First off, I’d like to apologise for the lateness of this review; I haven’t done one in a while but now that I’m back in the swing of things I promise the next one will be on time! In any case, a quick round up of the events leading to ‘Forever Evil’ #1 (written by Geoff Johns with art by David Finch) is probably a necessity for any of you who are looking to pick up the mini-series but haven’t been reading Justice League. So here we go.
The majority of the lead in to ‘Forever Evil’ (as well as many of the Villain Month one shots) comes from the six issue crossover event, ‘Trinity War’, which took place in ‘Justice League’, ‘Justice League Dark’ and ‘Justice League of America’. Now you may remember from the very start of the New 52 the woman in red that appeared in all of the first issues; revealed to be Pandora. You may also remember, perhaps more specifically from the DC Free Comic Book Day issue from 2012, the golden skull that she carries around, also known as ‘Pandora’s Box’. Now this box isn’t exactly the fabled box from Greek Mythology (much to Wonder Woman’s surprise) but it is in fact an object of science. And there is not just one, but hundreds of them and they are essentially mother boxes but rather than summoning a boom tube to Apokolips, they open up a portal to… dun dun duuuuun… Earth 3!
Enter the Crime Syndicate! If you’re unfamiliar with these characters I highly recommend you watch ‘Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths’, but the Crime Syndicate is the opposite of the Justice League, that is to say the evil version. So the ‘Trinity War’ storyline ends with the Crime Syndicate entering Earth Prime, ready to take down an already weakened Justice League. As well as this, Cyborg has been infected with a virus, causing all of his tech to detach itself from his body and reconfiguring as a new enemy, ‘Grid’. I should also probably point out that, thanks to Despero, the Watchtower is currently in pieces in Happy Harbor, after being brought crashing out of orbit.
So it is at this point that we start ‘Forever Evil’ #1. We don’t know exactly what happened post Crime Syndicate/Justice League confrontation but it is quickly established that the Justice League are no more, presumed dead. The issue opens with Lex Luthor in a corrupt business meeting where he is forcing Thomas Kord to sell him his company, high above Metropolis in a helicopter. Suddenly, something akin to an EMP is detonated and all of the power in the city is lost, including that of Luthor’s helicopter. The machine begins to plummet from the sky but coincidentally, it crashes through the window of Luthor’s office and he survives. As this happens, every screen across the city suddenly lights up and the words “THIS WORLD IS OURS” appear upon them. We cut to Grid who is standing in front of a control panel saying that Gotham is next to go offline but worldwide power and communication control will be in the hands of the Crime Syndicate within the hour.
We then cut to Nightwing, Mr. Zsasz under arm, as he swings in to Gotham and towards Arkham Asylum to deposit his catch. As he does so, Barbara contacts him and tells him that they should meet, out of costume, as too much has happened to keep them away from Bruce. Nightwing climbs over the wall to the Asylum but it’s at this moment the blackout reaches Gotham and Nightwing hears through his earpiece, “THIS WORLD IS OURS”. As well as this, Superwoman flies up to the doors of Arkham and rips them open, Nightwing goes to attack but is jumped by Owlman and after he is subdued he is taken by the duo.
We cut back to Luthor’s office where Ultraman burst in to the building, crashes through an enormous safe and retrieves Luthor’s stash of kryptonite. We then jump to The Rogues who are attempting to break out of Iron Heights Penitentiary when Johnny Quick and Atomica do the job for them as they race through the prison, releasing prisoners. We jump again to another prison; this time Belle Reve where Black Manta is incarcerated. Amanda Waller is attempting to convince him to join the Suicide Squad but even as he refuses, Death Storm and Power Ring destroy the prison, releasing Black Manta. We then cut back to Ultraman who crushes the kryptonite to a fine powder, heats it with his vision and inhales the fumes before flying off, presumably to find more kryptonite as he asks Grid to locate all sources of it.
We then cut to a selection of Batman’s classic adversaries where we find out that the Crime Syndicate have broken in to every super prison on Earth and have released the most dangerous criminals. Scarecrow hands out a communication device to each of the villains, saying that they are all invited to join The Secret Society. They accept, as do most of the DC Universe villains, and we jump to Happy Harbor and the wreckage of the Justice League Watchtower where all the villains have gathered, surrounding the Crime Syndicate. The villains are chatting amongst themselves before the Syndicate hurl out iconic pieces of the Leagues’ uniforms, including Aquaman’s trident and Superman’s cape, all of which get fought over by the crowd.
With this, the Crime Syndicate announce themselves to the villains and the world as Grid broadcasts their message. They declare that they are from another world where they ruled, but after the inhabitants of that earth began to revolt, they destroyed the planet and have come to this Earth to take over a new world. One villain, Monocle, vocalises his scepticism. His doubt is met with Ultraman’s heated stare and his head explodes. Ultraman claims that the Justice League is dead and the world belongs to the Crime Syndicate, all those who pledge their allegiance will rule with them, all those who oppose will face the consequences. With this, Superwoman hauls up Nightwing and they publicly unmask him, revealing his identity to the world as Dick Grayson! And the world replies… “who?”. They claim that Dick Grayson has many places he calls home, and that all of those will be exploited, and everyone he is close to will be destroyed.
As this happens, the sun begins to rise and Ultraman is pained by it. To retaliate, he flies in to space and pushes the moon in to place to eclipse the sun. All the while, Lex Luthor is witnessing the chaos and the issue ends with him saying “This is a job for Superman. So where the hell is he?”.
Phew, that was a lot to recap… now where to start with the review? I guess the first thing to think about is did I like this issue? And the answer is yes, very much so. Why? Well, it certainly wasn’t for David Finch, and I’m generally 50/50 with Geoff Johns, but I was looking forward to the story. A lot! Which probably helped.
I find that Geoff Johns often takes a long time to get going with a story, even Flashpoint, which I loved, had a fairly slow start. This, however, dives straight in to the action! This is probably due to the fact that this is less of an introductory issue and more of the start of the second, or maybe even third act in a story that has been building in ‘Justice League’ for a few months now. As a reader of that series, this was great for me. The issue was fast paced and wasn’t bogged down with explanations; all of the information in the book led to the progression of the story and it’s a story I’m interested in. The introduction to the Crime Syndicate in ‘Justice League’ #23 got me very excited, an emotion that is sadly hard to come by in this recent comic book climate.
Now, whilst I know the Justice League aren’t dead, they must have been incapacitated in a pretty major way for their weapons to have been taken away from them and I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’m also looking forward to seeing the fall out of Nightwing’s unmasking and whilst I don’t exactly have any comments on it, I do think it will play an actual role in the future. What I mean by this is that, I can read ‘Batman Inc’ #8 and say “wow, Robin’s really dead”, but when I read this I just think “well it’s a comic, anything can happen”. I need to put myself in to the story and look and the potential of that plot point, unfortunately, I know that because of the medium, that same plot point could be considered to have never happened by the time the event is over. However, because of the status of the writer, I do get the feeling that this reveal matters. And I hope it does, it would be a shame if this remained only a story beat in this one miniseries.
However, on the subject of Nightwing, I don’t get the reason for using him as the focus. Some people have already commented on the similarity between this and Infinite Crisis, where the plan was for Dick Grayson to die. The thing is, it made sense then because Dick was involved with so many aspects of the DCU; the Bat-family, the Teen Titans, the Outsiders… even the Justice League by association. Now, though, in this post Flashpoint mess of a continuity, his only associates are the Batman and Batgirl, and even they are hardly talking to him. He has no history with any characters outside of that so why does he supposedly tie the universe together? As it is, Johns had to verbally get past the fact that the Bat-family is supposedly in disrepair after ‘Death of the Family’ (it will be interesting to see if that aspect of this continues or if Snyder will continue to keep Batman a loner after ‘Zero Year’).
What I am extremely interested in, however, is a small exchange between Power Ring and Deathstorm where Power Ring says “You’d think Owlman would try to protect Grayson, considering” and Deathstorm replies “This one is a copy of Owlman’s former partner”. This implies that because of Owlman’s connection to a Nightwing of Earth 3, he also knows the identity of Bruce Wayne. The reveal also leaves it open for more people to explore the relationship between Nightwing, Dick Grayson, Batman and Bruce Wayne.
I mentioned before my lack of interest in Finch’s art; whilst it doesn’t necessarily distract me from the issue, the style doesn’t draw me in. I appreciate the detail but find the faces often leave a lot to be desired.
Overall, as previously mentioned, I enjoyed this issue a lot. I thought it was well paced and is telling a story that I am excited for. I look forward to seeing the fate of the Justice League, as well as more characteristics that define the Crime Syndicate as the polar opposite to our favourite heroes. Of course I am looking forward to seeing the Dick Grayson reveal play out and I hope it builds to something worthwhile but I find it difficult to invest too much time in wondering the fate of Nightwing, and prefer instead to see the story unfold as I read each issue. All in all, I recommend this, especially if you enjoy your events because I feel this promises to be a lot of fun with a lot riding on it, particularly for us Bat-fans.
Forever Evil #1:
Reviewed by Joe Jinks