Convergence #8 – Comic Review

This review contains spoilers for Convergence #8, and the implications this comic has for the DC universe.

Convergence gives a second chance for the DC Universe. A big one, designed to catch up with all their past stories and characters seemingly wiped away by multiple crisis events over the past 75 years of comic book publishing.

Convergence #8 offers:

  • Striking images of giant, mechanical beings and assembled super heroes.
  • Characters seeking redemption and second chances.
  • A story that explores the DC Universe timeline, and takes a chance on changing that timeline.

Artwork successfully blends the styles of different artists, composing striking images of DC heroes including a giant brainiac, and images of parallel worlds from across the multiverse. Older characters  and stories appear to reside as a foundation to the New 52 reality.

Artwork in the comic gathers contributions from several different artists. The blend of styles works, however. Scenes where a gathered audience of super heroes from DC comics history listen to Dr.Fate speak about the limited time left before they are wiped away entirely, with no way to return to their home Earths, and home universes carries a sense of gravity and weight.

Brainiac is a giant in this comic. Filled with temporal energy and exotic matter from the multiverse, he is a giant midnight blue machine dotted with red, flickering lights. Brainiac asks for a second chance from the assembled, lost DC heroes, reaching out, and making disarmingly gestures with it’s hands.

Later, another image is striking. Depicting different parallel worlds from the DC multiverse, heroes from the past are spirit-like and faded out, but stand strong as a backdrop for the New 52 heroes. The image implies that behind each universe, the history of the older characters resides underneath the New 52.

Hal Jordan as Parallax and Brainiac both show a need for redemption. The combined forces of Brainiac and the assembled heroes take a chance at changing the DC Universe timeline.

Braiac, his assistant Telos, and the forgotten heroes of the DC universe take a chance with changing the DC universe timeline. They can undo Crisis on Infinite Earths. There’s some broad implications.

Supergirl and the Flash from Crisis on Infinite Earths receive some attention. They are willing to step back into the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, making the ultimate sacrifice, and allowing the DC universe to experience its first contraction – where the multiverse became a single universe for the first time. Later events would modify the multiverse again, but that’s a large scale story. The final result being they are willing to preserve the timeline at all costs if it means everyone returns home.

Superman from before the Flashpoint event and the New 52, combined with Hal Jordan, (empowered to extraordinary levels and using the name Parallax) decide to tip the scales, however, and change the timeline.

This character development shows that Hal Jordan seeks redemption. He is comparable to Brainiac in this comic: both are empowered by exotic matter and sci-fi energy, but want to return to a less god-like life.

The outcome of their action? Stopping the first multiverse contraction allows each forgotten hero to return to their home, apparently untouched by reboots or resets. Each character sequestered safely inside a renewed multiverse. Such a solution is a Deus ex machina: Brainiac is literally a god-like machine creating an answer to the problem. Despite being unoriginal, it’s an ending that continues the redemption and second chance themes.

There’s some interesting thoughts and values on compassion and making a new home, which sit alongside the second chances and redemption theme. History changes in this comic resemble other large scale rewrites in popular culture. Despite not exploring the implications of these changes, Convergence gives lost or forgotten heroes another moment to save the world

The heroes from Earth 2: World’s End also show off an interesting thought: If you can’t go home, make a new one with what you have. Through Brainiac and Parallax, second chances and redemption appear consistently in this comic book.

There’s a critical moment where the assembled, lost heroes decide to give Brainiac a second chance to go back to what he was. In that moment they have the power to grant redemption or not, which is a big deal. Telos urges compassion here. It’s an interesting value statement. The change the timeline continues a trend in science fiction films and television. Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor made a similar rewrite of a significant event within it’s own history, as an example.

Convergence does not clearly delineate the consequences of changing the timeline, and wiping out any collapse and reconstruction of the DC multiverse, but the story gives many lost or forgotten super heroes another shot at saving the world.

Convergence #8 is published by DC Entertainment ($3.99 USD). Jeff King and Scott Lobdell (W.) Stephen Segovia, Carlo Pagulayan, Eduardo Pansica, Ethan Van Sciver (P.) Jason Pax, Scott Hanna, Trevor Scott, Stephen Segovia, Ethan Van Sciver (I.) Peter Steigerwald (C.) Travis Lanham (L.) Cover artwork by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson.

Superman #37, Uncanny X-men #29, Daredevil #11 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for Christmas and New Year, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on January 10, 2015.

Superman #37

Ulysses visited Earth from another dimension several months ago, and has since teamed up with Superman to protect Metropolis. Recently, he broadcast a message: anyone on Earth is welcome to leave behind their problems and return with him to his home dimension. The price of a new start in a this Utopia is revealed here. Superman may not be able to save everyone.

The light blue energy that acts as Ulysses power source crackles accross the page: a bright lightening. There are themes here of over-population here, and the limited resources of both Earth and Ulysses home planet are discussed. There are large, light-filled scenes of “The Great World”, however the comic book presents a darker, violence fuelled storyline.

Uncanny X-men #29

Time travel is playing an increasingly larger role in Uncanny X-men. The issue begins with Time Travel, and ends with it. Considering that the current story arc concerns a powerful mutant with the ability to bend time, space, and matter at will, it makes sense that characters with the ability to time travel, namely Illyana Rasputin and Eva Bell, would use all abilities to stop the problems escalating.

Matthew Malloy’s abilities are the greatest of any mutant the X-men have encountered. Public opinion and SHIELD policy has grown increasinly anti-mutant, and pressure is placed on the X-men to contain Malloy. The other option is overwhelming military attack on the Uncanny X-men.

The scenes where Magneto weighs into the conversation between Cyclops and Malloy have detailed artwork, with great contrast in colour and ink. Later, when Eva Bell persuades the other Uncanny X-men that time travel is the only solution to the escalating problem.

Daredevil #11

Kirsten McDuffie and Daredevil take on a new case, and continue to write Matt Murdock’s memoir. Stunt Master was a character who sold his image and costume to a corporation. A new corporate-sponsored Stunt-Master uses everything at his disposal to create new and exciting publicity. Media strategies include borrowing Daredevil‘s tag-line “The Man Without Fear”, and even challenging Daredevil to an acrobatic challenge.

The first stunt-master, however, is unsatisfied with how his image was taken and used beyond the original contract he signed. The artwork for scenes where McDuffie, Murdock, and Smith discuss the case highlights Daredevil‘s sensory abilities to build character. George Smith has had a rough time. Sounds from the pins remaining after rehabilitative surgery to support his bones are audible to Daredevil. There are themes of dignity and resilience in this comic. A two page artwork where Daredevil stands his ground against Stunt-Master rushing at him on his bike stand out as excellent artwork.

Justice League #37 – Comic Review

In the face of a viral outbreak, most of the Justice League are infected. Superman and Batman search for patient Zero – the infected who could help the League devise a cure. Lex Luthor’s attempt at redemption, and the lives of thousands of people across North America are in danger.

How responsible is Luthor? Justice League #37 offers:

  • Character Development: Lex Luthor struggling with past bad decisions
  • Strong action artwork
  • Themes of infection
  • Science information: Virology history and information

The artwork has weight, and scenes where Wonder Woman battles patient zero have strong sense of space. Heat vision makes for a dazzling distraction early in the comic.

While the comic might have some grim interior scenes, where infected Justice League heroes wait for a cure, dramatic fighting scenes and gothic outdoor scenes add weight to the artwork.

Wonder Woman joins the battle against the infected. Her appearance gives the comics a sense of space and gravity. Patient Zero – Doctor Armen Ikaraus – was a scientist at Lexcorp. In the ruins of the Lexcorp lobby, Wonder Woman leaps from the top left of the page, down onto the monster’s back. The direction indicated by her pose, combined with the movement lines, gives the comic a sense of space.

An earlier scene, where Superman and The Batman first encounter the infected, shows off a flash of bright orange energy. Adaptation has always been a feature of the villain Amazo. The Amazo virus infecting Doctor Ikaraus allows him to analyse the facts of a situation, weigh up the information, and form a path of counter attack. Heat vision and flight, in this case, are the most useful skills to distract and turn away the Man of Steel and The Dark Knight long enough for the infected to escape.

Without a sample of the infected’s blood, the Justice League and Lex Luthor cannot create a cure.

Luthor and his sister Lena have a character defining conversation. Luthor’s path to redemption may be run down by his past, bad decisions.

Lex Luthor has a conversation with his sister Lena that gives an insight into his character. What’s fascinating is Luthor’s lies. Luthor is clearly a character struggling with an anti-social personality; egotistical, arrogant, selfish. Despite this, and his history of bad decisions, Luthor wants redemption. Joining the Justice League was the first step on this new path.

He’s deeply conflicted, and can’t easily face the truth. He designed and stored the Amazo virus. He can’t tell his sister why.

Clearly tired of being labeled the villain, Luthor wants a chance at being seen as a contributing, virtuous person. The truth about why he created this virus carries too much weight, however, and could stifle his second chance. His sister wants to know the truth, but telling her that he designed the virus to kill Superman would effectively damage their relationship. His redemption will not work if reconciliation with his last living family member is damaged beyond repair.

His innner struggle becomes clear when he ends his conversation with Lena, and snaps in anger at Captain Cold after returning to the infirmary to start work on a cure.

The big theme of the comic is infection: Luthor’s presence seems to have infected the Justice League. Scientific information on virology appears early in the comic.

Infection plays out as a central theme in this comic. Luthor joining the Justice League is immediately followed by most of the team members becoming ill. Luthor himself is like an infection. Even the environments that make up the story are dark and gloomy. Light sources are limited. Rain is heavy. All the parts of the comic work together to spread this infected theme.

There is disagreements on whether the League can trust Luthor. Superman thinks in black and white terms, and his default position is distrust of Luthor. He might be right to, however it’s unclear at this stage whether Luthor has the patients to complete his redemptive story arc.

Scientific information appears in the opening pages of the comic. Virology history is listed by the Batman in his opening narration. The World Health Organisation is also named.

With themes of infection, it makes sense that the Amazo virus continues it’s spread: the issue ends on a cliffhanger as another member of the Justice League comes down with viral super powers.

Justice League #37 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Jason Fabok (A.), Brad Anderson (C.) Carlos M. Mangual (L.) Cover artwork by Fabok and Anderson.

Batman #36 – Comic Review

Batman #36 marks part two of a new story. After Death of the Family, Endgame stars the Joker in his second story since DC’s New 52 began.
What Batman #36 offers:

  • Bright colours and detailed artwork with forced perspective.
  • A showdown between Batman and Superman
  • Science information
  • Duality Themes

Artwork for the comic uses bright colour, darkness, and forced perspective effectively. Superman and Batman are brought into each others contrasting worlds. Dualities appear in the artwork – things that are opposite and contrast are brought together.

Opening pages of the comic are surprisingly bright and colourful despite the dark storytelling. Themes of dualities run through the comicbook. Things that contrast are brought together. Superman and Batman, Joker and Batman, light and Dark, day and night. Superman flies down into Batman’s dark world – a detailed, dark theatre, and then an underground tunnel. Superman than drags Batman into his world – a bright, clear, blue sky.

Artwork for the Joker’s return has excellent forced perspective, showing small details close to the front of the panel. In this case, flies caught in webs. Later, the links of a chain are shown in similar forced perspective. Webs and chains foreshadow that The Batman has entered a trap. The Joker has indeed set a paralysis trap for Batman. Artwork for these scenes are atmospheric.

Conflict between Superman and Batman results in a showdown between Superman’s abilities versus Batman’s intellect and fortune. The winner is neither of them. The Joker’s re-appearance shows off several hidden meanings: His name, and his choice of clothing specifically.

This opening battle between Superman and Batman showcases Superman’s boundless abilities, and The Batman’s intellect and fortune. The winner, Batman comments, is neither of them. In order for Superman to win, he must become an unstoppable force, ejecting the moral core that makes up his character.

Superman can tear down all of Batman’s defences, with significant collateral damage and no mercy for bystanders.

For Batman, winning would mean depletion of his armory, weapons, and finances, and further forcing himself into isolation – having to live with killing Superman, who is traditionally a good friend.

Joker’s new approach to Batman mirrors his behaviour in the last Joker story. Last time, he describes his actions as a comedy. This time, a tragedy. This is a new step for the character. His clothing choices and his disguises all show off double meanings.

He choses to hide in plain sight as a character called “Eric Border”. Impersonating an Arkham doctor is made simple with the Joker’s new face, surgically attached at some point between stories. There’s an explanation of the hidden meanings behind the name. Eric means “eternal ruler”, and Border is a homphone of “Bourder”, which is an archaic word for “Jester”.

Joker’s black clothes are suitable for a funeral. This is a marked difference from Death of the Family where he wore a mechanics overalls. The clothing choice matches his goals: first trying to “repair” Batman’s life by removing the Bat Family, and now funeral clothes for killing Gotham and the Batman.

Friends are turned into enemies, expanding on a duality theme. The Joker sees himself as a friend to the the Batman, and now, changes himself into an enemy. Scientific information also appears.

Duality themes run through the comic. Contrasting pairs of characters are brought together. Bright colours contrast with Shadows. Superman shifts from a friend into a terrible foe. He becomes both friend and enemy.

The Joker sees himself as a friend who cares about the Batman. Now, he has contempt for the Dark Knight. In his new plan, he sees himself as a true enemy. The Joker’s alias, Eric Border, was also
a friend disguised as a villain, two people at once. Again, friend turned enemy.

Scientific information also appears. Chemistry concepts that Batman and Joker mention include:

  • Nuclear fission versus nuclear Fusion
  • Butadiene-based rubber
  • Magnetised filaments
  • Quinolone – to treat toxins
  • Afamelanotide

Batman #36 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Scott Snyder (W.) Greg Capullo (P.) Danny Miki (I.) FCO Plascencia (C.) Steve Wands (L.) Cover Artwork by Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia.

Action Comics #35, Wonder Woman #34, Captain America #25 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Action Comics #35

The comic opens with Superman flying through space, and closes with Lois Lane starring directly out at the reader, saying “you don’t understand Superman at all”. The last few pages of the comic are narrated by Lane’s article. While Clark Kent might be disillusioned and depressed following his recent Doomsday infection – not to mention the guilt he is feeling after meeting with Lana Lang back in Smallville – Lane argues that Superman needs Earth and it’s people. Superman might appear to bring monsters and destruction, but he inspires us to be better. In turn, people inspire Superman to be a better, stronger, and faster hero.

It’s an interesting story. Superman is not up on a pedestal. He’s a part of the world, and an important part that keeps everything moving forward. Also worth seeing is a page where the heroes of Metropolis are seen helping the city recover from a recent attack by Brainiac. The young shapeshifter Baka returns. Supergirl saves small family from falling cement. Moreover, a page shows police officers and the Metropolis fire service working to save the city – a tribute to their service.

Wonder Woman #34

There’s some great ideas and insights into what it means to be a god in this issue. Wonder Woman also struggles with a tough question. She wants to be peaceful, however she has been selected as the new god of war, and her family is under attack from the powerful villain known as The First Born.

Hera says that human life, to her, is like watching television. The characters mean little to her, ultimately, and the episodes are relatively short. Zola is not impressed. Eris, god of chaos, laughs at Hera for her detached point of view. Meanwhile Wonder Woman, faces the question: stay true to her peaceful ideas, or use violence, and fight a war against the first born. This is escalated to the brink of no return, where she cannot reason or argue her enemy out of his war with the gods.

Hera makes a decisions. She shows restraint, and something a bit like kindness to Wonder Woman, Zola, Orion, and several other cast members. Hera, Eris, and Wonder Woman also have some of the best wordplay in the comic. There’s some interesting moments in the artwork, when monsters are transformed into crystal statues, and giant, elephant mechs charge into battle.

Captain America #25

The new Captain America arrives in this issue. Jet Black endures drama. Even her brother Ian questions her motives, her rejection of Arnim Zola, and her friendship with Captain America. The pain drawn on her face is powerfully executed when accusations are thrown at her.

Arnim Zola returns to dimension Z in a brilliant flash of white and blue light. Later, Captain America and the avengers enter into another situation of extreme pressure – a dinner party at Avengers Mansion with all of the current Avengers teams (except the Young Avengers and Secret Avengers) and X-factor. These scenes have several back-and-forth comedy moments between characters. Artwork here is highly colourful. Hyperion’s head to body proportion may need adjustment, however.

A full page artwork introduces the new Captain America.

An epilogue reintroduces an old threat – Hydra believe now is the time to start drawing plans against the new Captain America.

Superman Doomed #2, New Avengers #24, Saga #23 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Superman Doomed #2

The trust Lana and Lois place in Superman is a little inspiring to see. Even more so when they reach out to Superman – telepathically – and urge him to realise that no matter what he looks like, no matter how horrifying he might look, he is still Superman on the inside.

Appearance has nothing to do with strength, integrity, and everything Superman stands for. That’s the value here.

These scenes show excellent us of composition and positive and negative space. Panels and thought bubbles are expertly placed across action scenes. Worldwide, Superman’s friends (Baka, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, and Krypto) are all fighting to stop the villain Brainiac.

New Avengers #24

This comic has a story tied down in months of story telling. The science fiction concept of parallel universes plays out in this comic. The most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe decided they could prevent incursions – events where two parallel universes collide, and only one of the twins can survive.

Unfortunately, the gathered heroes have fallen out. King Namor has fled to Dr. Doom for help, while the Black Panther’s country is under attack.

The artwork is widely varied. Strong facial expressions convey distaste, rage, fear, and other dramatic emotion.

There is a great deal of Orange and Black used in this comic. The colours wash over panels and scenes, with more violent scenes appearing in orange, and black in use for moments of conversation, drawing attention to the white speech bubbles.

Saga #23

The Truth is boring. If anything is clear in the opening pages of Saga, truth is not enough. People need enticement to believe in something. Life is complicated, but it’s also very short. Another idea appears. A scene between Izabel and Alana highlights that life is too short for petty ego fights, or sacrificing an entire relationship just to win one argument.

There’s some brilliant plot changes here and the artwork is stunning. A cliffhanger ending is a bit chilling.

What becomes more and more clear in Saga is that despite story focus largely centred on Alana and Marko, parents of the narrator, Hazel, there’s no guarantee that these two characters will remain to the end.

Superman #32 – Comic Review

A new creative team takes on the challenge of writing Superman comics at DC entertainment – this new direction contains large artwork with powerful action, and a new character – a man whose story mirrors Superman’s.

Superman #32 offers:

  • Powerful action scenes, and artwork that controls light effectively
  • A new character with a name from Greek Myth
  • A story that shows off the mythic quality of superhero comics, with themes of isolation

Large, splash pages, spread over two smaller pages, shows off powerful action scenes in this new, Superman comic. Light is used effectively throughout the comic book

While the comic begins with the origin of  a new character, a giant opening page introduces Superman. The man of steel knocks down a mechanical, giant gorilla with a right hook. Light changes convey a sense of tension or relaxation: the daily planet office is a cold grey, while Clark’s house is a warm, lighter yellow.

A splash page overflowing with blue electric lights introduces the sheer power of the new character. Ulysses has a name from greek myth, and a backstory that mirrors Superman’s, albeit on much smaller scale. Artwork for Ulysses scenes make excellent use of space. Each panel moves the reader in a circle around the two heroes.

Another interesting contrast is Ulysses costume contrasts Superman’s: Black, white, and grey against red, blue, and yellow. Greyscale to primary colours.

A new male character with powers comparable to the man of steel raises a point about diversity. A  dialog point intended to build character may need attention.

It’s interesting that Ulysses is a male character. Considering DC’s initiatives to add more diversity to their casts, I was expecting a new female character, or a character who shows diversity in some other way. A new female character is mentioned however: a political correspondent name Jackee Winters has started working at the daily planet. Winters and Lane have made friends, and as a black, female character, there’s no questioning the cast has diversity.

There is a dialogue point that had me confused:

“Klerik said he’d find my homeworld and destroy it. I believed it to be gone and that his threats where empty, but … it wasn’t destroyed.”

-Ulysses

So if Klerik threatened to destroy Ulysses’ homeworld, and he thought Klerik’s threats were empty, why did he believe Earth was gone? The exposition confuses a little. Either Ulysses is bewildered, or the sentence needed some more attention to clarify.

The comic establishes a theme of isolation in Superman’s behaviour, and Ulysses origin, and the theme ties these characters together. This issue shows the mythic quality of super hero comics, since myths are constantly retold, and this issue replicates Superman’s story.

Mythology plays a big role in this comic book. The key thing that defines myths are that they are retold. Encapsulated within this Superman comic is a smaller superman comic – Ulysses origin story is Superman‘s story on a smaller scale. Naming the character after a the well known Greek legend only highlights this quality more.

Isolation is a theme that plays out when Ulysses is introduced, and when Perry White a the Daily Planet points out that Clark’s increasing isolation. Ulysses parents, in their brief appearance, point out that their son will be alone in a new world. Later, Clark sits at home, calling Wonder Woman, leaving a message with Alfred for Bruce Wayne, and leafing through photo albums. He switches on his super hearing, and listens to Metropolis, rather than going out into the city, and flying between the sky scrapers.

Ulyesses last comment: He’s not alone anymore.

Popular Culture References:

As mentioned, naming a character Ulysses is a big reference to myths, and not just a popular culture reference: Ulysses, AKA Odysseus, was a Greek king, and main character of Homer’s Odyssey.

Superman #32 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) John Romita Jr. (A.) Klaus Janson (I.) Laura Martin (L.) Cover artwork by Romita Jr, Janson, Martin.