Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Convergence: Infinity Inc #1 Review

Title: Convergence: Infinity Inc #1
Story: The Family Business
Characters: Fury (Hippolyta Trevor), Jade (Jennifer-Lynn Hayden), Obsidian (Todd Rice), Silver Scarab (Hector Hall), Star-Spangled Kid (Sylvester Pemberton), Northwind (Norda Cantrell)
Creators: Jerry Ordway (writer), Ben Caldwell (artist)
Publication Date: April 2015
Available In: Print Digital

Summary: The story begins with a Metropolis production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, starring Jennifer-Lynn Hayden (Jade) as Miranda, Prospero's daughter. Attending the play are her fellow Infinity Inc teammates, Hippolyta Trevor (Fury) and her boyfriend, Hector Hall (Silver Scarab), Sylvester Pemberton (Star-Spangled Kid), and presumably Albert Rothstein (Nuklon), and Jenny-Lynn's brother, Todd Rice (Obsidian) though they are not seen on the page.

During a scene with Miranda and Prospero, Hector comments to Sylvester on the parallelism between the characters' conflicts in the play and their own, namely the 'being stranded in one place' part. Sylvester doesn't want to hear it, namely because he doesn't want to be reminded of their current dilemma. He reminisces about how Infinity Inc excelled at the beginning of the Crisis (from Crisis on Infinite Earths) only to find themselves isolated from the rest of the planet a year later. Jenny-Lynn looks at the audience and notices that all but one of her friends attended her play, and none of the Justice Society heroes are anywhere in sight, especially her father, Alan Scott (Green Lantern).

The Infinitors meet up at the end of the play to comment on the show they just watched, and especially on Jenny-Lynn's performance. Jenny-Lynn sees her brother with a guy and asks him who his date is. Todd responds that he is 'just a friend' though both his and his 'friend's' body language suggest that's not all there is to it. Todd's date asks Sylvester if he used to be anyone and he says that they were Infinity Inc, though Todd's date has never heard of the team. Sylvester has a hard time believing there are people who have never heard of Infinity Inc despite all the work they did to save their world of Earth-2. Jenny-Lynn comments that it's not an unrealistic reaction since they weren't a team for very long and that the team members originally wanted to join the Justice Society when the group formed. The Infinitors depart for the evening and Jenny-Lynn decides to pay a visit to the one Infinitor that didn't show up at her show: Henry King Jr, aka Brainwave Jr., aka Sylvester's nephew.

On her way to Henry's place, she attempts to contact him, but he doesn't answer his pager. He's drunk and passed out in a crashed vehicle that he appears to be residing in a seemingly abandoned apartment building. Jenny-Lynn is subsequently mugged by a street thug named 'Choochie' and threatens to rape her, but she successfully defends herself against him. She notifies the thug that the citizen's patrol is on its way, which sends both him and his friend running.

Jenny-Lynn succeeds in getting the still passed out Henry out of the building, and waiting outside the building is Hippolyta Trevor (who has joined the patrol) and her troops. Lyta asks why she still bothers with Henry since he shows no signs of improving, and Jenny-Lynn asks for a ride back to her flat in Metropolis. After escorting her friend back home, Lyta decides to go check out another disturbance in another street, even though her troops are exhausted and want to call it a night. (I guess Lyta's Amazonian endurance still holds despite being powerless under the dome?)

In her flat that she shares with her brother, Jenny-Lynn and Todd have a conversation about why she's still looking after Henry since he's apparently given up on himself and the fact that Alan Scott has yet to acknowledge them as his children. Jenny-Lynn feels that they both need to give him time to get used to the fact since it was out of the blue for him when they first met him and is probably still a shock to him. Henry hears the conversation and responds in kind that he is 'bad news.' He then asks for a pain killer for his headache, which Jenny-Lynn supplies. Henry then confirms that he has spoken to Alan Scott and that the latter does acknowledge his children's existence and cares for their well-being. He also invalidates his comrades' earlier concerns about his drinking problem when he confirms that he uses alcohol to medicate the headaches he's been getting since the dome came down and to help him get some sleep.

In the lives of the other Infinitors, Albert resumed his life as a mechanic (even repairing the team aircraft), Norda accepted a job in what's passing for a food market in domed Metropolis, and Hector helped engineer a machine designed to destroy the dome, though this endeavour has been met with no success as Telos controls the planet's power source and renders the machine useless. It is at around this time that Telos announces his death match and the Infinitors realise they are no longer on Earth-2 and have been placed on another planet existing outside of time and space. They also learn that they are set to take on Jonah Hex and his city of Atlanta. They start noticing their powers return and the team decides to assemble.

With the team in costume and fully ready to take on the challenge that awaits them, Sylvester devises a plan for best assessing their situation. He decides to 'take the fight' to Jonah Hex, but rather than actually fight against them, he wants to try to team up with them to take on the entity that decided to have them battle to the death. When they arrive in Atlanta, Sylvester as the Star-Spangled Kid tries to appeal to Jonah (his team's leader) who seems to be the more level-headed of his group. Unfortunately he does not think it's a good idea since Telos threatened them all with death if they defied the rules, and his group makes the first attack on the Infinitors.

Review: Before I begin, let me apologise for this review being a month late. I started working longer hours last month, and between working my day job, plus collecting data of digital sales for analysis at the end of this month, plus reviewing all of the April Convergence tie-ins I picked up, I burnt myself out at the start of this month that I needed a bit of a break. This was especially true since collecting the digital sales data is a time-consuming endeavour, and something I had to do on a daily basis to get the most accurate analysis. That report will come later. As for this month's Convergence tie-ins, I'm planning on only reviewing all of the pre-Crisis Earth-2 stuff, and maybe just do a "Picks of the Month' post for all the other ones I bought. I really don't think I'll have enough energy left at the end of the week to do full reviews of all the Weeks 01-03 stuff. That said, onto the actual review!

First things first, I have to say I am very disappointed by both the digital and print sales for this comic because I felt Infinity Inc was one of the best Convergence tie-ins for Earth-2. Not only does it revisit characters that have been mostly retconned out of existence in the current continuity (or radically changed in the worst way possible like in the case of Fury, Obsidian, Brainwave Jr, and Yolanda Montez), but the characterisations by writer (former Infinity Inc artist) Jerry Ordway are some of the best I've seen for Week 04. Not only is the narrative written maturely, but Ordway really does have the voices of these characters down to a T. (Which makes sense because he is one of the co-creators of the team).

The story takes place in (roughly) the second year of the team's formation, and many of the characters are still dealing with the fact that they're all still very new to the superhero game. With the dome situation in particular, they realise more than ever that they have very big shoes to fill with the more experienced Justice Society heroes being too old and disempowered to help the situation. Whereas Week 04's Justice Society of America written by Dan Abnett explores the older Earth-2 heroes coming to terms with their age and the fact that their own futures now lie in the hands of their younger successors, Ordway's Infinity Inc offers the opposite point of view, which is the younger heroes coming to terms with the fact that they are the future of their world's superhero community, and the responsibility that comes with that.

Some of the Infinitors are more than ready to take on that responsibility like Sylvester Pemberton and Hippolyta Trevor who is the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Some of the others like Hector Hall and Albert Rothstein are not feeling so confident in their ability live up to the legacy of the Justice Society. The twins Jenny-Lynn Hayden and Todd Rice are taking it a day at a time, and Henry King Jr has become a drunk as a way of self-medicating.

Out of the cast, I felt that Ordway did an excellent job at capturing Sylvester Pemberton's character in particular, and he does read like the character he was in the Bronze Age. Like the original character, the Convergence version of him still exhibits the same amount of passion and commitment he has for his new team, and he still wears his 'leadership' hat amongst his teammates, even though they are pretty powerless about the dome situation. Whereas the rest of the team members are more relaxed and making do with what they do have while they're all trapped, Sylvester insists on training and being ready for when the dome does come down.

Another thing Ordway does well in this first issue is explore the individual conflicts that each of the characters go through. Henry King Jr. developed a drinking problem and became a shut-in to the point where Jenny-Lynn checks up on him on a regular basis to make sure he's alright and takes care of him. Albert Rothstein committed to a life as a mechanic seeing as the team is useless in a prison.

Todd Rice is seemingly dating a nice young man that he met, but isn't too open about it possibly due to the AIDS scare that was so rampant throughout the 1980s, and the violent prejudice that arose against gay men because of it. Under those circumstances (and this story does take place in the mid-1980s) it's very understandable why he's in the closet. This development also does two things: one, it reassures readers who read about the post-Crisis Todd Rice that he is still a gay man. Two, it reinforces the original status of Earth-2 as a world that was very similar to our own, dealt with real world issues, but was different in that it actually had superheroes dating as far back as the World War II era. Another conflict Ordway explores with Todd is his relationship with both his abusive adoptive father and his biological father, Alan Scott, both of whom he has bitter feelings towards. He has more bitter feelings toward the former than he does the latter since the latter never knew he had a son prior to his arrival.

Lastly, there's my favourite Infinitor--Hippolyta Trevor--who became a police officer in Metropolis to help keep things under control. She figured if she couldn't save the world as Fury, she may as well save the city she's trapped in as a civilian who is also a crimefighter. She's very much Wonder Woman's daughter in that regard, because that's exactly what her mum would've done under those circumstances. That is exactly what her mother's Earth-1 counterpart did in Larry Hama's Wonder Woman, only she provided voluntary services like visitations for the elderly rather than become a police officer. What I wouldn't give to get this version of Fury back, especially since the New 52 version is terrible in concept, it literally makes me sick how badly she was bastardised for the current continuity.

In addition to exploring what the characters are going through individually, Ordway also explores what it is that holds them together, which is the friendship they have with one another. Despite their seemingly hopeless situation with a dome over Metropolis, they still look out for one another and even take care of each other if any one of them is down to their last thread of sanity. This is especially true of Jenny-Lynn and Henry, even when everyone else seemingly gave up on the latter, including Jenny-Lynn's brother Todd. They also support each other's endeavours as in the case of the entire team going to see Jenny-Lynn in a production of The Tempest in which she plays a lead role. They also motivate and encourage one another to be their best as Sylvester does with his friends and teammates, inevitably ending with them coming together as a team for a battle to the death against the city they are up against. Ultimately, the story is about adjusting to a major change in one's life, accepting new responsibilities, and what it means to be a legacy hero, a team, and in many ways, a family as well.

On the art front, I have to admit, I much prefer Ordway's art since that's the style I associate more with these characters and series, but I also enjoyed Ben Caldwell's take on the characters as well. It's a radically different style from Ordway's in that it's more stylised and less realistic-looking, but it's still very expressive and he does an excellent job at capturing the individual personalities of the characters. I especially love the way Jenny-Lynn and Lyta look under Caldwell, and his Todd Rice is really cute. I liked his 1980s hair especially!

I really have nothing more to add other than the fact that this story really brought a smile to my face, and it was a great experience revisiting these characters one last time. I highly encourage everyone who is an Earth-2 fan to please buy the hell out of this comic this week! Save the Infinitors from oblivion, because honestly? What you're getting now with the New 52 Earth-2 versions of them (what's left of them, anyway) does not hold even a spark to the original characters in concept. It just doesn't. The few characters that survived the reboot now bear little to no semblance to the original characters they're based off of, and are in many ways weaker, hollow versions of the characters they used to be.

Without these characters' original histories intact, they have nothing interesting going for them other than being subjected to one bad idea after the other in the hands of less skilled writers and immature editors who don't really understand their appeal. What you are getting in this comic is the real deal, and it is written by someone who actually loves and understands these characters. The original versions of these characters deserve way better than what they got in the New 52 and could really get all the help they can get! I really strongly recommend Convergence: Infinity Inc for a legacy superhero team done right!


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