Convergence may be a sign that DC Comics is reconsidering The New 52… or that it’s borrowing inspiration from Marvel.
This week, DC Comics unveiled a new crossover event for Summer 2015 called Convergence. In itself, that’s not exactly a huge deal; DC and Marvel are constantly rolling out epic events on a fairly regular basis. But with Convergence DC Comics is doing something fans should sit up and pay attention to: Shutting down the New 52, and bringing back the pre-Flashpoint universe.
Well, temporarily anyway. But for two months, every New 52 book will be put on hiatus so that Convergence can bring back the heroes and characters we haven’t seen in over two years. On top of that, Convergence reimagines DC’s multiverse in a creative way, suggesting that none of the parallel universes we’ve seen are truly lost. Even better, it implies that DC Comics might be testing the waters in terms of bringing back the pre-New 52 timeline for good.
This all suggests there are some pretty big changes coming to DC Comics itself… until one realizes it might simply be about keeping pace with Marvel Comics.
Back up, Escapist. New 52? Flashpoint? What the heck are you talking about?
DC Comics is well-known for its constant stream of reboots and retcons ever since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Whenever stories, characters, or established continuity reaches the point where new readers can’t jump on easily, some cosmic event crashes in to reset the status quo so a new stable of writers can work with a fresh slate. The last (and most dramatic) time this happened was during 2011’s Flashpoint event, where The Flash realized time had been altered and fought to restore the universe.
The big twist of Flashpoint‘s ending is that Flash didn’t “fix” the timeline at all. Sure, the DC Universe wasn’t a dystopia anymore, but the butterfly effect of his meddling changed the default state of the universe… including his memories of what the “normal” universe was supposed to look like.
Now, instead of existing since World War II, superheroes only revealed themselves five years ago. Superman’s decades-long marriage to Lois Lane never happened because Clark Kent couldn’t express his feelings. Wonder Woman wasn’t born from magic, but from a secret affair between Zeus and Hippolyta. Some of Batman’s companions (like Stephanie Brown) never had the chance to become superheroes. Even the multiverse was affected, undoing the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths by sending the Justice Society back to a parallel dimension.
This new timeline was called “The New 52”, named partly for its restructured 52 parallel dimensions. Naturally, almost everyone hated it. It was a massive change to DC canon that wiped out beloved versions of the characters readers grew up with. (In my case literally; I was born in 1985 and followed DC since 1993.) And while the New 52 isn’t all bad, to many readers it will never be the “real” DC Universe. That’s where Superman is happily married, the Flash has a family, and it makes sense that Batman raised four Robins in his lifetime.
Wow, really? That’s disappointing. But what does it have to do with Convergence?
Convergence is significant because it’s for those long-time readers: It proposes that parts of the pre-New 52 timeline still exist, tucked away outside of the established multiverse. And for two months, it’s going to replace the New 52 and show what these characters have been doing all this time.
And it’s all thanks to the evil supervillain, Brainiac.
Brainiac has a pretty complex history of his own, but all you need to know is this: He’s famous for shrinking and stealing pieces of alien worlds (usually a city) before they are destroyed. While the citizens of each city are prisoners, Brainiac considers himself a preserver of knowledge, keeping the shards of each world safe for all time.
Convergence expands Brainiac’s modus operandi to a universal scale. Outside of grabbing pieces of alien worlds, Brainiac has also been grabbing slivers of entire dimensions. Anytime he detects that a parallel dimension is about to wipe itself from existence, he encases a portion in a dome and locks it away where no one can find. And considering DC Comics wipes out a parallel universe every year or two, he’s gathered quite an impressive collection.
Among his many domed universes? A piece of the classic, pre-New 52 timeline, just moments before Flashpoint changed it permanently. Within their domes, Superman and Lois are still married, and about to have a baby. The original Titans team still exists, as does characters like Donna Troy, who never appeared in the new universe. Barbara Gordon still helps superheroes from her wheelchair as Oracle. Renee Montoya is still investigating crimes as The Question. The list goes on.
Even better? That’s not the only “dead” universe Brainiac grabbed a hold off. The promotional material portrays several fan-favorite Elseworlds, including Kingdom Come, Red Son, DC One Million, the Tangent universe, and many more. Even the Flashpoint timeline that started this whole mess is kicking around, as is the Future’s End OMAC-infested timeline that Batman Beyond fought against.
So for two months in 2015, DC Comics will completely drop the New 52 to tell canonical stories of these universes interacting with each other. If nothing else, it’s a huge olive branch to the readers who have been pining away for the versions they grew up with. It broadly acknowledges that these incarnations haven’t been forgotten, and may still have a role to play in DC’s multiverse.
Of course, there are more cynical ways to look at this. Most of the New 52 has been critically panned ever since it launched, with several of its titles facing cancellation after half a year. Meanwhile, some of the best books DC publishes are either set in a parallel universe (The Multiversity, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Earth 2) or focus on specific characters who don’t interact with the New 52 (Aquaman and Wonder Woman). Outside of an initial sales boost, DC may not be able to justify this grand experiment for much longer, and may need to consider listening to what the fans have said for years.
In that context, Convergence isn’t just a crossover event: It’s a test to see if readers will put their money where their mouths are and buy books about the classic characters. After all, some comic book fans will rail and complain for just about anything; if DC is going to even consider scrapping the New 52 for good, it needs to make sure the pre-New 52 is financially viable.
But there’s yet another, even more cynical perspective: DC Comics is just copying Marvel Comics.
Hold on, Marvel Comics? What does Spider-Man and The Avengers have to do with this?
It’s no secret that between its movie adaptations and long-running comics universe, Marvel is doing just about everything right. And the company recently announced its own 2015 crossover event that bears a striking resemblance to everything DC Comics is attempting here. (I’d like to note that the connections are probably coincidental; books and art like these are usually planned months in advance. Still, the connections are so strong, it’s almost like DC and Marvel’s editors are swapping notes with each other. But that’s probably not happening. Probably.)
You see, Brainiac isn’t just storing these universes; for the Convergence event, he’s decided to conduct a grand experiment. Moving to a distant planet beyond time and space, he unlocks all of his multiverse domes on the surface and steps back to see what happens. Some universes, Flashpoint in particular, immediately become aggressive and start attacking other domes. Meanwhile, the pre-New 52 heroes of each dome must defend their territory and (understandably) frightened civilians from the sudden invasion.
The thing is, Marvel is running almost exactly the same event in Summer 2015: A Secret Wars sequel. Based on the classic 1985 storyline, Secret Wars features an omnipotent being called the Beyonder, who has a habit of abducting superheroes and villains to see how they interact together. For the reboot however, the Beyonder assembles an all-new Battleworld from pieces of parallel dimensions, including Age of Apocalypse, Age of Ultron, the Civil War timeline, Marvel Zombies, Old Man Logan, and more. Aggressive universes like Marvel Zombies and Age of Ultron would immediately start attacking and… well, you get the idea.
That’s not to say both books will be the same, or that one is clearly ripping off the other. It could simply be a case of multiple discovery; as both DC and Marvel are embroiled in cosmic, multiverse-scale crossover events right now that could have led to this point coincidentally. (It wouldn’t be the first time for these comic book companies.) But the parallels are pretty stark, and it will be almost impossible to avoid comparing the events… and who can better fulfill them.
But in the meantime, comics fans can be happy to know that the New 52 is being put to bed, and the classic superheroes are coming home. At least for a little while.