Written by Geoff Johns
Art by David Finch and Richard Friend
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: December 24, 2013

Forever-Evil-Cv4_villain_BThe chess pieces are finally in place and the various factions remaining on a devastated earth come up against each other in grand fashion, as Act 2 of Forever Evil begins in earnest!

I’ll be honest: I haven’t been blown away by this event to date. The first issue was a great… first issue. Issues two and three were underwhelming. All of them had great moments, but to some degree felt mired in set-up and scene-shifting. Tie-ins duplicated scenes ad nauseum, and nothing much was really happening.

And then we got issue #4.

Maybe it’s Johns’ trademark characterization finally having enough surface scraped away to get down to the bone of who these characters are. Lex Luthor, surprisingly, comes away as the most vulnerable and likeable character in the entire book, and that’s not a backhanded compliment. His interaction with his creation, the subject known as B-Zero, is inspired and touching. Catwoman’s genuine concern for Batman’s mental state, not to mention the latter’s singular focus amid the chaos, sets a tone for their relationship I’ve been waiting two years for. And Power Ring’s anxiety, no matter how over the top, provides a rich texture to the character that makes him more than simply a Hal Jordan doppelganger or opposite. Johns doesn’t skip over anyone here, and they all — hero and villain alike — get a moment to shine emotionally.

It could also be that worlds finally collide, with all three factions — the few remaining heroes, the Crime Syndicate, and the rebellious villians — come into contact with each other at last. Plot-wise, this is a significant turning point, with a last page surprise character making the outcome of their battle much more uncertain. While I do like the idea of Batman and Lex Luthor joining forces, I’m much more intrigued that Johns has managed to make the Legion of Doom an actual thing that doesn’t feel hokey or forced. Luthor, Bizarro, Black Manta, Captain Cold, Black Adam and __________ shouldn’t work as well as they do outside of a Super Friends cartoon. And they so do.

Finch’s artwork also reaches a crescendo here, and for whatever reason is so much stronger than in previous issues. There’s still a little awkwardness in some body language and certain faces, but the overwhelming majority of the issue is very well-rendered, particularly facial emotions. His Catwoman (blessedly zipped-up throughout) is gorgeous without resorting to sexual gratuity, and Luthor has never appeared so relatable. His eyes, when speaking to Bizarro about his sister, were so heart-wrenchingly honest, I nearly forgot we were dealing with Superman’s greatest foe. All of the villains have a deeply human streak to them under Finch’s pencils, even the worst of them, and that just makes this story all the more effective.

With issue #4, Forever Evil is well on its way to redefining how we see the villains of the DC Universe, and giving us a rock solid adventure along the way. Paired with the Crime Syndicate origins peppering the Justice League tie-ins, this series is clearly delivering everything Johns loves about the super-villain genre onto the page, and we’re finally getting the best of that effort here.

The Verdict: 9.5/10



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