Convergence: Justice Society of America
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Tom Derenick, Trevor Scott, Monica Kubina
First an admission. I have a soft spot for Justice Society of America. There’s something about guys who are past their prime, wizened and hardened by a world that is no longer the world they recognize. It’s endearing to see these old timers struggle not only with super heroics but also a battlefield that has escaped them, evolved beyond recognition. That’s why when I was rifling through this week’s selection of comic books, I grew very excited at the prospect of “Convergence: Justice Society of America”. It’s perfect, a brief glimpse into a favorite corner of the DC universe and a cataclysmic threat that could spell the end for these heroes.
Okay, enough gushing about old guys, what is this issue actually about? You know the words kids, sing along! Different cities were picked out of dying universes and preserved so one day they could fight and today looks like fight day. So, in this city, the dome goes up and now these senior citizen heroes lose their powers and become just senior citizens. And this is where the story gets interesting. Before, Justice Society of America has always dealt with the issue of heroes on the decline but never with heroes who have declined.
If you’re looking for an all-out action book then this probably isn’t for you. To me, the book really excelled at showing humanity, ripping bare the troupes of superheroes like the notion of “retirement”. Throughout the entire book there’s this feeling like an immense weight has been lifted but instead of leaving behind relief, there’s this bittersweet nostalgia. All the heroes from the Justice Society are lamenting how their bodies have decayed without their powers but it’s not as if they’re whining about what they’ve lost—well there is a little bit of that. It’s this terribly piercing feeling of acceptance, a realization that things will never be like they were and that the end is probably near and it probably won’t be a glorious last hurrah. The younger generation of heroes are even there in the bubble with them, Infinity Inc. They keep on talking about breaking through the dome and fighting whatever imprisoned them there in the first place. But the Justice Society instead ask, “What if this is it?”
When the action does kick off, it kicks off well. The dome comes down and the powers come rushing back—as do the enemies. A giant robot from Qward world wastes no time in assaulting the city as the heroes watch on in horror. Kent Nelson steps forward with a heavy sacrifice. He has the magic power to bring them back to their youth, to the height of their power. But it will burn them out. He tells them, “One last time.” So the book shifts from this vague idea of the end to a tangible end. These heroes will fight this battle and win or lose they will be done. And you know what? There’s not even a moment of hesitation. They all know the costs and the repercussions but they agree, One Last Time. It’s a powerful reminder of the golden age but a somber realization that everything has to come to an end. It was such a powerful way to ride into battle. Not with the rousing battle cry of “Ride of the Valkyries”. No, this is more like Butch Cassidy and Sundance trapped by Bolivian soldiers. They know they’ve had a good run but they also know that it had to end sometime.
I want to really give Dan Abnett props on this one. This story isn’t just about a fight, it isn’t even about survival. What it’s really about is distilling down everything that makes a superhero into one final fight. There’s the camaraderie of a team, the wisdom from years of experience, the will to do good in the face of indomitable evil, and the choice to sacrifice even if that sacrifice doesn’t guarantee a win. There’s nobleness in this book that was really great to read. Sure, there have been times in “Invincible” where a character displays incredible heroics in the name of what is good—Nolan is constantly displaying that will. After he betrayed Earth, his new goal in life was to be a force for good, not because he sought redemption but because he felt there was no other course he could take. There was also Rex Splosion, an arrogant teenage hero who didn’t lose track of good and evil but wasn’t a great person. That all changed for him when he saw he had to sacrifice his life because maybe his life was filled with misdeeds but at least he knew when he absolutely had to be the hero.