Convergence finale makes everything in the DC Universe canonical again: yes, everything

With the release of Convergence #8 this week, and the last issues of its tie-in miniseries, DC Comics has finished setting the stage for its relaunch in June, and it's a very big stage indeed.

What Convergence #8 implies — behind a bunch of crazy cosmic mojo about a planet's vibrational frequencies and Time Master energy and multi-verse induced cancer and even a quick break of the fourth wall — is that every version of the DC Universe, even those destroyed by previous reboots, are now canon. In comic book words: Convergence #8 has restored the DC Multiverse.

Alex Ross’ wraparound cover for Crisis on Infinite Earths, a dynamic and complicated image depicting dozens and dozens of superheroes. Image: Alex Ross/DC Comics

What's the DC Multiverse?

DC and Marvel have historically had one fundamental difference in how they treat continuity. Everything is canon until retconned otherwise in Marvel, and the way that this is handled is with an infinite amount of numbered parallel universes and timelines. But the DC Universe, with its frequent reboots and continuity collapses, has historically taken a more conservative approach.

Not too many years ago, the DC Multiverse was capped at 52 parallel Earths, accounting for the main DC storyline, the universe with the Silver Age version of all the heroes, the Wildstorm universe, the Watchmen universe, the universe where everybody's genderswapped: You get the idea. For much of the rest of DC's history, the continuity has been considered to be in one single universe. The New 52 started out this way, but settings like Earth 2 were almost immediately added.

The most famous continuity reboot of all time, the one that started it all, 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, came out of DC Comics editorial's desire to cut the chaff from its decades-old setting and snap everything into one timeline instead of a series of increasingly confusing parallel universes. Other major continuity resets at DC include story arcs with names like Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint, the continuity explosion that paved the way for the New 52.

So what's back?

Apparently ... all of them. And a few more. The New 52 universe, naturally, but also the one that existed immediately previous to it, the Pre-Flashpoint universe. (That's the one that folks complaining about the New 52 generally want either a return to or more respect for or the return of characters from.) The world of the classic heroes of the Silver Age, like Black Canary and the original Flash and Green Lantern, is intact. Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew are visible in two splash pages showcasing the continuities that were saved at the end of Convergence. Even what's known as the Pre-Crisis DC Universe, the state of the setting before DC's very first 1986 reboot, is implied to have been saved from destruction, possibly with the reversal of the iconic character deaths of the Flash and Supergirl.

What does this mean for DC's comics?

Batman Beyond

Well, since the company's new lineup (the first titles hit next week, but you can read free previews of nearly all of them right here) hasn't actually hit shelves yet, it's hard to say. Generally, it seems that major titles are continuing on with the New 52 version of events, including Batman, Superman, Batgirl and Detective Comics, though many of those are significantly shaking up their focus. But there are notable exceptions.

New title Justice League United appears to be grabbing an expansive cast from whatever continuities it wants so solve a cosmic threat. Batman Beyond will follow a time-lost Tim Drake in Terry McGinnis' costume, while Drake also stars in Teen Titans as Red Robin. Meanwhile, other new titles are following the impish Bat-mite around as he helps various superheroes, including the currently-dead-in-New-52-continuity-Batman; or showcasing the adventures of Beth Ross, the first teenage president of the United States, in a near-future setting that may not even have DC superheroes in it at all.

And I could be wrong, but here's where I hope this all points:

At DC, continuity is no longer king

Prez cover

Co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee talked about this back when Convergence was announced, stressing that their editorial goals for the new initiative involved liberating writers from the constraints of continuity so that they could focus on simply writing good stories about individual characters or teams. Naturally, they were vague on the in-canon ways this would be accomplished, and now that we know, it's still somewhat shocking.

At first glance, an infinite DC Universe containing all possible established realities seems like an infinitely more confusing one. But contrast with, for example, the problem of the theoretically simpler New 52 universe: a reboot without a reset. The shortened history of DC's heroes was still propped up by stories written decades before, but with no clear effort to outline what was canonical and what wasn't anymore, not to mention how all these events had been crammed into a shorter timeline, a situation confusing to both new readers and old.

Now that we've seen the changes at the foundation of the new continuity, this seems to be DiDio and Lee putting their editorial money where their mouths were. Ideally, in a setting with as many options as this new DC universe, writers and artists will shoulder the burden of establishing place and history within the comic rather than relying on the reader's familiarity with the expanded universe or the characters' previous adventures. That's simply good storytelling, regardless of whether you're working in an interconnected universe or not, and it's nothing but good news for readers who're just waiting for an excuse to start a new comic.