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

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by Mike Maillaro and Mike Weaver

Maillaro: This column might look a little familiar.  Last week, we reviewed Convergence 0 and 100 Bullets Vol. 1.  Both books left us in a place where it felt like there was more to talk about as the two series continued, so we decided to give Convergence 1 and 100 Bullets Vol. 2 a shot this week.  

Yes ladies and gentlemen, we've got a sequel!


Convergence #1

Written by: Jeff King and Scott Lobdell
Penciled by: Carlo Pagulayan
Inked by: Jason Paz
Colored by: Aspen MLT’s John Starr with Peter Steigerwald
Lettered by: Travis Lanham

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $4.99

Maillaro: Well, I am going to start with the positive here.  They did address one of my biggest concerns about the first issue...this tied MUCH more clearly into DC’s other big happenings.  We find out what happened to many of the Earth 2 characters after World’s End.  As someone who really enjoyed Earth 2 and World’s End, this comic felt satisfying in many ways

BUT...and here is a big BUT… once again, DC does a terrible job informing new readers what’s going on and why we should care.   It is very possible there are many people reading this book who might not even know what Earth 2 (New 52 version) was all about, and they make no effort to bridge that gap for the reader.

The comic starts with what I think is supposed to be a version of the “Injustice” universe (from the video game), but again, if you don’t know that, you’re going to have no idea what the characters are talking about.  

Weaver: I’ll admit, I felt completely lost throughout this.  I haven’t read the new 52 Earth-2, and I haven’t played Injustice, so I spent the entire issue trying to puzzle out who people were.  Not their names, DC at least gave me that, but all the names had associations to very different characters in my mind.  The only one that I was immediately able to understand was Thomas Wayne as Batman, which I think is a great idea.  At first, I wasn’t sure if Grayson was from their universe or just a random guy thrown in, because people’s reactions to him seemed to be all over the place.  I’m still not entirely sure.  Or if the woman who shows up to suck face with him is his wife that he’s busy lamenting about or just some random woman who felt the need to make out with him.  I inferred wife, but you’d think he’d have more reaction than he did to his wife suddenly being actually alive.

Maillaro: Definitely not his wife.  His wife was Barbara Gordon and she’s dead dead.  This was the Red Avatar.  No idea why she started making out with him other than the fact every chick in DC seems to always want to make out with Dick Grayson as soon as they meet him.  Dude’s like catnip...

Weaver: The positives, to me, were good action sequences and a decent set-up of what Convergence is going to be about.  I like the long list of disclaimers to let you know that Telos isn’t going to allow any of that Secret Wars crap to happen.  

Maillaro: To me, what DC seems to be forgetting is that these big events get a lot of eyes on a book, not just the people who regularly read every book a company puts out.  I have always had a tendency to pick up crossovers and tie ins, and often it inspires me to pick up new series or things I hadn’t tried before.  That is how I became a Starman fan after Zero Hour.   BUT, to do that, you need to make the book accessible, and so far, that has been a huge failing for Convergence for me.

I did love the big shots of the different worlds towards the end of this issue.  Like issue 0, Convergence has done a great job on the artwork.  It’s just the writing and accessibility that is bugging me.

I also thought that the book did seem to be borrowing real heavily from Secret Wars, which I wasn’t at all expecting.

Weaver: Well, it is kind of the prototype story of this sort.  I expected it...but not quite as heavily as it did.

On the topic of not being accessible...it’s strange, because big event comics are consistently the highest selling comics in the months that they come out.  Obviously, people are reading those comics that are not reading the monthlies.  It seems natural that you’d want them to enjoy the comic so that they continue dabbling in comicdom, but it seems like they’re taking the other tack and hoping that you’re so lost that you’ll buy more comics in a desperate attempt to catch up.  I don’t think that’s smart marketing.  Especially since, unlike comics of yore, it doesn’t even suggest to you what comics to buy in order to figure out these characters, only what comics will help you understand other cities in the convergence.

Maillaro: I agree with you, it’s bad marketing.  Injustice was the real bad part of this.  At least, Earth 2 was featured in World’s End, so at least that has some exposure.  I have played Injustice, and read every issue of the digital comic...and I still couldn’t quite fit together how this story could make sense in that universe.  That is why I said “a version of Injustice” when I started this column...because it’s definitely not quite the Injustice I know and love.

I am not sure if it was intentionally, but I did find it funny that Telos seems to have lost his shit because the characters from Earth 2 seemed to be brought here by a technicality.  “We didn’t come with a city...all our cities got blown up!”

“WHAT!  THAT CAN’T BE ALLOWED!  Now all cities must fight to the death, that is the only reasonable way we can settle this issue.”   

Uhm...calm down there, Telos...time to go back to the drawing board and put away the crazy stick.  There are only like 7 superdudes here...maybe they can bunk with Ultra Comics...that world only has 1 hero.  

And this is why I am a problem solver.

Weaver: I didn’t see that as necessarily being causal...I think that the cities were about to fight to the death already (with the Secret Wars CYA Clauses).  I think Telos was pissed at himself, since he’s supposed to yoink a city right before destruction, and clearly his hand eye coordination wasn’t up to par here.

I had to internally groan when Telos started listing off all major crossovers ever in his descriptions of where cities came from and try to integrate them into the conversation.  Not once in there did he say anything like “And maybe you landed in Russia instead” or anything that implied something that wasn’t a major event.  And the worst is that I can imagine ways that the dialogue there could be cool, but it came off just forced, almost a Mad Libs.

Maillaro: Not sure if this was as big a problem on a monitor or in print, but this issue had a lot of double page spreads, which are a pain to read on my tablet.  I was constantly rotating the tablet or using guided viewing, which didn’t always help because Telos liked to speak in massive font.

I know that only a minority of readers read their comics this way, so it might not have been all that big a deal, but this was actually the reason I dropped Batwoman (which was a book I otherwise enjoyed).  

Weaver: I read it on a reasonably sized monitor, and the double page spreads weren’t problematic to me.  I can see how it would be murder on a smaller screen, though.  I dunno, I think that comics still generally sell in print more than digitally, so I understand that being the principle thought when designing them.

Maillaro: Fair enough.  I won’t dock it points for that.  Which is good, because I liked the art, and I thought the TELOS FONT was a neat touch, so the issue really has that going for it.  I also like that at least in the first two issues, the entire issue was drawn by one artist.  A lot of DC’s weekly series feature multiple artists on the same issue, and there can be some inconsistencies.  

One last complaint, I promise...we still have no idea how Future’s End ties into this.  That book ended on a pretty serious cliffhanger of it’s own, and I’m starting to think we won’t get any answers until Batman Beyond comes out after Convergence.  That feels like a huge bait and switch to me.  BUT, at this point, if they try to insert that into Convergence, that might even be more problematic.  This seems like bad planning to me.

Weaver: There’s always some plots tying into a major event that don’t actually transpire in the event...so it’s hard for me to dock it for that.  For my scores, I’m giving the writing a 3, which could have been higher if they’d bothered to give me enough backstory to make me know what’s going on, or even a suggestion of where I can find it.  I know that it’s generally seen as a good thing that we’ve largely moved away from large yellow text boxes, but some issues really really need them.  This is one of those issues.

I’m going to give the art a 5.  I greatly enjoyed the art again, and as you said, giving it all to one artist made it work a lot better than the typical “by committee” comics.

Maillaro: A good solution could have been to do what Busiek did in Avengers Forever, have a page of notes in the end of the comic.  We did get a list of “where the cities came from.”  So it could have easily fit right there.  Personally, I don’t mind the yellow boxes, but I know that is real passe at this point.

I am sticking with your 5 for art, and a 3.5 for the writing.  I did think that even those Lobdell and King didn’t work on Earth 2, they did a great job capturing the characters here...even ignoring Red Avatar trying to get in Dick’s pants…

I haven’t gotten around to reading any of the tie-in books yet.  Convergence is literally the only thing DC is releasing for the next two months, so it’s very unlikely I will drop it, but it’s been off to a disappointing start.


100 Bullets: Vol. 2 - Split Second Chance

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

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $17.99

 

 

This trade contains 100 Bullets #6-#14.

Weaver: Well, here again, we have some really strong positives but I can see the final approach for the shark jumping on its way.  This contains a couple of stand alone stories, a couple of overarching plot stories, and a story that seems like its going to be stand alone then shanghais you with being overarching plot.  I feel like the strongest story was the stand alone featuring Lilly, a waitress whose daughter ran away from home and ended up dying as a result of a drug and prostitution lifestyle.  Graves reveals the person responsible for all of this was her husband, who had been consistently sexually abusing her from a young age.  The final panels of this story featuring a pan out with a continuing BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM sound effect were a very satisfying ending.  I am left to assume that Lilly went through all 100 bullets right there.

Maillaro: What made that even cooler was that in the first few pages of the trade, you seem BAM BAM BAM all over the cover and leader pages.  So when the waitress story ended on that note, it felt real satisfying.   I actually thought that probably should have been the last story in the trade, but that might just be me.

I loved the first story, about a con artist named Chucky who discovers that he spent seven years in prison because of a drunk driving accident that turned out he wasn’t the driver.  His friend Pony was the driver, but after the accident he switched places with Chucky, and in his drunk stupor he had no idea.  What made that story interesting to me was that in the end, his friend Pony was not an EVIL guy.  Not really.  Pony did seem to care about Chucky and feel some remorse for some of what he had done.  He was still a total asshole and a horrible friend.  I also like that in the end, we don’t know for sure if Pony dies or not.   

Lily’s story was also really good.  BUT...and here is where this trade had issues for me….too much of the rest of the book tried to introduce these big sweeping conspiracies about groups called The Minutemen and The Trust, and through those stories I found myself just hurrying through.  The worst part was the second story where we are introduced to an ice cream man who is really a super agent who needed to be activated by a secret code word.  That was really where 100 Bullets started to lose me.  

Weaver: One more quick statement on Chucky.  While it’s implied to Chucky that Pony has been consistently against him, I got the impression that some of the things he was doing were actually trying to help him.  Like telling people not to play dice with him.  It’s painted by Graves that this was part of an overarching plot by Pony to screw him over, but I honestly felt that Pony was doing it for the reasons he states, namely that eventually someone would discover Chucky was a cheater and murderize him.  Pony’s no saint, though.  Even beyond the prison frame up, there were a few things he did that were definitely unfriendly.

The ice cream man story was the worst, because it started out good.  I was totally behind it for the first issue of it.  And then it becomes secret conspiracy central.  It still had moments after that, I liked him telling his rival ice cream man/replacement about what the kids in the neighborhood liked, but the moment he becomes activated...and by such a hackneyed codeword as Croatoa no less...the engine starts revving up for the shark jump.  But right after that, we head over to Lilly’s story, which was in my opinion the strongest one so far.  I got a little confused, so I’m thankful that for clarity they stuck another story worth of Things I Wish They Wouldn’t Have Done right after it.  So I’m glad the trade didn’t end with Lilly, because I would have stayed with the title more if it had.

Maillaro: The last story features the return of Dizzy from the first issue...who now knows kung fu, much to her surprise.  She’s been sent overseas by Graves’ old partner Sheppard, who seems to be looking to build her up as some kind of adversary to Graves and his games.  I think.  Honestly, I tuned out through some of this.   Dizzy, Lono, and Ice Cream Man and the way they may or maynot have been tired to Graves’ past just had no appeal to me.

I do give Azzarello credit for one thing.  He seemed to have a solid plan in place.  He told his 100 issues, built up a big story, and got out alive.  BUT, I think he missed out on some great opportunities here.  The smaller, more intimate stories of 100 Bullets are so much more appealing than the epic he was constructing.  

Weaver: Agree fully.  I think that the way he started seguing into this uberplot was really clunky, and I’m not sure it could have been less clunky.  I’ve been trying all week to play armchair quarterback on it, and I’m not sure where exactly it could have gone better.  I’m not a fan of Dizzy returning, even though I liked her story to start with, but there are some things I can salvage from there.  I liked Mr. Branch a lot, who is a reporter who got a briefcase some time ago and tried to delve into the whys and hows of it.  In the end, he doesn’t use it for the intended purpose, but he gives a lot of insight along the way.  But Dizzy and Ice Cream Man being in that story kind of wrecked everything.

Maillaro: When I was reading Mr Branch’s story, it inspired me to think of a real cool possible 100 Bullets story...what if someone decided not to use the bullets themselves, but just sold them off.  You could make a fortune selling untraceable bullets.   This issue did suggest that at some point they do revert back to being regular bullets, but at that point, the seller could be long gone...

Weaver: It’s a decent point.  I mean, Branch even has a good demonstration of how untraceable they are.  That was both uncomfortable to me and sort of ingenious at the same time.  In an earlier issue, Graves says that if you’re not pursuing the target, they won’t be untraceable, but that on the path to the target, you’re golden.  So I’d imagine immediately upon selling them...but by that point, you have cash in hand.

Alright, scores.  The writing is hard for me to score.  When it was good, it was great, but when it was bad it was horrid.  I’m going to give it a 3, but if we were going issue to issue, there’d be some 5’s and a lot of 2’s.  The art was consistently good, and I want to make a special mention of the covers, which felt very Steranko-esque to me, and we all know I love Steranko.  I’m giving art a 4.5.  The style really befits the series, and as stated, those covers.  Still, there were some clunky panels here and there and still some really annoying shadow panels.

Maillaro: There were also a few times I couldn’t tell Graves and Sheppard apart.  Which is odd because they seem to go out of the way to give most of the characters distinctive looks...just not these two.  Branch is real short.  Chuckie has a cowboy hat.  Etc.  But the two seemingly main characters are basically interchangeable at times.  When Dizzy says she was sent by Sheppard, at first I really thought it was a typo.

Scores...2.5 for the writing.  My usual “loved it/hated it” score.  And I’ll go a 4 for the art because the Sheppard/Graves thing really bugged me.

OH!  Before we finish, I need to point out, was I the only one creeped out by the implication that Ice Cream Man uses a popsicle in his sexual activities?

Weaver: Hey, as long as he doesn’t try to sell it afterward, it’s all fine with me.


Maillaro:  Okay, I think we’ve Converged enough the last few weeks.  I have  four possible suggestions for next week I want to run by you.

- Sabrina #2 - This book has been LONG delayed.  It’s very much in the same spirit as Afterlife With Archie.

- Archie Vs Predator #1 - I don’t even know where the start on this one, but the idea amuses me so much, I have to include it as an option.

- Fox #1 - This is Archie’s latest attempt to revitalize their Red Circle line of super hero characters.  Mark Waid is doing this one.  Black Hood has been excellent the last few months, and I am really curious about this series too.

- The Tithe #1 - The only book on my list that has no connection to Archie… “Mega-churches are being robbed for millions of dollars by a crusader hacker group known as Samaritan who is giving the money to causes they deem more worthy. This modern day “Robin Hood” is being pursued by two FBI agents who actually admire their quarry but want to stop the theft before it escalates.”

Weaver: How about Archie Vs Predator and...Archie Meets Punisher?

Maillaro: I hadn’t even considered that, but makes perfect sense!  I’m in!


Final Scores

 

Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Convergence #1

3.5

3

5

5

100 Bullets Vol. 2 - Split Second Chance

2.5

3

4

4.5