Sunday, 3 May 2015

Convergence: Action Comics #1 Review

Title: Convergence: Action Comics #1
Story: Powers and Responsibilities
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Superman (Clark Kent), Lois Lane, Andrew Vinson
Creators: Justin Gray (writer), Claude St. Aubin (artist)
Publication Date: April 2015
Available In: Print Digital

Summary: A year has passed in Earth-2 Metropolis since the dome came down on the city at the start of the onslaught of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. Despite being contained within an artificial bubble, the people of Metropolis carry on with their daily lives as best they can, remaining optimistic that all will come to a pass. During this time, Daily Star reporter Clark Kent has outed himself as Superman and continues to be a popular figure in Metropolis.

During one of their strolls in a park, Lois Lane and her husband Clark are approached by a man who happens to be a big fan of the couple. He asks for an autograph from both, and Lois obliges citing that she's a pulitzer-winning journalist. The man tells Lois that she was a huge inspiration to his mother, who looked up to her as a hard-working, independent woman who always sought the truth, and was involved in one of the greatest love stories in history with Superman.

The man asks Clark if he thinks they'll be trapped under the dome forever. Clark says he doesn't think they will, citing that there are plenty of people working hard to to find a way out. He also admits that part of the reason he outed himself as Superman was to let the people of Metropolis know that he was trapped under the same dome with them, facing the same problems as the rest of the population. Clark then asks the man (who identifies himself as Robbie) if he's scared. He says that he isn't because he still believes in Superman. The man departs and Clark is left feeling like he's failing his people. Both he and Kara were sent to Earth to help people, and neither Kryptonian is comfortable with being powerless, or being reduced to 'just being human.' Lois reassures Clark that powers or no, he will always be Superman, and nothing--not even a dome--is going to take that away from him.

In the domed city of Earth-30's Moscow, the exact opposite is occurring: the people of Moscow are losing faith in Superman. Joseph Stalin is holding a private conference with his Superman and Wonder Woman, the American Lex Luthor and his wife Lois Lane. Luthor doesn't hide the fact that he thinks Stalin is a dictator, which upsets Stalin enough to threaten cutting out his brain and feeding it to his dogs. Luthor snarks back that his brain is right where it's needed if they have a chance of exiting the dome. Luthor theorises that given their current circumstances, they must have been captured by an alien race that has placed them in the equivalent of a zoo. Stalin comments that animals get placed in zoos for exploitation, Wonder Woman retorts that they also get kept in zoos for preservation of certain species. She also accurately assesses that the other neighbouring cities may be dead.

In Earth-2 Metropolis, Kara arrives home from her aerobics workout and Andrew Vinson (her Lois Lane), is cooking dinner. She hits the shower and starts to think about how much her life has changed since the dome came down. She reminisces about her sojourn from the doomed planet of Krypton to Earth, right down to the work she did as Power Girl alongside her cousin, the Justice Society, and Infinity Inc. As much as she loves Andrew, she does want her old life back. She then thinks about the day the dome came down and how she got the scars on her back: she was out flying like she normally does, until the dome came down, causing her to crash-land through a glass window on a roof and into a swimming pool. She realised right then and there that she no longer her powers, which left her feeling distraught.

Back in Moscow, Earth-30's Lex Luthor and Lois Lane are going out on a stroll on the snowy streets. She notices Lex is lost in a train of thought and snaps him out of it. He admits he's been thinking about what secrets Russia could be hiding with Stalin as its dictator and thinks he should plan for every possible outcome. Lois asks 'what if they get stuck in Russia for the rest of their lives?' He says that scenario will not play out and Lois asks how it will. He say she doesn't want to know, but wants to show her something instead. In a facility somewhere is an invisible jet plane and Lois wonders if Lex is joking. He makes the plane appear, which impresses Lois. Red Son Superman appears and tells Lex he thinks he wants to steal the technology for himself. He also tells Lex that he needs to stop antagonising Stalin and that this is the last warning he'll receive on the matter. He will not be helped again.

The Kents have arrived to Kara's place for dinner in Earth-2 Metropolis, but end up talking about the dome, which Lois is tired of discussing. Lois decides she wants to leave for the evening, and both Kara and Clark think that the wine hit her funny since Lois is not a heavy drinker. Clark tells Andrew that they've become too obsessed with their situation that they have forgotten how to have a normal evening. Just as Clark goes to get Lois, Telos comes online and announces his death match between cities, much to the shock of Kara, Andrew, and the Earth-30 Wonder Woman.

Review: I'll be honest and say I really don't care for any of the Red Son Superman stuff in Convergence. Even less so after the last story I read with these characters led to the complete character assassination of the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne in order to present these characters in a more positive light. There's also that part about me not being into narratives that present an iconic superhero like Superman as a champion for the oppressor when he was created for the complete opposite purpose, and presents Lex Luthor as the more heroic figure. I get that Red Son is a 'what if' story not meant to be taken as a mainstream interpretation of the character, but it's still a 'what if' story that completely misses the point of Superman. As such, I won't actually be focusing on these parts of the story in this review, and will be primarily discussing the Earth-2 characters since they are the reason I bought these comics in the first place.

One thing that was easily identifiable with the pre-Crisis Earth-2 besides the Justice Society was the Golden Age feel of this world. In contrast with this week's Detective Comics which read more like an Earth-2 comic taking place in the Dark Age (aka the 1990s era of comics), this week's Action Comics actually preserved the Bronze Age feel of the comics that were published in this era. The people of the Golden Age DC universe were written as being in a more comfortable place in their lives than in the actual Golden Age, which is where these characters were in the 1970s and early 1980s.

By this point in this world's respective history, superheroes have around for nearly five decades and have come to trust the Justice Society heroes as their world's protectors. They provided their world with a strong sense of security to the point of feeling optimistic that their world's heroes will always triumph over any major struggle. This idea was beautifully executed very early on by writer Justin Gray with the character of Robbie, who in many ways spoke for both the Bronze Age characters, as well as the comic-reading audience. Like both groups of people, Robbie looks up to people like Superman and Lois Lane for inspiration, and even breaks the fourth wall by acknowledging their love story as being that of a lifetime and irreplaceable.

In an era of DC Comics that has gone out of its way to marginalise Lois Lane from her own narrative and have consistently found new ways to destroy her character (the latest one being this past Saturday's FCBD--thank you for giving me a reason to stay home that day DC!), it has been a refreshing journey revisiting these older versions of the characters and seeing them handled with much care and respect. Gray's Earth-2 Lois and Clark do feel more like the characters they are meant to embody, and these are the originals that he had the chance to write! The very first incarnations of the characters that first appeared in 1938 and had a stronger sense of history together.

What I wouldn't give to get these versions of Earth-2 Lois and Clark back considering how horribly mistreated they were in the New 52 by DC editors who went the route of Ultimate Marvel in terms of quality and varying degrees of awful. The New 52 was such a massive disservice to DC's Golden Age universe, it honestly pained me to read this issue, knowing this may be the last time we see this version of Earth-2 and it's inhabitants in a good long time. If we could replace the current Earth-2 with the original, as well as the current Earth-2 editors and writer with the ones writing Convergence, I'd be one happy little pumpkin, and I'd actually have something positive to look forward to in June.

In contrast with editor Mike Cotton and his new writer, Daniel Wilson, who have consistently demonstrated they have no understanding of the appeal of Earth-2 and its characters to readers, a writer like Justin Gray actually gets it. It honestly makes me question why NO ONE thought of hiring him to write Earth-2 for the newer continuity, or even Power Girl's book that she shared with the Huntress in the New 52, Worlds' Finest? Were his ideas too progressive for the current leadership at DC? Did his ideas risk attracting more readers to Earth-2 than the mainstream Earth-0 universe? It has to be, because I absolutely LOVED everything that I read of the Earth-2 Superman family in this issue.

On the subject of Power Girl, another amazing thing I enjoyed about this issue was Gray's handling of her character. She admittedly read more like the New 52 version in that she is livelier and less-tough-as-nails than the pre-Crisis original, but Gray still managed to write her with respect. She's cohabiting with her pre-Crisis boyfriend, Andrew Vinson (whom she didn't get along with at first), but she's not written as boy-crazy, nor does she revolve her entire being around men like the New 52 version does. She's actually still written like a smart, independent woman who happens to be in a relationship and is dealing with her new life's circumstances.

One character I would have loved to have seen in Power Girl's portion of the story, however, was Helena Wayne. Aside from the fact that I absolutely adore Power Girl's friendship with the Huntress, I felt that Helena would've been the first person Kara would have turned to for learning how to cope with the fact that she is now a superhero without superpowers. One of the major conflicts Power Girl deals with in this issue is that she feels useless without her powers. Her metabolism isn't what it used to be, and aerobics isn't really her way of getting a workout.

Power Girl thrives taking to the skies and feeling the wind in her hair when she goes out into the world to stop whatever crime is happening right then and there. The fact that she's used to relying on super strength and super speed to get the job done, it's unheard of for her to be able to do what she does without them. It's also unheard of for her to not be a superhero and live life as a normal jane. If there is absolutely one person Kara would've gotten close to during this time it's Helena, who is a superhero without powers, and she's also trapped in Metropolis.

When you think about it, it's a bit odd that the only superheroes who appear to be active in Metropolis during this time are Huntress and Robin, along with the members of Infinity Inc who have found new ways to fight crime without their powers. I strongly think that Kara would've definitely continued fighting as a superhero during this time as well, even if it meant learning how to be a street-level fighter like Helena. She's definitely not the type to stay home and not find some way to still be Power Girl in some capacity. Her work as Power Girl was the thing she was most passionate about on the pre-Crisis Earth-2.

On the front of story, there's really not a lot to say since it primarily centres on exploring what the characters have been up to since the dome came down, and what their personal conflicts have been. For the citizens of Earth-2 Metropolis, time just stood still and they carried on as best they could with what they had until the dome went away. At best, it's a great exposition on the Earth-2 Superman family and a great read for Classic Superman fans who are also fans of the Golden Age history.

The art by Claude St. Aubin is equally gorgeous and does an excellent job at capturing the essence of each of the characters. His art along with Gray's script did help convey both a sense of timelessness and a 'Golden Age' feel not necessarily found in the other Earth-2 books for this week. The only complaint I had about St. Aubin's art in this issue was drawing Lois as a very young woman when she is actually as old as the Justice Society heroes. This is the version of Lois that was in her 20s when she first appeared in 1938, and should--by this point in her life--be in her late 60s. She should definitely be grey and wrinkly just like Clark. Considering the dome took away superhero powers and really aged the Justice Society heroes, she doesn't have that excuse for preserving her youth under the dome.

On the whole, this was definitely one of my favourite books this week. I wish I could've liked Detective Comics as much as I enjoyed this issue of Action Comics, but I definitely recommend this one for any Earth-2 Superman family fans. The meta-commentary on what Superman and Lois Lane mean to us is especially glorious in the issue!

Next up! Justice Society of America, written by Dan Abnett and Tom Denerick! (For real this time).

★★★★★

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