Writers: Dan Jurgens & Tom King
Artist: Ethan VanSciver
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)
Thank you DC. I show my appreciation to creative teams constantly for melting the cockles of my heart, but I can’t think of any time I was truly moved by the simple inception of a series from a publisher. For the impatient the plot is thankfully simple, Superman of Earth prime is in the hands of Brainiac. Brainiac is an urban kleptomaniac. He’s also more addicted to puzzles than mental wards, and what a grand puzzle Superman’s infinite deaths and infinite triumphs across time and quantum strings would be to unlock for a creature always seeing the most logical patterns as its purpose.
Like the New Gods and Apokolips are constructs capable of navigating the cytoplasmic bleed between universes (see GODHEAD in GREEN LANTERN), Brainiac plays the same tricks, but ups the ante against their Godly travel beams and hover chairs to add time into his malicious of city abduction: “What’s the plan Brain?” “Not to just capture cities in a bottle, but to capture the zenith of all cities in all universes in…all…time…periods to examine what makes the idea of Superman so unyieldingly pervasive he is always spared the final fate before being born anew.
“Sounds Meta Optimous, didn’t you bitch slap ULTRA comics and every other issue of MULTIVERSITY for such 4th wall faux pas?’ Indeed, and CONVERGENCE made me realize that my disdain for the Morrison Meta versus Jurgens doesn’t stem from too far of an aesthetic distance, but frankly one that is too close. I love story. I know real life never seems to allow the story world in. From mermaids to UFOs, most of the mystical in this world stems from myopia and booze. The meta here is not breaking my 4th wall that I know can’t be, it’s breaking the 4th wall for my favorite characters. Which makes sense since SUPERMAN not Rob Patey can and has done everything. It’s a story about deconstruction, not a fucking pamphlet chiding me for seeing through the complete fucking deconstruction of heroics and then getting pissed at me for complaining the rebuild looks like the same shit from before. CONVERGENCE is apologizing in a sense for the New 52 forgetting to change for the sake of comics, instead of in fear response to Marvel studios.
MULTIVERSITY is ambitious, especially for one man. The scope of CONVERGENCE with 3D universe movement and 4D time travel would be career suicide for only writer. And I’m not talking the whole series; I mean Jurgens was wise to get King at his side for the extra pages sans any ads in just this issue.
So that’s it, in glorious and intimately character rich, but also epic in scope storytelling. A compendium in the back shows where Brainiac the mainframe has been telling his green screen dummy terminal clients of cunning to swipe cities from, but most of us have seen the checklists already to suss out the timeframes of occupying the new universe of Pax Brainiac.
Now let’s get meta ourselves for a second to see what could be next.It says the worlds are in a contest to see which survive, I buy it for the 3 as yet unannounced titles adding to the already announced Fanciful 49. I’ll take it, and honestly no longer complain about a chunk of the shelf being prostituted to new media and parent company interest. The fight is futile, and as much as I want a DC Universe brimming with a ton of Elseworlds, I will satisfy myself with restitution over a satisfying end to my comic youth. It’s infinitely healthier than petulantly pining because my desire can not bend the will of billion dollar companies. It’s in part also really really delusional.
Part of my peace is from seeing Jurgens, THE writer of my youth, a man who could so subtly weave together wisps of continuity from tale-to-tale to reward the OCD, but never deliver references so obtuse that new readers would get a real nosebleed from the metaphorical cross-sell. This unique talent of Dan’s has been wasted in the New 52 until now. You don’t give a man who used to Check Mate great stories on a three tier Star Trek chess board one flat fucking checkerboard from CVS. And if you do erroneously put Dan on just one book, you make sure it is an exploration of every quintessential moment in DC history like CONVERGENCE.
CONVERGENCE is also the first book in ages truly for comic fans with cosmic consequence. We need stories ripping apart and past the linear. Comic reader imagination is more acute than the average bear who only sees comic movies. This curse to bend the boundaries of danger, has put us to a point where the stories of city, state and even nation are simply too myopic in scope to really affect us. We have seen our own cities under fire at this point, which means comics, to meet their thrill schill of brand, frankly need to raze fucking everything from the God particle flashing until the final Kelvin of entropy hits zero across all stars.
Before I bid adieu, I must take a moment of art awe. Beauty bleeds off every page from the grandiose all knowing Brainiac mainframe belittling a much oddly older looking Superman Prime (how do I know earth designate for taunt Superman, high collar and doll part articulation points is how I know), to the moments of sincere reaching out Superman delivers to an ever changing by comic epoch Vril Dox. Another part of the Van Sciver allure for me is that I believe he’s the hardest working man drawing comics right now. Anyone who professes a desire to paint comic pictures for a living needs to hit a con and witness the exhaustive pace VS performs at to be granted A-list titles. It takes more than talent folks to turn a job into a career, dependability and desire can sometimes help balance a less deft hand’s chances. I have stood afar more than once over the years on show floors watching Ethan multitask like a 12 year old who lost their Adderall, graciously greet an fan who walks up to the table and never relent from producing new pages or commissions. I stand at a distance because I swear a lot and his kids are usually with him. I’m not a stalker, just a guy who marvels at that which he can’t do and will never ever taint kids if I can help it. The magic of youth, like the magic of comics seems to fade with each passing year as commercialization makes cynicism a core attribute.
I care about Jurgens (though he is ironically one of the last comic writers I have yet to personally kibitz with), I care about VS, I care about DC and I God dam right care about comics breaking the boundaries of convention as much as opening day blockbuster projections. CONVERGENCE is the first series in so long who also seems to give a shit about me. Thank you again Dan, truly.
ROB PATEY’S FU#$TON OF FUTURES END REVIEW
Thoughts and Thoughtful Reviews on ARMAGEDDON 2014
Hey there, hi there, ho there FiftyTwoKateers, it’s September again and we all know what that means, some BIG September events, which should not to be confused with the BIG August events that are only tangentially tied to the Passover pass off from the January events that launch the year.
I kid,I kid…sorta. Event is simply a marketing term at this point that really holds the same impact on story as a little thing we once simply called arcs and continuity. Anyone who keeps asking, “where the universal synergies have gone,” are the same stubborn bores who will never drink from the grossly misnamed event troth in some futile battle to take the word back to the past.
So, just chill. This FUTURES END catch-up is not an event summation, merely a state of one arc, five years from now, but started almost forty years from now, but not before we get the exposition about a war between Earth-1 and Earth-2 that I think will be starting very soon from now as FOREVER EVIL collides with FUTURES END…the part that is now.
I was at first confused on FUTURES END’S purpose. Need proof? Watch me choke on my piss poor prognostications with this quote from my issue one review:
“The D-list gathering is, essentially, the death, dismemberment and disenchantment of every hero festering on the bottom rung of the sales charts. No one is safe, as a neophyte in consciousness Eye begins to rip the DC universe asunder. StormWatch, which I faithfully stayed with much longer than I should have, is blown to smithereens. Green Arrow gets smashed and Firestorm is such a ball of self loathing it’s amazing he can fly without crying uncontrollably. One might think I’m not a fan of this book with this description, but here’s where the schadenfreude kicks in.
WRONG. FUTURES END has been less about making these characters simple paste on the side of a wall; it’s actually making them all kinds of awesome. Grifter and his little psychotic pre-teen ball buster of a sidekick, Fifty-Sue are awesome and hilariously self-aware, and the Firestorm flake-out has actually become a rather complex little dance of power as a now bullying team of left behind Justice Leaguer’s try to keep what little power they have left in their ranks.
As the main title to this universal arc (not event), FUTURES END has been a fun exercise akin plot wise to the 90’s favorite ARMAGEDDON 2001. Its far, but not too far, peeks ahead give us a true voyeuristic look at our heroes legacy versus the romanticized history when timelines are played with too far from now. FUTURES END is also old school JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL sarcastic, with Azzarello keeping the story very grounded in today’s more self-aware comic sensibilities.
FUTURES END seems to not be fucking around with the meaning of literal. Because things are looking mighty bleak in the following FUTURES END solo stories that sit behind the glorious moving covers that when stacked sound like a fat person jogging in corduroys.
So where will our heroes be in the far…ish end of the future?
(For anyone who cares whether I like these books or not, please consider their order to be that barometer)
FUTURES END THIS WEEK 9/24/14
FUTURES END FLASH 1: Come for the amazing Brett Booth art and stay for the moral conundrum, time antics and story payoff delivered by Roberts Venditti and Van Jensen. I was a big naysayer to bringing Barry back after having spent a lifetime with Wallly, but boring personalities aside, the book has always been solid. I was almost of a mind to yell no when Wally was introduced, simply because it felt forced since Barry and Iris weren’t knocking gold winged booties. Bad Optimous, because since the Valiant boys have come in and brought forth a mysterious blue flash from the future the book continues to accelerate in amazing. Five years from now, Blue Flash reveals his true face to Wally and Iris, unfortunately its after he pastes their brother and uncle Daniel, the reverse flash. Blue bails on tomorrow as best as he can considering the speed force time fractures to show up and get pummeled by a silver speeder. Barry facing his killer self, Wally imbued with the speed force finally and an uncertain tomorrow gave this FUTURES END entry my top billing of the week and goosebumps for further issues of FLASH.
FUTURES END SUPERMAN 1: With the cat out of the bag already that Billy Batson has been taking up the Supes mantle after Sally Struthers convinced Clark Kent he would be best serves digging for water in a dying continent, I walked into this one with a fair amount of skepticism. Surprises do happen kids because Jurgens wrote the hell out of this confrontation between Lois Lane and Shazam with the hood on her big mouthed reporter lady ways jeopardizing the illusion that Superman is still in action. Weeks’ pencils are superb as the talk is perfectly counterbalanced with a distress call to fight an old foe that eventually leads to a glorious epiphany.
FUTURES END HARLEY QUINN 1: The brain child of Palmiotti and Conner has been breaking the 4th wall worse than Christopher Walken reading his cue cards in…well everything. Thankfully direct DC deprecation has been outlawed in the future and only good ole’ innuendo remains. After a raucous Castaway spoof complete with her Wilson, our favorite albino sexpot wanders into an Apocolypto Incan tribe. The cover don’t lie folks, she does run into Mr. J. How did he get hisface back? Shut your whore continuity spewing mouth and enjoy the Joe Versus the Volcano themed fun.
FUTURES END BOOSTER GOLD 1: This would have made it higher on the list if this was 1987 and I knew what the hell Booster Gold was up to right now. I read a ton of DC books, because that has always been my deep dive universe. I love Booster of yore and it was that nostalgia that brought me to imbibe his New 52 life. My sentimental tolerance is thin though, and the new JLI fell flat for me and I think readers by its immediate canceling. Anyway…somehow Booster ended up being jettisoned haphazardly across the time stream like Sam from Quantum Leap. 1800’s Gotham, 31st Century Metropolis and Kamandi end days even. Now, the real surprise is good so I won’t ruin it here, but I can’t bump this up on my pecking order. Sloppy art handoff to a cavalcade of contributors and no context of setting or moment before leaves this title low. Jurgens did fine, but when a guy who reads about 48 of the 52 titles each month goes, “huh?” Something is rotten in Denmark’s editorial department.
FUTURES END’S PAST FEW WEEKS
FUTURES END BATMAN 1: Bruce Wayne is crippled and trying to muster up some gene tech that will let him make multiple Batman’s since the Batkids seem to have delivered lowered expectations, or are in hiding like Tim Drake. An odd juxtaposition to the vehement clone hating he’s showing Ra’s over in BATMAN & ROBIN. It’s also odd considering the events of…
FUTURES END BATGIRL 1: Where Babs has actually gathered a trio of Batgirl power including old favorites like Harper Rowe and Stephanie Brown. Gail Simone’s writing simply shined in the beginning of this issue with a wedding day disaster perpetrated by a certain crazy brother that pushes Babs into full-on Bruce Wayne vengeance mode. Her first step is a very clever double agent move where she learned the tricks of bad guys before delivering a final solution. The only times I really bemoaned the books’ choice were when Babs wore the world’s worst Mexican wrestler outfit after Bane training and then the wretched after school special moment where Babs says she never took venom she simply became a roided out freak. I know, drugs are bad hmmmm, kay? But I have to believe if bulking up was the answer to thwarting crime the bat brain trust would have brought more brawn to the table a while ago.
I fear my review for issue 1 of FUTERS END came across much harsher than I intended. I have some grudges still for some of the new 52 character iterations and at the end of the day I need to take the same harsh pill I l jam down the throats of others who have issues with character changes I could care less about, in essence “time moves on, get over it.” But when it came to characters like GREEN ARROW and STORMWATCH my rage blinded my objectivity, for this I apologize to DC and more importantly to you the comic buying public.
Instead of my paragraphs of ranting about where characters had been, I should have focused where they are now, which unveils the intent of FUTURES END – clean deck amidst a yarn of time travel, treachery and yet another redefining of the word superhero.
I will dare say this second issue truly moved me. Building off last issues demise of a now bearded Ollie Queen, the few superheroes that still have solidarity five years from now come to pay their respects. It all comes across as a truly heartfelt endeavor as Animal Man delivers a truly beautiful eulogy for a relationship we’re just getting introduced to over in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED (yes, this book will want you to reassess your feelings on JLU 2 also dropping this week). It was during these moments that I felt my Giffen and Jurgens of old appear from seemingly the ether. The follow-up dialog to the eulogy where Firestorm is confronted about choosing a booty call over league business was so reminiscent of the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL of my youth it inspired me to pleasure myself to the Bangles “In Your Room.”
The source of venom aside from Firestorm’s negligence was our first introduction to Mr. Terrific five years from now. I don’t get the transformation, but he is now far more Kanye than his New 52 beginnings of Will Smith. His outing of secret identity for a better Q is store is very different from the cerebral detective who was exiled to EARTH after low sales. The JUSTICE LEAGUE has always had a hard time getting along in the New 52, but there is enough friction in the future to power Cleveland.
I hate to call this book the D-List parade, because it diminishes the quality. Even though these characters had a bitch of a time supporting their own books, mashed together they are pretty great. Throw in a high B+ lister like Batman Beyond beginning his break into Brother Eye, an inquisitive clue dropped to Lois Lane, and the shroud lessened a bit around our ultimate villain, the plot really did move despite the maudlin mentioned above.
Also, Jessus Merino drew the hell out of this, again…the funeral…the funeral.
It’s also nice to see another weekly done good like BATMAN ETERNAL. As opposed to done bad like COUNTDOWN. Personally, I don’t care if it takes 14 writers and 12 monkeys on aderal to get a book done, as long as they all mesh.
These guys mesh.
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Artists: Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummet, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens
reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
20 years. Wow.
Were Don McLean writing his homage to our collective demise, American Pie, in the 90s instead of the 70s, I have no doubt this cryptic poem of innocence lost would have reserved a verse for this now remastered DEATH OF SUPERMAN tome:
There is no rhyme or reason why
We fell our savior from the sky
Leaving little room for further grace.
Broken hearts and burning steel,
The culprit didn’t need revealed
Doomsday wore your very face
DEATH OF SUPERMAN not only ushered in the death of comics, or at the very least, crippling of the genre, it also reflected we will never again abide sacred calves. Blame Booth, blame Nixon, blame the loss of religion, blame your neighbor; we begged for the DEATH OF SUPERMAN because the virtues he stood for were no longer a reflection of ourselves. And what are comics, at least good comics, if not the hyperbole of our imagination grounded in reflective moments of the current human condition.
Now, the maggots that crawled from SUPERMAN’S carcass were splash pages without purpose, anatomical monstrosities, die-cut S shield covers, and polybags that now feel like my Grandmother’s skin after 20 years of storage. Again though, these trappings weren’t the often attributed 90’s death of comics, simply the last Hail Mary to keep a few extra zeroes on print runs.
DEATH OF SUPERMAN was the true event that put all comics on a respirator and feeding tube. Where else could you go from here? This mammoth storyline that crossed the multitude of SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE titles was like a modern retelling of the bible. You had the ultimate fight for good and evil as the cacophony of colorfully clad disciples watched unable to deter destiny. It was a prophetic march that we all knew couldn’t last and in that knowledge we learned continuity was a mantra for a forgotten era. We also learned there is no such thing as consequence when billions of dollars in toys, movies and video game revenue rests on a hero’s shoulders. Death, true death, has no room for awakenings. Comic s has no tolerance for true death, at least in 1992 they didn’t.
It’s hard not to read this book and reflect on the aftermath. But there was no doubt it captured our hearts, minds and the news cycle at the time. The last point was a true rarity in the pre-Internet days when news was actually still a somewhat precious commodity and not vomited out on blogs and web pages en masse.
1992 was my senior year of High School. I was accepted into my 3 colleges of choice by October, so all I had left to do for the year was make lots of money at Merrill Lynch after school, buy weed with that money, get girls with that weed…and revel in comics. Back in those days we had to revel face-to-face, the comic store was a destination not a retail transaction. For hours, fanboys like myself would debate the virtues of comics with our predecessor fanmen. DEATH OF SUPERMAN kept us talking from Doomsdays’ first appearance out of the ground until the final panel of Kal in Lois’ arms. We were all mesmerized. Again, we knew even then it wouldn’t last, but the excitement of the event back when events weren’t a commodity made it a glorious time to be a collector. I didn’t realize how much the Internet has exponentially increased the quantity of comic conversations, but also exponentially decreased the quality of those interactions. It took me this reread to truly realize what made this series special.
Pacing! Plain and simple pacing. Doomsday wasn’t a stark reveal, like Monarch in ARMAGEDDON 2001. We also had no clue what was coming next. As Doomsdays visage became clearer, his swath of destruction across America became more brutal and bombastic. Starting with one armed tied behind his back, Doomsday became more than the bloke who killed SUPERMAN, he became the embodiment of fear for well over a year. In one page these artists and writers of yore told us everything we needed to know about this villain, as he first crushes a bird, then a tree, then a house and a family. Even for all of Darkseid’s evil ways, he would never sell out so-called “life” on Apokolips. Doomsday though, as the name implies, was hell bent on the death of everything. And he succeeded in spades.
I’m not a fan of nostalgia or lamenting remember when, I believe human evolution is a building experience that leverages the old and transforms it for the modern age. We’ve lost something since this time period though, and that something is called story. Writers words once flourished when the pacing didn’t have to meet the “Image” model of 3 panel pages and every other page splashes. Jurgens, Stern, Simonson…these folks delivered character moments that had impact despite their cramped panels. I was an even bigger fan of JLA during this time then Supes himself. Seeing Ice protect a family against Doomsday in a 9 panel page delivered more emotional impact than the entire first arc of the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE.
This might all sound like a now Fangeezers lament, but it’s truly not. I still love comics; I love the hyper detail that the new teams of artists deliver. But I will fight tooth and nail any fool who doesn’t say this story is impactful. Not only for the words on the page, but for the way it forever changed comics…and if I can be so bold the perception of the American dream.
Read DEATH OF SUPERMAN again to remember a time when stories truly surprised us before Internet spoilers ruined our sense of wonderment when we first opened a book. Read it for the first time to understand a forgotten craftsmanship in comics. Read it for the new coloring if you choose, I didn’t see a stark difference from my muddled memories. But read it, it’s important.