Sunday, December 6, 2015

Shaking Up The Dialectics: Forever Evil Is Worth Reading!

The Good: Engaging storyline, Some very cool character arcs, Generally decent artwork, Excellent coloring
The Bad: Some big missing chunks, Predictability
The Basics: Forever Evil has Lex Luthor's predictions about human vulnerability coming true as the Crime Syndicate takes over the world, laying waste to it for their own amusement.

Unlike many people who read graphic novels, I was not immediately sold on the DC Comics crossover event Forever Evil just by its title and promotional materials. After all, DC Comics has a pretty lousy way of dealing with its villains and the lead-in to Forever Evil was a mess. No, I was not a huge fan of Trinity War (reviewed here!) and, ultimately, it's long-evolved purpose was simply to introduce Forever Evil, so it was a lot of set-up for no real pay-off. Forever Evil, fortunately, is almost the complete opposite.

Forever Evil, despite the implications of the title, is a fairly concise volume assembled from the eight issues of Forever Evil comics that were released as part of the crossover event. It is the core story - from characters like Grodd appearing for only one key scene, I have to assume there were tangent volumes that deepen the story away from the main action presented in this book - and, unlike events like the Blackest Night Saga that require an obtuse amount of referencing between various volumes to figure out what is going on, Forever Evil shares with the reader everything they need to know. And, largely, it succeeds at what it sets out to do, despite having a very predictable overall arc.

Picking up where the Trinity War ended, with the arrival of the Crime Syndicate Of Amerika, from Earth-3, Earth-1 is rocked. Grid, the alternate version of Cyborg, takes Earth's communications systems off-line and members of the Secret Society are given coins that act as communicators between them. The important prisons - Arkham Asylum, Blackgate Prison, Belle Reve, Iron Heights, etc. - are all broken open and the super-villains housed there are set free and invited to join the Secret Society, under the leadership of Ultraman. While Ultraman blocks the sun and begins a hunt for all of the Kryptonite on Earth in order to power himself, the rest of the Crime Syndicate - Johnny Quick, Superwoman, Atomica, Power Ring, Deathstorm, and Owlman - have fun destroying as much of Earth as they can, while leaving some of the infrastructure intact for maintaining control. Grid communicates between the Syndicate and its new villain lackeys, while The Outsider guards a mysterious prisoner brought over from the alternate universe. When Ultraman exposes Dick Grayson as Nightwing to the world and claims to have killed all of the Justice League, most of the villains flock to join his new world order.

Lex Luthor, however, is not one of the Justice League's enemies who bows to UItraman's will. Instead, he, the Rogues led by Captain Cold, Black Adam, Black Manta and an underdeveloped clone of Superman (Bizzaro) quietly organize and execute a plan to stop the Crime Syndicate. They are surprised when their ranks are joined by Batman and Catwoman, who survived Firestorm absorbing the rest of the Justice League and heroes, and who quietly got the human elements of Cyborg back to S.T.A.R. Labs to save his life. When Batman tries to bring down Power Ring using a Yellow Lantern ring, that draws Sinestro to Earth and he joins Luthor's team to be able to do what Hal Jordan never could: save Earth. Together, the villains bring the fight to the Crime Syndicate, but not before they unwittingly unleash the greatest threat from Earth-3 upon themselves and their enemy!

Forever Evil might well be the biggest, most-developed Lex Luthor story since Luthor (reviewed here!) and it illustrates that the deeper, more complicated version of Lex Luthor resonates on a number of different levels. Luthor is a genius whose methods differ from Superman's, but he has the same essential goal; to make Earth strong. While Superman keeps it safe by protecting it, Luthor tries to get humanity to rise up to better itself so it won't need to rely upon Superman, metahumans, or super hero vigilantes. Forever Evil is a vindication of sorts for Luthor and it allows him to nakedly gloat to Batman.

Also exceptionally compelling in Forever Evil is Captain Cold. Captain Cold starts by trying to break Trickster out of Iron Heights because, as the leader of the Rogues, he takes care of his own. But Deathstorm rewrites his metahuman DNA and makes him a mundane human again, who must rely upon his technological contraption and his wits. He also suffers the loss of the Rogues and that leaves him at a very uncertain point at the end of the volume.

After the initial reversals from the villains - Ultraman takes Kryptonite like a drug, Superwoman is pregnant and uses a Lasso Of Submission to bend others to her will, Power Ring is enslaved by his ring, which berates him, etc. - the characters become pretty generic villains, though. In fact, the Crime Syndicate members turn on one another, once again proving what every other similar endeavor already has: the difference between heroes and villains is that heroes can work together for a common goal, while villains will always put self interest above a mutually advantageous alliance. Deathstroke pretty much embodies that spirit in Forever Evil when a single conversation with Luthor turns him, mid fight!

Keeping Batman alive and in play somewhat hampers the concept of Forever Evil, but given that Catwoman is with him constantly, egging him into following Luthor's lead keeps that element in check.

Forever Evil is notable for having decent artwork throughout almost the entire book. The colors are vivid and distinctive and almost all of the characters are recognizable in each panel.

The concept of Forever Evil is an ambitious one and after jettisoning most of the deadweight - The Joker is referenced once, but does not explicitly appear, Grodd gets one line before disappearing completely, and most of the villains appear for the big announcement and then fall out of the narrative entirely - Geoff Johns manages to tell a pretty solid story that leads into the next big storyline without neglecting the importance of the story he is telling here. That, ultimately, makes Forever Evil a worthwhile read!

For other big villain-centered books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Villains United
The Black Ring, Volume 2


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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