Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Forever Evil 2, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Last month, the first issue of Forever Evil left me feeling relatively good about the start of DC’s first line-wide crossover since the inception of the New 52. Most of the heroes were gone, the Crime Syndicate was established, and Lex Luthor finally got a glance something that may just be worse than a bunch of costumed do-gooders. Ultimately, Forever Evil is about villains being forced into a position to fight a greater evil. I think that issue 1 gave us a pretty good starting point for that. Looking at issue 2, while I feel that there was some interesting developments, I can’t help but feel the entire issue suffered from structural issues, and that it was ultimately about getting Luthor to say one damn line.
Before I get into that particular line, let’s recap what came before this scene shall we? Alright, so Luthor is walking through the bowels of his headquarters when he stumbles upon the hapless security guard named Otis. The guard accompanies Luthor to a classified area where the two discover a pod labeled “B-0.” Yup, you guessed it, it’s Bizarro! Luthor awakens the super-clone prematurely and orders Bizarro to kill poor Otis. As B-man isn’t quite fully developed, it takes him a second to comply, but kills Otis on the spot when he threatens Luthor, resulting in Bizarro joining team-Luthor and the image above. The rest of Syndicate bask in their global takeover and contemplate about what to do about their mysterious prisoner. Ultraman commands he be kept alive and is then directed by Grid to take out a threat located in Kahndaq. Finally, back at Star Labs, Cyborg’s dad, Silas Stone, is protecting the Red Room from the baddies when Batman and Catwoman show up with a dying Cyborg stating that the other Leaguers “didn’t make it.”
Looking rough. Anyway, as cliffhangers go, I’d say this is a pretty effective one. I care a great deal about Cyborg, so I’m very much looking forward to finding out what happens to him. I’m assuming he’ll have a bit of a “Red Room Upgrade,” but we’ll talk about that more when we get to issue 3. Whatever happens, writer Geoff Johns succeeds in keeping me interested in this series based mainly on the promise of things to come. That’s another way of saying that I wasn’t entirely thrilled with issue 2 of this event. I feel the main problem stems from the structure of this issue and the fact that I think it set out to accomplish only one thing, namely, getting Luthor to say the line that I mentioned above.
Honestly, I think it’s a cool moment, and, if you read our coverage of issue 1, you know that I was hoping he’d say that very line. More importantly, it’s advancing the story we all came to see: heroic (by comparison) villains versus the Crime Syndicate. While I don’t have a problem with Luthor’s scenes in the least (in fact, I think they are the highlight of this issue), I do have a problem with the fact that the other scenes in this issue felt mostly disconnected from one another. Patrick complained about fragmentation in the first issue, but while that didn’t bother me in that issue for whatever reason, it does bother me here. So far, this series feels like Lex Luthor doing some stuff, while the Crime Syndicate does stuff, while everyone else does stuff. There were a couple of scenes that were clearly set-ups for other miniseries, which I felt led to that sense of fragmentation. Take the Teen Titans for example. Here they are (minus Bunker).
The Teen Titans foolishly, but, ya know heroically, attempt to rescue Nightwing at the Syndicate’s base. The Titans are taken out via Johnny Quick…quickly, and are then pulled away via a Kid Flash induced time vortex. I mean, that’s pretty cool I guess, except that none of that is going to play out in this series at all. This sequence wastes a lot of precious real estate and it isn’t the only one like this as the Rogues Rebellion series is set up in this issue as well. This series should be about evil being relative, or whatever the tagline suggested, not about setting up other ways for me to spend my money. It’s annoying, and I think it crowds this issue while simultaneously diluting the overall theme. Hopefully, issue 3 will start to see the necessary storylines begin to cross over, as it is in need of that at this point.
Overall, I clearly had some problems with this issue. At the same time, I feel that there were some interesting revelations. I also felt like Johns is doing a good job at keeping me intrigued with the prisoner. Hopefully, the next few issues will see less time spent on setting up tie-ins, and more time spent on the story itself. So Drew, what did you think? Are you having the same problems that I am, or is the story hooking you in enough to overlook them?
Drew: Mik, I’m glad you mentioned this series’ problematic tagline. The notion of the entire planet — even our most villainous members — would unite against an unthinkable alien force is an idea very dear to a modern comic fan’s heart, as it basically constitutes Veidt’s plan to create world peace in Watchmen. One of the things that series does so well is make you consider the morality of Veidt’s actions — sure, he killed millions of people, but he also helped unite the planet against a common enemy, effectively saving billions. Given that moral grey-area, it’s hard to see even the Earth-3 villains as particularly evil — if their actions ultimately create peace between heroes and villains, they may save more lives than they destroy.
Of course, that conclusion presumes the imminent exit of the Crime Syndicate, which this issue goes out of its way to frame. How do we bring down a guy like Ultraman? Well, perhaps we don’t have to, since Owlman and Super Woman are apparently angling to eliminate him, anyway. How do we bring down Power Ring? Again, we probably won’t have to, as his ring may just be killing him. How do we separate Johnny Quick and Atomica from the team? We probably won’t have to, as their recent separation has left them impulsive and irresponsible. How do we exploit a disagreement within the team? Whatever it is, it will probably have to do with their prisoner. We’re privy to a dozen chinks in the Crime Syndicate’s armor here, as Johns bends over backwards to show just how vulnerable the Crime Syndicate’s lack of teamwork makes them.
Without Earth-0 morality to make them value loyalty and teamwork, the Crime Syndicate amounts to little more than a series of independent islands, easily exploited by their apparent disdain for one another. It makes their eventual downfall feel all but inevitable, even without all of Lex Luthor’s machinations.
Mik, I fully agree that this issue spent way too much time setting up issues of other series, and not nearly enough making it any kind of coherent. I appreciate the return of Geoff Johns, master-plotter, but unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much else. Johns has very specifically kept us emotionally distant from the villains’ victims, but has also kept us emotionally distant from the villains themselves, leaving us people we don’t care about doing things we don’t care about to other people we don’t care about. Mik was able to salvage enough loyalty to Vic to maintain his interest in a plotline this issue does nothing to keep us invested in, but many fans don’t have that kind of patience. We’re told that our heroes are dead, but knowing that that can’t actually be true, we’re left to ignore that message until they stop saying it — effectively eliminating the fear that things might not return to the status quo. We know where this is going, and Johns’ hints at how it might finally happen feel like shallow teases.
It’s fair to say that I’m not entirely objective here — event fatigue had set in long before villains month began — but I think I still have a good handle on what makes a story engaging. Unfortunately, much of that has to be sacrificed for pacing (or to just give other series something to do), leaving potentially boring stories to be picked over by potentially boring series. It’s not a recipe for success, and Forever Evil 2 lives up to it perfectly.
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