Forever Evil 1

forever evil 1

Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Forever Evil 1, originally released September 4th, 2013. 

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Mikyzptlk“Evil is Relative” was the tagline used to hype the Forever Evil event that has just started to sweep the DCU. Trinity War has succeeded in tearing down the accepted norms of the DCU. Forever Evil is primed to explore what happens when the heroes are nowhere to be found, and the villains are the only ones left to defend the world.

Lex Luthor is a newly freed man. Exonerated of all of his wrong-doings, Lex is more than eager to get back to business, literally. Unfortunately for him, his meeting is interrupted by a power failure affecting all of Metropolis, along with a simple message: “This world is ours.” Meanwhile, the Crime Syndicate of America gets busy releasing the world’s super criminals from their prisons. They gather the villains at the Justice League’s former headquarters to reveal that the League is dead, and that the CSA is now in charge. As Ultraman blocks out the sun, Lex Luthor is left asking a simple question.

Lex

As far as events go, this is one hell of a kick-off. I’ve always loved the idea of the Crime Syndicate, and Geoff Johns has gotten off to a great start with the twisted versions of the Justice League. Johns uses them to startling effect in this issue. Oftentimes, when I’m reading villains, I’m usually too busy enjoying their wicked ways to ever be afraid of them like I think I would be if they confronted me in real life. However, with the CSA, Johns actually has me terrified of them. The heroes and villains of the DCU always seem to have a kind of understanding with one another. Generally speaking, each side knows how far the other side is willing to go. The CSA on the other hand? Well, they prove multiple times in issue 1 that they are playing by a different rule book altogether.

Any Questions

Say hello, and goodbye to Monocle, folks. That’s how the CSA deals with descent in the ranks. Johns has utterly convinced me that the Syndicate is a threat worthy of the scope of this story. They are absolutely terrifying, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are capable of crushing the world beneath their collective thumb. So, while it’s clear that the CSA is going to be a worthy opponent, who is going to oppose them? Sure, there are still heroes standing like the Teen Titans, but is their might enough to defeat the Syndicate?

The last page has Lex Luthor stating that, “This is a job for Superman.” What I can’t wait to see, however, is for Lex to realize that this is a job for Luthor. For years, Lex has always seen Superman as a threat to the world. While a lot of his arguments boil down to, “Superman never lets me do what I want,” his most convincing argument has always been that Superman’s presence hinders the potential greatness of humanity. At the same time, Lex has never truly feared Superman, because he’s always known that the Man of Steel would only ever go so far. Now though, with Ultraman and the Syndicate on the scene, Lex knows that things are different, and he’s afraid.

Fear

Yes, that’s Ultraman snorting Kryptonite, more importantly though, that is Lex Luthor trembling in fear of a “Superman” gone rogue. At the end of the day, Lex is a villain. However, he also wants the best for humanity, even if his interpretation of “best” is twisted in a Luthor-y sort of way. I’m curious to see where Lex is going to go from here. More than that though, I’m curious to see how Johns is going to use the conceit that “Evil is Relative.” Forever Evil and Villain’s Month are going to give us quite a bit of facetime with the dastardly foes of the DCU, but what I’m hoping to get more than anything else is a deeper examination of the concepts of good and evil in a comic book world.

What do you think Patrick? Was Forever Evil a good start to the exploration of those concepts, or are you expecting something different? There were a lot of villains in this book, did you feel overloaded at all, or did Johns handle them with aplomb? Lastly, what did you think of how Dick Grayson was treated in this issue? That can’t be good. Although, I guess that depends on who you ask.

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Patrick: No hero wants to have their secret identity blown, but given the circumstances, this is like the least traumatic thing that happens to Dick in this issue. The world of Forever Evil is fucked in a way I wasn’t totally prepared for. I’m sure we’re going to mention this a lot in the coming weeks, but it is remarkable how thoroughly the world went to shit without superheroes. There’s no power (except when Grid wants you to have power so you can watch Nightwing’s televised unmasking), no heroes, no jails, seemingly no law or order of any kind. So like, does it really matter if Dick has to fight them as Dick Grayson or as Nightwing? I mean, who are they going to target now that they know who he is? Barbara Gordon? Tim Drake? Other heroes they were already going to target anyway?

Mik, I agree with you that Johns established a set of villains that are genuinely terrifying, but I wonder what the costs of such baddies is. There are — as you mentioned — just a ton a villains in this issue, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that I feel overloaded, but I am having flashbacks to those overpopulated issues of Justice League. The only difference here is that I have far less affinity for the assembled cast coming in. There are a lot of little character beats throughout the issue that all hit one fundamental character traits of DC’s vast stable of villains, but the scenes are cobbled together in such a way that these moments seem arbitrary, as though checked off a list as Johns achieved them. Sometimes it’s cute – like how Black Manta proudly claims Aquaman’s trident (like he did anything to earn it). But more often than not, these character moments are weird and forced. Why, for example, do Two-Face and Riddler use the phrases “I’m of two minds” and “riddle me this” (respectively) in their one conversation together? Because it’s the easiest way to write those characters without having to create a morally ambiguous situation left up to chance or craft a riddle – that’s why.

I think this bothers me most where the Crime Syndicate is concerned. I don’t know these guys, but I am always happy to learn about alternate versions of DC’s big heroes. They are all comically opposite to their Earth-0 counterparts – to the point of absurdity. Power Ring (oh, lord, Power Ring) is a cowardly character. Naturally. He’s the opposite of Green Lantern, who we all know has the power to overcome great fear. I assume the power ring selected this guy by saying “You have the ability to give in to any fear… or social anxiety… basically anything can make you uncomfortable.” Why would a ring select a bearer based on cowardice? But even granting that totally ridiculous premise, the execution is in label only: the character never acts as though he’s scared. Sure he stutters a few times, but that’s only to pay lip service to a quality listed on the character’s stat sheet – he’s still standing bravely along side his Crime Syndicate brothers.

I guess all of my complaints stem from the same issue: I don’t really know what to hang on to in this story. The issue’s early focus of Luthor was promising but that melted away the second Johns realized he had so many fun plotty toys to play with. I’m sorta reminded of the first issue of Age of Ultron, which was able to keep its center by focusing pretty tightly on Hawkeye and Spider-Man. The issue delivered a ton of information about life in the aftermath of the robot invasion, but there was a single through-line about survival and friendship and hopelessness. Forever Evil 1 isn’t a story so much as it is disconnected scenes about the CSA taking over the world.

Even that big final moment isn’t born out of conflict or anything like that. Ultraman moves the moon to block the sun because he’s annoyed that the sun weakens him. That’s it. No one is even aware that’s a possibility until it happens. The closest thing to a character-driven plot point in this issue is that Ultraman assembles a meeting of the supervillains, and that’s so boring, I just yawned while coming up with a joke about how boring it is. They’re administrative villains, conquering worlds because… well, I guess just because that’s what they do and Earth-0 is the next one on the list.

David Finch’s art isn’t exactly a joy to behold either. For whatever reason, he routinely draws Nightwing poorly – one panel he’s barrel-chested, the next, his neck is two feet long. And the less said about this panel of Barbara Gordon, the better.

barbara gordon in forever evil

Oh, and here’s my last complaint — then I’ll promise I’ll stop shitting in your sandwich — the Justice League is dead? I read Justice League 23, and I can tell you that I didn’t see any of those characters die. But there’s the cape, there’s the trident, there’s the golden lariat. Is Johns just lying to us? What’s the fun in telling us a lie we don’t believe?
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49 comments on “Forever Evil 1

  1. I definitely think Forever Evil #1 has its merits, namely Johns writing the two types of characters he writes best: villains and b-listers. So far he does a pretty good Nightwing and captures his voice pretty well but the same goes for the other villains. Luthor and his eventual team (Cold, Adam, Sinestro, Bizarro, Manta, etc.) are all his pet villains and he gives extremely good moments of characterization to them, if minor at best. For me event books have always been about the antagonists, their motivations and personalities, and what they do. From what I’ve gathered from interviews and the issue, Johns already has decent characterization for the CSA, especially Power Ring and Ultraman. Now the problem with the issue is that too many things happen at once (although that does give it an event feel) and Finch’s art can be gruesomely painful to look at on some pages, and pretty damn sweet in the others (4-page spread). When he’s on he’s on, but when he’s off it shows pretty badly. I look forward to the second issue myself.

    • Nightwing is NOT a B-Lister! You take that back!! Dick Grayson has more appearance in comics than Barry Allan & Hal Jordon combined! He is the bestest ever and will be the ultimate Hero of Forever Evil!

      • While I would agree that Nightwing isn’t a B-lister, I’d have to go with Lex as the ultimate hero of Forever Evil!

        “Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Lex Luthor!!!”

        • Luthor will united the villians – I’m thinking the Rogues, Ivy, Bane, Penguin, Black Adam, Manta while Nightwing (DC biggest hero that was not in a team book) will unite the remaining Heroes (teen titans, bat family, etc.) and become the great team leader he has always been pre52.

        • That would be fine and all, but I’m hoping for something a little more complex than that. Like, I want to see heroes and villains working side by side. I want them to start learning a few personal things about each other, things that they would never learn about one another on a normal day. Remember when Tattooed Man became a hero in Final Crisis, and then he started working with Black Lightning? I want shit like that!

        • Agreed….but NOT NIGHTWING!!! NIGHTWING DA BEST!
          I would say to be an A-Lister you have to have shown an ability to consistently support a solo (i.e. ONLY your name in the title) series. If we say a minimum of 100 issues and a solo in the new52 that would make the A-List contenders as follows:
          Batman
          Superman
          Green Lantern (Hal)
          Aquaman
          Nightwing
          Flash (Barry Allan)
          Wonder Woman
          Green Arrow
          Catwoman
          Supergirl
          Superboy

          I didn’t include Animal Man, Swamp Thing, & Constantine as their 100 Issues were in Vertigo.

        • For me, an A-lister needs to be a couple things. 1 is that they have to be franchise-able, meaning that there can be several titles based on the one character and his/her world. Another qualification is that if the character were to die, someone would have to step up to fill their shoes. Maybe I just have a tighter A-List, but I’d really only put Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman on it. Or maybe I need some kind of S-Class List….

        • By your logic Dick Grayson totally qualifies.
          When he stopped being Robin like a million other people tried to fill his shoes, most died trying. Jason Todd even tried to be Nightwing as well!
          He created the Teen Titans, a franchise still going on. Was the leader of the Outsiders while maintaining his own ongoing series. As Batman he was the head of the Bat Family and the star of 3 ongoing books and a mini-series (Gates of Gotham). Batman & Robin, a series that began under him is still ongoing. AND HE HAS THE BEST ASS IN COMICS!

        • I love Nightwing, but I consider him to be a definitive B-lister. I also consider Aquaman and Firestorm to be B-listers and they’re both actually in the Justice League. H’el, I consider Cyborg to be at LEAST B-list, if not C-list.

  2. For me, the bigger takeaway for the Nightwing reveal is that the CSA knows who our heroes’ friends and family are. Like, Commish Gordon, Lois Lane, Iris Allen, etc. are the ones in most danger now, which is one of the biggest fears that a masked hero has.

    Why did Two-Face and Riddler talk like that? Because that’s how comic book villains talk! It’s goofy as hell, and I loved it. I guess I enjoyed it more because I do have an affinity for the villains too. Idk, I love them almost, if not as much, as I do the heroes.

    Also, I think this issue clearly established Luthor as the hero and underdog of the event. Luthor’s story bookended the main events of this issue, being the establishment of the CSA and their takeover of the world.

    Lastly, this is the best set-up to an event that I’ve seen in the New 52 so far. Then again, I consider this to be the first true event of the New 52, so that might not be saying much. Haha.

    • My point about Two-Face and Riddler is just that it’s poor characterization. I know I get excited about these things because I can see the personalities of the characters coming through. But I get angry when I can tell it’s just someone doing an impression of what they think the character is like. It’s a fine, fickle line, but I stand by it as a criticism. Two-Face can make all kinds of duality puns, but that’s not what makes him Two-Face. It’s all lip service to their actual personalities.

  3. I really enjoyed Forever Evil #1 and am excited to see Lex Luther form a Rogues Rebellion and Nightwing unite the remaining Heroes and defeat the CSA.

    That said, what type of incriminating photos do you think David Finch has on Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, & Dan DiDio? He must have something to keep getting these plum jobs (JLA, Forever Evil, etc…) considering his art is only marginally better than what is in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws these days – and that shit is unreadable.

    • That’s a great question. Finch is the weak link of this event. Like, I really enjoyed his opening pages, and some of the ones in the middle, but it seems like he picks a few pages to really give it his all, and then just phones in the rest and hopes that nobody notices. Finch has a dark style, so I can see why he would have been chosen for this, but he’s got to be able to handle the workload too.

      • It’s hard to say, but I would imagine that he will be for a while at least. Then again, maybe they can find a way to get him back home, and make his conclusion to his time as BB Ted’s origin? That’s probably a long shot though, Jaime is probably trying to get comfortable in Comic Book Limbo as we speak.

      • Wasn’t he in Threshold? I know that that’s ended now, but where did his character end up? Maybe he’ll show up in Larfleeze or Teen Titans.

  4. Was anybody else bugged by the continuity on this? Like, I loved seeing Johns write the Rogues again, especially Cold and Trickster (who sound just like they always have under his pen), but it’s pretty obvious that Johns hasn’t been reading the current issues of the Flash AT ALL. For some reason Cold is the uncontested leader of the Rogues again, and Glider is nowhere to be found (I mean, she’s in the giant group spread at the Watchtower, but she’s not actually with the Rogues on their job); Mirror Master is walking around like it ain’t a thing when he’s supposed to be trapped in the mirror world; Trickster is working with the Rogues again instead of with the Outlanders AND Cold actually wants to rescue him when Cold was the one who kicked him out of the group in the first place…it’s a mess. Plus Girder shows up in the Grodd one-shot with a brand new design, but shows up in the crowd shot in this issue with his old design…then there’s the Teen Titans scene. I can KINDA forgive Wonder Girl calling Tim “Robin” instead of “Red Robin” since it’s just a shortening of the name, but it totally breaks up that comic booky rhythm where you’re supposed to refer to a character by their full name in their first panel so the audience knows who he is. And who’s that girl Titan leading into her locker behind Superboy. She doesn’t look like Solstice OR Raven, the only girls on the team besides Cassie (who appears in panel); writer mistake, artist mistake, or what?

    It’s all small stuff, but it really bugs me.

    • Oh, and plus, what’s with Trickster harassing Grodd? You know, Grodd, THE GUY WHO TORE HIS FRIGGING ARM OFF?!

      Either Trickster’s got balls of steel or Johns has no idea it happened (I didn’t notice his mechanical arm either)

        • Ooh, nice guess. The Joker is obviously SOMEBODY there, but Trickster is an interesting guess. It certainly wouldn’t require much acting on Joker’s part.

        • Good lord, what a waste of 2.99 that was. I thought it would be pretty hard to go wrong with the Joker, but….man, that book went wrong with the Joker. I’m still kinda mad about it.

        • Really? I thought it was mislabeled, but I was pleasantly suprised at how much I liked the idea of Kubert turning the Jackanapes origin into a buddy romp. It actually made me change my stance on not picking up Kubert’s Damien mini.

        • I just skimmed through it again and there were parts I liked. You know, I liked Jackanapes well enough, but the Joker stuff was pretty awful. Hated the cliche abusive childhood (even if the art was good for those sequences) and the fact that he felt the need to give Joker a definitive origin story at all–that backstory is the garbage, cliched memories Joker fed Harley to turn her to his side, not an actual origin!

          And who were those random henchmen hanging out with Joker. If they needed to give him a female henchman, why not give him Harley? And how did Joker raise a gorilla with no one noticing, and who took care of him when Joker was in Arkham?

          I could excuse the lapses in logic (it is a Joker story after all) if I enjoyed the story more, but I didn’t really understand what happened at the end, and that threw me off. What did they do to the people on the plane? Where in the world did Jackanapes’ change of heart come from?

          Skimming through it again it’s not as bad as I thought last night, but I’m still disappointed. I loved the art and a lot of the Joker/Jackanapes stuff was cute, but too much of this story fell flat for me.

        • I completely agree about the Joker flashback stuff, but I give that something of a pass since it’s not coming out of an important Batman story that editors and writers will honor (such as Zero Year). Basically I was expecting to very much dislike this issue because of the Kubert writing credit and I enjoyed the whimsical idea to turn it into a Jackanapes spotlight. It allowed me to consider the pre-face-removal Joker as being something of a super-villianous King Of Pop complete with evil Bubbles

        • See Mogo, your snappy description of the story is so good: “Joker as being something of a super-villianous King Of Pop complete with evil Bubbles.” Like, as a log-line, that’s aces. But the execution is so weirdly bogged down by his mommy issues.

          However, I’m still totally interested in that Damian Son of Batman mini.

    • Maybe you’re picking up on hints that we’re actually watching a different story altogether. What if all of this is how the CSA came to power on Earth-3? And we’re just assuming that we’re back on our own earth right now?

      • I think the Black Adam we see is actually Shazam!
        1) At the end of JL #22, after touching Pandora’s Box, he is still coloured with a black costume but at the same time Wonder Woman has clearly lost her 3rd eye.
        2) The Black Adam in Trinity War has wavy, loose hair where as Black Adam from the JL Back-Ups was always drawn with slicked down, Pat Riley-esque, hair.

    • I thought that Cold had been reinstituted as leader of the Rogues by the end of Gorilla Warefare, and I didn’t think it was an issue for him to forgive Trickster and break him out. All your other points are totally valid though!

  5. So the Justice League obviously isn’t dead–there’s no bodies, it all happened off panel, DC obviously doesn’t want us to even THINK they’re dead–so what do we think actually happened to them?

    I still have a hard time believing the Crime Syndicate defeated them. I mean, sure the League isn’t at its strongest (Hal’s gone, Atom defected, Superman and Cyborg are dying), but the Syndicate didn’t just have to fight the League. They had to fight the League AND The JLA AND The Justice League Dark! Hell, one of those teams was SPECIFICALLY ASSEMBLED to take down people with the Syndicate’s power-set! The good guys should have won by sheer numbers alone!

    So…what do we think actually happened to these three teams?!

    • I think they got sent to Earth-3 and are trapped in that Apocolyptic world. Although the solicits for Teen Titans imply that they need to do some time travelling to save the Justice League, and the solicits imply that some members return to action throughout Forever Evil not just as one group at the end….so……I don’t know 🙂
      I just assume Nightwing will save everyone!

      • I don’t think there’s a story in them being sent to the destroyed Earth-3. I think they’ve been sent to Earth-2 and that’s why Jay Garrick and a few others have been teased in Trinity War. I khink the JL were sent to Earth-2 and when they’re there they’ll really begin to understand the danger that Darkseid presents based on their alternate history. I think this will be build-up for the next big story, a Earth-0/Earth-2 team-up story against Darkseid (who I suspect to be the same Darkseid, attacking each universe at different times.)

        • Based on what I’ve read by James Robinson, I think he might have been going in that direction. DC has also confirmed that there is only on Darkseid. Though this hasn’t been confirmed, my thinking is that the world of the New Gods exists in its own dimension.

  6. This is such a Johns issue. It just reeks of that eternal child, “comic books are so fucking cool” feel. Villains hanging out with villains doing cool villain things! Dick Grayson gets unmasked in front of virtually the entire world! Lex Luthor being a prick, crashing his helicopter, and then kneeling before the eclipsing sun, praying for Superman!

    And you know, that’s so totally okay. So long as we’re fed a healthy, varied diet of event comics going forward (i.e. authors other than Johns), having these sorts of indulgent “fuck yeah the DC universe is great” events is perfectly welcome.

    • I actually prefer Johns to structure and spearhead the big events, although I would love to see Azz or Snyder get to do one since they haven’t yet. But given that editorial is going to manhandle publication schedules once a year or so to do something like this then I’m glad Johns is their go-to guy and not some of the other writers DC seems to have extreme dedication to (cough, JMS, cough.) The next time that they DO pass the ball though, I’d love to see a Wonder Woman-centric event created by Azzarello

      • Johns is a reliable guy for it – I’ve enjoyed all of his events – but his is a very specific take. I’d like to see other people get the chance to craft big grand stories like this. Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis remains my favorite event comic, and I want to see ambitious stuff like that have its day. With Johns, it’s usually just massive scale with lots of heroes and lots of villains in lots of action. That’s awesome and fun and sometimes it can be affecting and thoughtful, but it’s not the only way to do things.

        • I very much enjoyed Final Crisis and believe it’s quite underrated, but I’m also a huge Morrison fan AND a huge Kirby’s Fourth World fan. There aren’t words adequate enough to express my longing for Multiversity and, to a slightly-lesser but still-massive extent, Wonder Woman: Earth One

        • I have had regular convulsions and seizures ever since Batman Inc #13. Some serious Morrison withdrawal.

          The neutering of Darkseid and the removal of pretty much everything Kirby about him did not help matters.

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