Forever Evil 7

forever evil 7Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Forever Evil 7, originally released May 21st, 2014. 

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Spencer: I often find myself thinking of Geoff Johns as “the comic-bookiest writer in all of comics”, in the sense that so much of his work revolves around the history and mythology of the characters he’s writing, and enjoying his work often depends on having a history with the characters yourself. That’s not necessarily good or bad on its own; Johns’ style has its strong points and its weak ones, and while examples of both pop up in Forever Evil 7, it fortunately falls mostly on the “strong” side.

Lex revives Nightwing — though the jury’s out on whether that was his original intention or not — and Dick, Batman, Catwoman and Cyborg are able to use Wonder Woman’s lasso to free the various Justice Leagues from the prison within Firestorm. How? It’s because Batman has a “connection” with Diana. Yeah, “connection.”

Batman and Wondy, sittin' in a tree...It’s not like this revelation comes out of nowhere — Batman and Wonder Woman flirted throughout the entirety of the Justice League animated series, and this reveal makes that scene where Bruce creepily watches Clark and Diana kiss make a lot more sense — but I can’t say I’m exactly eager for a Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman love triangle. Not only do I not want to see these guys at odds, but it continues to devalue Diana, leaving her as little more than a love interest.

Actually, this issue is pretty lousy about its female characters in general — which is a fairly common weakness of Johns’, which probably echoes back to the decades of poor treatment of women in the comics of Johns’ youth in general. Atomica dies — admittedly deservedly — and while Catwoman gets some fun quips in, she’s essentially pointless; if you remove her from Forever Evil the plot wouldn’t change one iota, and the one scene that’s supposedly about her is of course actually about her pining for Batman.

Then there’s Superwoman. The issue reveals that Alexander Luthor is the father of her unborn child and that she’s always been on his side. Fair enough, but it feels like every word out of Superwoman’s mouth is “my lover” this and “my unborn child” that; her motivation for constantly shifting alliances is so she can find the “strongest” man to protect her child, which is fairly reasonable until you remember that Lois is one of the most powerful metahumans on the planet, which is easy enough to forget considering that she almost never uses her abilities, almost always tricking men into doing her dirty work instead. I might be more inclined to overlook Superwoman, to just consider her an exaggerated femme fatale, if there were more women in this book who were handled well, but as it is, they’re all almost solely defined by their relationship to men. It’s ridiculous, and not in the good way.

Anyway, Alexander Luthor blows through our Luthor’s team of anti-heroes and ultimately kills Bizarro, causing Lex to flip his bald lid. Alexander insists that he’s the strongest there is, but Lex simply outsmarts him, using the fact that they’re genetically the same person to call down the power of Mazahs!, return Lex to his human form, and murder him. He then kills Atomica and cripples Ultraman, becoming a hero to the world in the process. Meanwhile, the being that chased the Syndicate from their world in the first place is still out there and, surprise, it’s not Darkseid:

Oh, that's not a good sign...This is one of those moments I mentioned in the introduction that only works if you’re already familiar with DC mythology, but if you are then man does it work! The Anti-Monitor is perhaps the strongest character in the history of DC Comics, and his appearance here totally took me by surprise; I actually squealed out loud sitting in my car reading this on my lunch break. Johns was so clever leading up to this moment, feeding us clues that so obviously read “Darkseid” that I never even considered that the threat could be somebody else entirely.

It’s that sense of sheer comic-booky fun that propels this issue. It’s incredibly cathartic to see the “heroes” finally take down the Syndicate, the action is brutal yet clever, and the relationships Johns builds between the members of Lex’s little villains brigade are all endearing in their own way. I was taken by surprise by Black Adam and Sinestro bonding, but considering that both are dictators, it makes a lot of sense, and the rapport between Lex and Captain Cold is fun just because they’re so mismatched. Still, the heart of this issue (outside of Batman and Nightwing, who we don’t see enough of) is Lex and Bizarro.

Hug it outThis issue tries to do a lot with Lex Luthor, and the one area where it unabashedly succeeds is with these two. Its easy to see Bizarro crumbling Lex’s emotional barrier throughout the series, but at the same time, I often wonder if Lex is actually capable of showing true compassion for anyone.

he was all ours' monster, LexThis panel is why I buy it; Lex may care about Bizarro, but he still considers him “his”, and that goes a long way to explaining why he cares so deeply and feels so hurt when Bizarro is killed.

The rest of the stuff with Lex is a little iffy to me. Johns tries to create a theme about learning from failure, but it never quite comes together (when does Lex fail?), and Lex’s compassion for Ted Kord doesn’t feel earned; Lex saving the world I get — he’s never wanted it destroyed — but his connections with Bizarro and his sister are still somewhat self-serving. I guess I just don’t see what led to Lex’s heart growing ten sizes; Patrick, any thoughts?

Anyway, I can’t argue that there are flaws with this issue, perhaps even some serious ones, but Johns finally turned on the balls-to-the-wall craziness he’s so good at with this issue, and in my mind, it goes a long way to making up for most of the problems; I just had too much fun with this issue to be mad at it. If the rest of Forever Evil had been like this I doubt I’d have trash-talked the series as much as I have. Patrick, did you have fun with this one, or did its weakness outweigh its strengths in your mind?

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Patrick: Oh, who even knows anymore? There’s so much going on in this issue, and as Spencer mentioned, just about every action is designed to tickle to the pleasure centers of DC Comics fans. That’s not an inherently negative quality, but I do have the weird tendency to push back against someone who presents me with something they know I’ll like. Quick examples before I sound insane: I remember seeing Ariana Huffington speak at my small liberal arts college (this would have been about 10 years ago, before the Huffington Post ran the internet). Ariana was smart and well-informed and once she got down to the substance of her talk, it was challenging and engaging and I had a great time. Unfortunately, the first 15 minutes were jokes about George W. Bush. Again, 10 years ago, so it was all totally appropriate, and all stuff that I agreed with, but I resented the fact that Ms. Huffington was somehow cheating me out of meaningful content. Yes, yes, blah, blah, Bush joke. Who cares? Stop pushing our magic buttons and talk about policy or politics or the media for crying out loud.

That same feeling creeps in over just about all of this issue. Yes, yes, you know I’m going to get fanboy-y about Batman’s “connection” with Diana, or an 11th hour reveal of the Anti-Monitor, but that’s simply not storytelling. The Anti-Monitor is to an audience of DC fans what George Bush jokes are to a room full of liberal college students in 2004.

Let’s talk a little bit about Anti-Monitor (because, that’s the only reason he’s there: so we’ll talk about him). Anti-Monitor is the ultimate editorial tool, less a character and more a instrument of eliminating fictional realities. He’s a little bit like Galactus, only never depicted with any ounce of personality. Johns may be presenting a somewhat different take on the character here – his only line of dialogue seems to suggest that he actually has a goal. That’s a bizarre thought: that Anti-Monitor would have some specific reason to hunt Darksied, especially because Darksied is so closely tied into the origins of the New 52.

Hey guys – ready to go meta? Because I am.

Anti-Monitor is the quintessential retcon machine. Save a few appearances in the Sinestro Corps, this thing only shows up if the word “Crisis” is on his invitation. With all of this talk about The New 52: Futures End being named what it is, and the fact that all three weekly series will end on the same day, it’s tempting to believe that there is another universe-altering (read: editorially stream-lining) event in the works. I believe the issue expresses a strange mix of pride and dissatisfaction in both the execution of, and fan reaction to, the New 52.

First, there’s a weird little hiccup around the “death” of Dick Grayson. No one knows why this book was delayed for two months, but there’s some speculation that people were reacting poorly to the news about Dick Grayson and the cancellation of Nightwing. So I’m left with the question — was the scene where Lex revives Dick always in this book? Or was it a last-minute addition to appease fans of the character? Catwoman herself so much as asks the question outright.

lex is too cool cor school

“Does it really matter?” Lex could have said anything here. And if he really was trying to win over Batman and his allies, he wouldn’t have jeopardized that for a pithy little tease. No, that’s the voice of Geoff Johns, acknowledging that the moment is clouded in by the reactionary politics of a publisher that’s too big to take a chance by upsetting their fans.

It’s actually hard for me not to see Luthor as a stand-in for Johns throughout. Forever Evil, and more generally the New 52, has been accused of being a lot of things, but the principal criticism is that the heroes presented herein are a gross approximation of who the characters are “supposed” to be. You can tell from my sarcastic quotes that I don’t put a lot of stock in that objection, but I do understand why people would be upset about a new version of Superman. In this issue, Lex is very stubbornly pro-crummy-Superman – not only has he grown to love Bizarro, but by the issue’s end, he’s building a new one with the exact same flaws, even though he could build a better one. That “but he’s my monster” line actually got to me the most. This story, and the current DCU, might have become monstrous, but it’s the monster Geoff Johns has been working on for years. Say what you will about Forever Evil, but it is a natural step on the impossibly long road that Johns laid the first brick for in Justice League 1 almost three years ago.

The finale of Forever Evil effectively celebrates the Rube Goldberg machine that monster has become (metaphors!). So while I might groan at Lex’s ability to summon MAZAHS’ lightning because he has a voice that is probably pretty similar to his Earth-3 counterpart (though… why? They don’t have identical hair?), it’s exactly the kind of convoluted nonsense that powers this whole narrative engine. And now we’ve got Lex Luthor as the world’s savior and stranded Owlman, Ultraman and Superwoman in the mix for future stories. The monster just keeps on growing, which is what any good monster does.

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21 comments on “Forever Evil 7

  1. I’ll accept that I might be the only one who feels this way, but I was profoundly disappointed to see the Anti-Monitor here. I don’t want to begrudge DC fans their history (and I’ll admit to gasping a bit at the reveal), but this strikes me as a giant middle finger to all of the new fans the New 52 was allegedly designed to welcome. Imagine the Anti-Monitor here was some villain we’d never seen before — that’s exactly the experience anyone who’s only ever read DCnU just had. The “Holy shit — that guy?!?!?!” reveal is utterly meaningless if you haven’t established who “that guy” is.

    I think Patrick was right to suggest that this feels like Johns is pandering a little too hard to the DC die-hards. Again, I don’t want to besmirch anyone’s excitement over the Anti-Monitor, but this seems pitched pretty far over the heads of any newcomers, giving them a total dud of a cliffhanger.

    The pre-boot DCU creeping in (with the implication of an impending Crisis) also has me nervous about what’s going to happen to the New 52. I’ve been suspicious about DC reverting back to the old universe for a while now (as Patrick always points out, their insistence on stamping “New 52” on every cover sure makes it seem like it isn’t just the way the DCU looks now), and an old-fashioned crisis certainly seems like the most logical way to fold the two universes together. That may be good, it may be bad, but it’s almost certainly going to be derivative. Couldn’t we at least come up with a new universe-altering threat?

    • Y’know, I just realized it, but the big “last page reveals” of this week’s Original Sin and Forever Evil couldn’t be MORE opposite if they tried

    • Ugh, I do hate the idea that the realities set up by the New 52 are nothing more than a ploy to get new readers in, without a sincere commitment to those realities. But DC has indicated over and over again that they’re only half committed to this reboot, allowing Morrison and Johns to continue their pre-reboot Batman and Green Lanterns stories with very few adjustments for new shit.

      I maintain that I wouldn’t like to see the pre-reboot multiverse merged with the New 52’s multiverse. I mean, what do you even call that? Crisis of Infinite Multiverses? I would very much like to see an ending to the New 52 branding, but I think that would involve something WITHIN THE UNIVERSE being called the New 52, and having that thing defeated/solved/avoided on the page. Anti-Monitor can still represent that shit, but I hope he’s adequately revamped for this incarnation.

      • Honestly I never thought of Anti-Monitor as a signal of a Crisis-like event, but now that you bring it up Patrick, it really excites me. I don’t know if they would ever return to the pre-boot continuity but man oh man am I tired of New 52ing things. Updates and modernizations happen, but so many of the New 52 changes are change for changes sake.

        Geoff Johns is an anomaly to me because he does have such affection for these characters, but it’s still the OLD version of themselves. The New 52 versions do not compel that same admiration and respect from readers OR their fellow characters.

  2. I’m not going to lie I pretty much loved this issues through and through, but I guess that comes with growing up a DC Comics/Geoff Johns fan. You tend to get excited whenever bits of old things are referenced or whenever the writer goes for something super impactful like Bizarro’s death and the appearance of Ted Kord and the Anti-Monitor. It gets my inner fanboy rolling.

    At the same time, I agree with Spencer that Johns’ portrayal of women up to this point has been somewhat sexist. I only say somewhat because he’s probably not doing this intentionally, but rather it comes out as an unintentional side effect of the material he’s writing.

    And I think he dropped the ball pretty hard with Alexander Luthor. Yeah, the fight scene was cool, but we got barely any remnants of his character to make the impact long-lasting. That being said, I actually appreciated the bullshit comic logic of Lex saying Mazahs to transform Alex because I took it at face value for what is: silver-agey bullshit comic book logic.

    So yeah, about 90% of the story and character beats hit home for me, and while anti-monitor is an intriguing setup, I’m more interested in where the other setup goes, with Ted Kord becoming Lex Luthor’s Robin, and the remaining members of the Syndicate still on main earth.

    Pretty good issue with a few noticeable flaws if I do say so myself.

    • Yeah, I forgot/ran out of room to mention it, but I was pretty disappointed that they never followed up on Alexander’s comment in issue 6 about being Earth-3’s biggest hero. How is he a hero? Why does he consider himself a hero? Nobody cares, I guess…

      • NOBODY CARES!

        Yeah, Earth-3 is not very well developed at all. The Grant Morrison version is so clear and so clever, and plays off our expectations of superhero comics. In that version, Earth-3 is just a place where the bad guys always win and the good guys always lose – the fictional polarity is just reversed. Johns’ Earth-3 is just like “eh, everyone is Evil” which made all of those Earth-3 issues pretty tough to care about, right?

        • I think the Morrison version is just as bad. it’s just more about the high concept of it all and honestly it’s interesting for all of a second. I just want a little more justification for seeing dudes in pajamas beat on each other.

    • Oh, the women are NOT well portrayed at all. And it’s totally not fair to say that the story made Johns write it that way. I almost couldn’t believe that Atomica just gets stamped out in a tiny grotesque splatter, but not before Finch can draw her ridiculous boobs one more time.

      • oh well talking visually? that’s a whole nother ball park man. Finch is excessively gross in general although gotta say batgirl’s spine in FE #1 was more hilarious than offensive because it was practically self-parodic.

        • It’s the combination, right? I probably wouldn’t have said anything about Atomica’s breasts if Luthor was going to just coldly stamp her out one panel later.

  3. I just can’t resist the Anti-Monitor. And I can’t help feeling like Michael Corleone when war is declared among the families: “when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”. And I do know how bad he felt about that.

    Did you buy the weekly “Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse”? Anti-Monitor is there also, along with a rebooted version of Crisis. It kind of disappointed me to see the series that got me into comics be rebooted like that, but I found it interesting to see:

    1. The beginnings of the possibility of a true transmedia experience in comics (look at https://www.infinitecrisis.com/en and shiver)

    2. The incorporation of later multiversal Warner-owned elements, like the bleed, to the Crisis, as well as the Monitors from Final Crisis

    I hate myself for not being able to resist it. Since the beginning of New 52, the characters sounded like empty shells of the characters I grew up with. They sounded as not-new as uncontextualized.

    So, my favorite New 52 characters ended up being in Earth-2, which is now under attack from Apokolips as well as from Anti-Monitor, it seems. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the bleed cut there in recent editions.

    Soon, we may have a new Alexander Luthor Jr. and a world-misplaced Earth-2 Superman. I just wonder where the Pariah is. Oh boy how the 10 years oid me wants a Crisis to fix it all up. Even if the nearly 40 years old me knows how it ends and develops.

    That’s why the crisis is infinite, anyway.

    • Mike Logsdon and I were talking about about this Infinite Crisis comic yesterday. It’s my understanding that the MOBA is the real project and the comic is just there to supplement it. I’m still very much interested in both – I like that Injustice comic, even if the game is too Mortal Kombat-y for me. How does the first issue hold up?

      • I’m not into Games at least since Atari.

        The first edition is quite generic. We get Nix Uotan as the last Monitor, we get a rebooted Harbinger, we get a rebooted version of the Crisis and we get to see the Anti-Monitor. The Monitor then selects champions among heroes and villains, more or less like in Crisis. Sounds like they’re betting on Sinestro as a big player. But it feels more or less like the rushed intro before “FIIIIGHT!!!”.

        What got me finding this clever is the timing with the Anti-Monitor reveal in Forever Evil 7. So far, the continuity in games/game books was more or less detached from comics continuity, even if it resembled it a lot. (DCU Online Legends, for example.) Now, with the success of games and dwindling of comics, they seem to be less shy of getting them more explicitly on the same page.

        • Well, it’s weird, right? Injustice sets up a very specific and unique set of parallel worlds that aren’t exactly like anything happening in the comics right now. And the comics that accompany the Arkham games seem to take place in a hybrid of the BTAS universe and pre-New52 continuity (but minus Damian). Also, I’m not convinced any of the non-Gotham stuff even exists in the arkahmverse.

        • Exactly. Which is perfectly understandable if the company is keeping the operations separate (like movies and comics, usually).

          This time, though, the timing and theming of Forever Evil and of the game-related comic came together. If they in fact do a true crossmedia experience, it might be really interesting.

  4. I have no idea what an Anti-Monitor is. I don’t think I care enough about DC any more to find out. To someone who has DC and the New 52 to thank for getting back into comics, I think I’ll stick with Image and Marvel. What a crock.

  5. Maybe I just don’t remember since the last issue was like 3 months ago, but does anyone else have a clue where that ‘lightning rod’ came from? I thought one of the characters said it was from the future which confused me even more, as I don’t remember it being mentioned before now. Thanks

  6. Nothing says I’m dropping the last few DC titles like a whiff of that old Batman-Wonder Woman idiocy. Kill it with fire, already. It was the dumbest idea in a decade of dumb ideas.

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