Open Mike Night - Convergence and 100 Bullets (Part 1 of 2)

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by Mike Weaver and Mike Maillaro

Convergence #0

Written by: Dan Jurgens and Jeff King
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver
Colored by: Marcelo Maiolo
Lettered by: Travis Lanham
Cover by: Van Sciver and Maiolo

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $4.99

Maillaro: So, we’re approaching Convergence from two very different perspectives here, which should make this interesting.  I have read all of Future’s End and World’s End, which in theory were supposed to lead directly into Convergence.  Weaver hasn’t read any of the New 52 other than what we’ve reviewed here...which wasn’t much.

I will say up front, that DC did a terrible job with the transition here...World’s End and Future’s End just seemed to end abruptly, and it’s definitely not clear how this book was connected to those series...especially since the Brainiac threads in Future’s End seemed to have vanished several issues from the end.  You would have thought with the last issues of World’s End and Future’s End coming out the same week as Convergence 0, there would have been a better transition.   But Future’s End seems to be continued in Convergence 1, not 0…

Weaver: Again with the numbering games.  It’s not like 0 issues are anything really new, but it kind of speaks to how much the company values the story.

I’m a little torn on this issue.  It did give me enough to understand the basics of what Convergence is about, and the art was really great.  I loved how we rotate between various historical versions of Brainiac (plus at least one future version).  It didn’t really tell me much about how Brainiac got to the place he’s at, which I’m not sure if World’s End and Future’s End deal with, but he’s vastly more powerful than he’s ever been if he can just surf time and space and alternate dimensions and capture random cities.

Maillaro: That actually was the weird part.  For the most part, most of Future’s End dealt with Brother Eye infecting all the people on Earth, and Batman Beyond travelling back in time to stop them. There was a subplot with a group of heroes encountering Brainiac in space, but that had mostly been resolved way before the end of the story and hadn’t come up in a while.

And Future’s End was all about Darkseid returning to attack Earth 2.  No mention of Brainiac at all….except for the last issue, where Telos kind of shows up.  If you’ve read any of the articles about Convergence, Telos is a Brainiac creation that is supposed to have a big part in Convergence.

I did kind of like the idea that all the Brainiacs we have seen were all tied into the same transuniversal villain.  Though that was already kind of done with Darkseid and Anti-Monitor.  But I still think this works well enough to get my attention.

Weaver: So basically those don’t lead into Convergence #0 at all.  Huh.

How much stuff do big events need dedicated to them these days?  It used to be that you’d build it in two or three ongoing comics, then have your big event comic, then have a wrap up issue in two or three ongoing comics.  Now we need a lead up to our lead up.  I don’t get it, but hey, if it sells, that’s all that matters.

Anyway, back to this issue.  We have Brainiac alternately asking Superman to show him his city or asking him to claim one of the various cities he already has.  I feel like there was a desire to show the differences in Superman’s ethics and Braniac’s ethics, but anything that explored that came through either hamfisted or a bit too subtle.  I want to like this comic because the art was phenomenal, but I really didn’t get much of anything from the story.

Maillaro: I wanted to like this comic because I love Dan Jurgens and Jeff King is the showrunner for White Collar (no idea how he ended up writing Convergence), and I thought there was a lot of interesting ideas here, but I did think the execution just felt a little dull at times.  I also thought it was a little strange that they had a glossary at the end showing 40 cities that had been saved as part of Convergence...but many of them, it’s unclear when their world’s would have been destroyed.

I also would have liked a little more consistency with Multiversity, which I had always assumed would be directly tied in as well.  Maybe, this book is just a victim of my own incorrect expectations.

Weaver: Yeah, I remember when we reviewed Generations and were wondering when this would spin out of it.  It turns out: we’re still wondering.

I don’t think it’s a victim of incorrect expectations, I feel like I paid to see a movie and ended up just seeing the commercials in front of it.  I know where the snack counter is, but I have no clue what’s going to happen when the lights go down.  And I didn’t have a ton of expectations here.  It’s not even like I have no clue what’s going to happen in a good way, like it built a good mystery, it’s more that I don’t know, and I don’t know how I could come any closer to even guessing based on what’s here.

Maillaro: I guess I should have expected that from a 0 issue...but I paid 5 bucks for his comic.  This would have been better as a freebie or a dollar. Remember when DC used to launch big events with 10 cent specials?  I thought that was a hell of a sales gimmick.  I can never say no to paying 10 cents for a comic, no matter what it is.  

This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about a comic that should be free….maybe we should change the name of this column to “Mikes Looking For Free Stuff.”

Weaver: They used to sometimes include #0 or #½ issues in Wizard, too.  I do wish that this was priced like that, I’d feel a lot better about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I wish everything were ten cents, but I begrudgingly understand the four or five bucks for most stuff.  Not with this.

But back to the art.  I recall not being a huge Van Sciver fan, so I was ready to not like it, but I think he did everything he could to make this comic good.  When I think of what I liked about it, almost everything was art-related.  The double splash page with various Metropolises just kind of stapled together was a highlight.  To me, though, story always comes first.  If it’s just great art, it could be a pin-up book.  I buy comics because I want to read the stories.

Maillaro: I typically like Ethan Van Sciver’s art, though I preferred the muted colors that was used on his stuff when he drew Flash.  I thought that gave the book a very unique look.  But, his art here is still great, especially the variety of Brainiacs.  I actually hadn’t realized how many different looks Brainiac had over the years, and he pulled them all together real nicely here.

I would go a 4.5 out of 5 for the art, but the writing I would have to go a little lower.  Maybe a 3...there was nothing I really hated here, I just think it could have been far better.  

Weaver: I’m giving art full marks.  Van Sciver did everything he could to make this work.  As for story...I’m going with 2.5 there.  It was just distressingly average. Especially for a big event.


100 Bullets: Vol. 1 - First Shot, Last Call

Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Eduardo Risso
Colored by: Grant Goleash
Lettered by: Clem Robins

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $12.99

Weaver: Since there’s no pressing controversy bubbling up the pipeline this week, we return to our regularly scheduled 100 Bullets.  This was one of the earlier Vertigo books, and definitely wanted to tell you that there wasn’t much censorship going on in the first few pages...namely, a women’s prison shower scene.  We get two short stories (well, three, but one is really short) in this volume.  Both are similar though: a mysterious man shows up with a gun he says is untraceable and 100 bullets for it...plus irrefutable proof that a particular person was responsible for the worst thing that happened in your life but got away scot free with it.  The stories then go into the moral wrestling match of whether killing the person is the right thing to do, culminating in the face-off between the gun holder and the person responsible for making their life hell.

Something I really liked here is that Dizzy (the main character of the first story) and Dolan (the main character of the second) went totally different ways.  It sets the series up with more question marks.  When I first heard the concept, I didn’t think it could last for very long, but the stories collected here make me think otherwise.

Maillaro: I love the moral questions asked by the first issues of 100 Bullets.  Sadly, they sort of get away from this issue focusing much more on the biggest conspiracy that Graves (the man who gave Dizzy and Dolan the cases) was involved in.  I actually think the series suffers there.  When Azzarello does a tight and focused story, I think he’s great, but the more he tries to do something too big, I think his work gets a little unfocused and loses me.  

Of the three stories here, Dolan’s is my favorite.  Just for the fact that his life was destroyed in what was basically random chance.  A rich overly entitled bitch decides to send random people child pornography just because she’s drunk and bored.  I do think that Dizzy’s story was much more personal and deeper, but Azzarello’s attempt to write gangsta dialogue was often painful to read.  

Weaver: It’s interesting that Dolan’s is your favorite...when it’s the one that starts feeding into the big overall conspiracy.  Also funny: earlier, I told you that there was something that annoyed me about this comic that I’d bring up here, and it’s almost exactly what you’re saying.  When I first read these, I loved them.  I bought the second trade.  I liked that.  I bought the third trade.  By that point, the focus is starting to be way too much on the shadow man Graves and his mystery suitcase, and less about the “Would you kill this person if you could get away with it?”

Dizzy’s story is really good, but I agree, the efforts towards gang dialogue were pretty painful, especially since Azzarello clearly knew like...five or six words of the gang lingo variety, and just pushed them over and over and over and over, ese.  Dolan...his story shocked me at the end.  Yeah, it’s the beginning of focusing on something other than the person who gets the briefcase, but it’s one of the few shock endings that actually shocked me.  Also, I have to question if Dolan really was ruined by chance. We discover that woman isn’t telling us everything by the end.

Maillaro: Yeah, I got the same sense that we didn’t learn everything.  Especially since Graves KNEW the women would happen to be in the bar that Dolan worked in. Even from this first trade, it definitely seemed like Graves was playing a much bigger game than he was letting on.  Which actually could have been awesome, though again, I thought that was when the series lost something.

But it’s unfair to judge this trade on the later failings of the series.   I do want to mention the last story in this trade real quickly.  It was a little short story about an old lady who killed someone with the mysterious gun and bullets given to her by Graves.  But she felt so guilty, she confessed to the killing to the police, even though no one had even considered it a murder.  The victim was listed as dying of a heart attack.  I thought it was a clever little story that showed us another aspect of this bizarre little game Graves is playing.

Weaver: That was a fantastic bait and switch in that story.  That caught me off guard as well.  As a minor spoiler, it turns out that her confessing convinces another recipient of the gun that he CAN totally get away with murder with it.

Graves is one of those shadow operatives that works best when you know bits and pieces of his deal, but haven’t had time to sit him down and actually figure out what makes him work.  He’s a lot like Cancer Man from X-Files.  In the beginning when all you know is that you see him lighting a cigarette and know he just got rid of all the evidence, he’s menacing and scary.  At the end when he’s maybe Mulder’s father and killed Kennedy and prevented the Bills from winning the Super Bowl, he’s almost a cartoon.  I feel Graves suffers from that same arc.  But not here!  Here, he’s still menacing and mysterious.

Maillaro: That is a perfect analogy!  As a Doctor Who fan, I always hear people say they want to know more about The Doctor’s past and that always annoys me. You know that it just wouldn’t be as good once we have all the answers.  Why can’t we just leave it alone and let the fans speculate. It’s much more fun this way.  It is very rare once you get all the answers, you will be satisfied.  Look at Lost as another great example of this.

But, like you said, we’re still in the cool and mysterious stages here, and the end result is a terrific collection here.  Some great twists and turns in the stories, and I even liked the art for the most part.  All the characters really stand out, and it would be very easy for the characters to all look the same, but Risso makes them all unique in small ways.  

Weaver: It’s a great collection, especially when you consider that you have a story that spanned 3 issues, one that spanned 2, and a third that I believe originally existed in a sampler.  And all of them felt complete and fully realized.  And all of them step back away from overexplaining and let us fill in some holes ourselves.  

But, eventually, people want answers...I think it’s more that they want to have their pet theories true than anything else, because until the curtain is drawn back, we don’t know which of our thoughts on what Graves’ game really is is the correct thought.  But I like that.  It provokes conversation.  If we both read something where everything is spelled out for us, all we can say is I liked this, I liked that, this worked, that didn’t work.  When we have something with a more open interpretation, we can talk a little more about it and it’s fun to see where other people’s minds went.  For instance, the woman confessing in the last story.  Did Graves prompt her into doing it?  I feel like he might have, but it’s more fun not knowing.

Maillaro: I would say Graves pushed her into killing, but not confessing.  I think she was guilty about something she didn’t think her conscience would normally let her do. Which makes me really creeped out by Graves...and a lot of that was prompted by Dolan’s story...

Weaver: It took a long time for her to confess, though.  Pretty coincidental timing.

Maillaro: Good point...though maybe it was someone else involved in the “game” that pushed her to confess.  I will admit, I don’t remember a lot of the bigger story of 100 Bullets…  But like you said, the conversation is a huge part of the fun for me, which is why we do this wonderful little column.

Weaver: There are easily dozens of questions that this trade doesn’t answer that I find myself asking.  I asked two here...was Dolan really destroyed by chance and what prompted the lady to confess.  But we could go down several more rabbit holes.  And yet, I feel like the story tells me enough that it’s actually exciting to have those gaps to ponder.

For the writing, I’m going to go with a 4.5 just because I can’t give the Dizzy and Company language full marks.  For art...I’m going with a 4.  I agree that there was a great job of making people look distinctive, and I like the style a lot, but I could do with a lot less of the exaggerated shadow play.  Sometimes it was really good, but it got overused much like the gang language.  Another thing I really like is how Risso avoids showing certain body parts...the movie cliche of convenient lock of hair was neat to see in this format.

Maillaro:  I am leaning towards a pair of 4’s myself.  Though I could see myself going a 4.5 for the writing if I look at this book in a bubble.  


Maillaro:  I have a feeling Convergence tie-ins are going to take up a lot of my reviewing the next few weeks.  Wanna try again with issue 1 next week or a tie in?  Or skip it entirely?

Weaver: Ehhhhh...go ahead, hit me with the pain of issue 1 of convergence.  Where I won’t know what the heck is going on at all.  Wait.  That’s all weeks.

Maillaro: I blame the poor state of DC for that.  Marvel at least gives you recap pages!

Weaver: I remember when they started doing those again, it was a godsend for me.  Thunderbolts had a few good ones where the recap would be in character as Zemo.

You know, I kind of hate to do this, but so much of our 100 Bullets talk was “But it got bad!”  I want to do the next trade, so that we can talk about where we see the cracks in the armor coming in.

Maillaro: I am game for that.  Kind of funny...next week will be a sequel to this column...

Weaver: Open Mike 2: The Revenge!  Alright, see you next time


By the way, our friend John Babos over at Comics Nexus has a good column about Convergence you might want to check out, click the banner below:


Final Scores

 

Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Convergence #0

3

2.5

4.5

5

100 Bullets Vol. 1 - First Shot, Last Call

4

4.5

4

4