaverse is coming back. Announced at ComicCon this month, three of the original co-founders of Milestone Media are partnering with DC to publish a series of graphic novels, one-shots, and miniseries set on “Earth-M” . . . but is Earth-M going to fill one of the mystery slots on the map or will it be its own thing? Given the comments about “room for integration” down the line and the fact that Static Shock has already been established on Earth-0 (with flashbacks including Dusk and Icon in Dakota City), one might even assume it's Earth-49, the “most mysterious” of the unrevealed realities.
- Titans Hunt appears to be telling the “secret history” of the pre-Flashpoint Teen Titans, which would validate the claims that Convergence “puts it all in play". So while the pre-Flashpoint worlds might not have it's own designation on the multiverse map, come October perhaps we'll see a world filled in?
- Telos will, obviously, tell us what Telos has been up to since appearing as a floating head in the sky over New Earth-2. As he will be “journeying across time and space in search of his past” will we be seeing different parts of the multiverse or will this epic odyssey land quickly and develop one specific world in more detail?
- And most curiously, Lois and Clark will pick up on the pre-Flashpoint Superman who, along with Lois and their son, went back to Crisis on Infinite Earths with Flash, Supergirl, and Parallax. The story will pick up with Jonathan at age 9, with our little pre-Flashpoint family settle in to the newly created averted-Crisis continuity. But which world of the pre-Crisis multiverse are they on? And is there already a Superman? And does the fact that eight years after Crisis lands us precisely on Zero Hour (in publishing time, obviously) matter?
"I have seen the future, Superman. […] Lois and Clark together again. The Titans hunted. Reunited." Man, that Deimos sure can see it.
Yes, I diverged a bit from the normal format for this here treatise. But I'm bringing it back around now. After all that, my friend, you should kick back and enjoy some Pre-Crisis dance music. Kick back and ignore the fact that this is the same song I quoted at the beginning of this article. Shriekback's “Everything That Rises Must Converge” has absolutely nothing to do with Flannery O'Connor's short story, but kind of fits the mood of Convergence for me.
Speaking of Tiny Titans . . . we were doing that, right? Not too long ago? Speaking of Tiny Titans . . . the whole time I was reading Convergence, both the main series and the tie-ins, one specific panel of Return to the Treehouse kept running through my mind. This one, in particular, from issue 5. I love my alternate realities as much as the next guy, but no matter how fun Convergence was to read, in the end it falls victim to being another story trying to “straighten out” the multiverse. Yes, it's fun to map it all out and keep track of all the different realities, but when the characters inside the story start discussing the multiverse and get in to fights with themselves or try to seduce their alternate world significant other . . . that's when my face looks like Wonder Girl's.
As a story, Convergence was fun. It was, for the most part, well told, and beautifully illustrated, though the tie-ins felt too rushed. As a continuation of the Earth-2 story, it was great. We shuffled around the characters a bit, dug deeper on the ones we had (as opposed to Worlds End continuous heapings of more characters with no depth), and literally left them with a scortched earth to build from.
Some of the best moments were Telos or Brainiac providing omniscient commentary of the characters we know and love, be it the speculation of Jay Garrick's relevance, the examination of commonality across Dick Graysons, or the comment after snapping the Joker's neck that he's "a plague in every timeline.” The biggest weak point for me was the pretense of all the characters from the different domes interacting, picking sides, and easily being swayed this way and that like a mindless crowd (influenced by an apparently long-range scanning lasso of truth). At it's worst when (Flashpoint) Cheetah literally says "Whatever. I'm on your side now."
Aside from all the academic “what Earth is this?” questions I posed about new and upcoming series, Convergence also offered up a number of more interesting, though admittedly minor, questions . . .
- Why does Earth-0 Guy Gardner appear in his Red Lantern getup on one page, then in his old school “Warrior” Green Lantern outfit on the next, while still talking about “his Reds”? Just a lone moment of “reality breaking down” or a hint of the Christmas Lantern to come? Only time will tell if we ever get that story fully told.
- Why would Earth-0 Superman and Supergirl not even approach the surface of Telos to try and help? They just float there and hope the people on the surface succeed. (Did I miss something?!)
- Are there multiple groups of Guardians for each of the different worlds that actually have a Green Lantern Corps or are the Guardians watching the incursion of Telos in to the Earth-0 universe actually the Templar Guardians donning their official robes for a formal decision to ignore the event? And are they watching events through Rankkor's eyes?
- How exactly did a Court of Owls mask end up on the surface of Telos?
- Who is the gray haired Green Lantern with a space bunny in tow that shows up with the Red Lanterns, JLU, Stormwatch, and Justice League to check out the end of reality? (No, really, who?)
- Is there a difference between “death” and “destruction”? Telos repeatedly said that Parallax “destroyed” Deimos – not “killed” but “destroyed.” Does that mean that the change to Crisis on Infinite Earths can not resurrect Deimos? And Deimos “destroyed” the Time Masters. So can they not return? Is the word relevant to an actual possibility of permanent death in a comic book?
- Is the Injustice universe just another universe in the multiverse (without a map designation)? Or when Telos calls it “a failed experiment” does he mean that Brainiac created the Injustice scenario as a prior method of data collection to increase his knowledge of all things?
- Why the retcon of Barda taking Tommy Grayson? Was that a Worlds End thread that was later decided on not being the direction Society wanted to go? Or are we seeing the difference between what really happened and how Dick remembers it? (And will we see how/why Scott Free hops to Earth-0?)
*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.