FOREVER EVIL #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by David Finch and Richard Friend
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 4, 2013
The Justice League is dead. Long live the… Crime Syndicate? When evil doppelgangers from another earth come to town, you can expect a certain amount of readjustment will be necessary. Recruiting a massive secret society of super-villains to their cause, knocking out power grids, opening up all the prisons, and reaching the heart of the super-hero community and twisting a knife into it? Well, that just puts them over the top. Don’t expect Lex Luthor to take this laying down.
And with that, the whole world is different in the pages of Forever Evil, the first event book of DC’s New 52, beginning its third year this very week by illustrating what happens when the heroes lose literally everything. Johns unpacks a lot in this issue — perhaps too much, to be honest — in trying to hit all the major story points that will spin out of this first issue, but manages to bring the real focus in to a character we haven’t seen a whole lot of these past two years: Lex Luthor. Placing Luthor right at the center of the story not only makes historic sense for a book about the take over of the Crime Syndicate (in the Silver Age, Luthor was the sole hero on the world of villains the Syndicate heralded from), but also reinforces what this guy really is all about. What could possibly be worse for humanity than a super-powered menace who thinks he’s doing good? One (or more) that doesn’t want to do good at all. Johns threads the ideas of natural selection, evolution and economic theory throughout the issue — both from Luthor and Ultraman’s perspectives — but you come to realize quickly that these men are far from the same. The most compelling villains are often the ones in which a reader can see him or herself, even just a little, and there’s no question already that Lex is going to be that breakout character for Johns. The only question is, will he be the only one? It’s probably no coincidence that Nightwing is the hero already being put through the wringer here, as a prime example of the powerless man among gods. Between him and Luthor, we have an interesting statement already on what’s really at the core of true power in the DC Universe, and it isn’t heat vision or super speed.
Finch seems like the perfect choice to illustrate a book that in its first issue features only a single hero for more than one panel. His villains are darkly rendered — the Syndicate looking unmistakably like their League counterparts, but unquestionably black-hearted at the same time — with Friend’s heavy inklines filling in the shadowed compositions Finch lays out. This is some of Finch’s strongest work when it comes to facial expression and close-ups, but where the art starts to break down is in multiple character panels and backgrounds, as villains who aren’t in the foreground are rendered almost half-heartedly, it seems. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to take though, to get Captain Cold’s visor, Two-Face’s scarred façade, and multiple instances of the pure evil that graces Ultraman’s deep-set eyes. The surprise double gatefold spread of the Syndicate greeting their new Secret Society is a ton of fun, giving readers a chance to pick out characters old and newer, as there are a lot of dear friends that we haven’t seen in a long while resurfacing for the event.
If you didn’t have an opportunity to read Trinity War threading through the Justice League titles in July and August, you won’t feel lost here, although by the same token, key cliffhangers from that event go unanswered. Is the Justice League really dead (they were fit and breathing last week)? If not, where did they go? And just where is the Outsider? With an entire month ahead of us with no one appearing but the villains, I daresay I’m a little impatient, but then again, maybe it’s time to just accept the Crime Syndicate as the new World’s Greatest Super-Humans. If Johns can imbue them with the same depth of character he’s given the League over the past year, I can probably be convinced.
The Verdict: 8.5/10