Friday, May 1, 2015

Convergence review: JSA, Shazam, Crime Syndicate

I picked up three of the Convergence books. I would have picked up more but I'm not a millionaire with unlimited time.

Convergence is of course DC Comics' all-title retcon in which characters live, characters die and the DC universe will never be the same. Until next year, when they erase everything again and start all over again, again.

I picked up three titles that grabbed my eye, JSA, since I'm a longtime fan, Shazam, always a favorite, and the Crime Syndicate, another favorite set of characters from the silver age who always had lots of potential.

All three books have the same set-up. Their home cities are under a dome and the characters are powerless until the end when the dome is lifted and they get their powers back, but they must battle gladiator-style with another city from another DC reality in its long history of DC realities. This was each individual writer's assignment: Write a story in these parameters.

Let's see how they did.

First the bad news. DC has always had nothing but contempt for its golden age characters and this continues in the first JSA Convergence issue. All it is are old JSA members, much much older than ever before, without their powers, moping about how old they are and whether or not their powers would even return if the shield came down.

That's all there is. Senior citizens complaining about how old they are. Psst. This isn't why people buy comics books.

On the last page they get their youth back … yet again … and you have to come back next month for anything resembling action.


This has been a big problem with the JSA since Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox brought them back in 1963. They had the idea that in the 12 years they were out of print, they aged 12 years. And they've been aging ever since. They're the only DC characters who age and every 10 years or so, a writer has to figure out a way to make them a little younger. In all the retcons it never occurred to anyone to remove them from World War II, and retcon their origins with the simple explainer, "The JSA formed 10 years ago."

The Crime Syndicate is a little better in that it has a story. The CSA'ers have to save Super Woman from her date with the electric chair. I have no idea why she was sentenced to death, that would have involved buying some 800 other Convergence titles. Once again, not a millionaire with unlimited time.

So they break into prison, and of course since the shield over their city has made them powerless, they're carrying machine guns.

Think about this: Superbeings carrying machine guns! Once again, not why people buy comic books. Maybe Punisher comic books, but not long-underwear type comic books.

The art is very good, Phil Winslade has a good eye for evoking Mike Sekowsky without actually using his style. (the variant cover is credited to Sekowsky and Gardner Fox, that really doesn't seem likely since Fox was a writer, unless they're giving him the credit for having the idea.).

The best of the three is the Shazam title.

There's an actual story going on, Billy Batson and his sister Mary are trying to solve a mystery, then get captured by a team of super villains. There are surprises, plot twists, a couple jokes and it's all very exciting. Stuff happens. I got an adventure for my $3.99.

I also got a writer and artist with a real love of the characters and their history.

When DC brought back Captain Marvel in the early 70s they decided to continue right where it left off some 20 years earlier. They had the same artists and writers pick up right where they left off. Then they threw that out the window by the end of the decade and had Don Newton totally modernize all the characters. Artist Evan "Doc" Shaners treads that line between the 1940s look and the modern look perfectly. Look at the drawings of Billy and Mary on page 6, they look like a scene from a movie in the 40s. Great stuff.

And when the Marvels show up at the end and start punching villains, I wondered why the other writers didn't think of doing this. Telling an actual story.

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