Review: 'Forever Evil #6' Proves That Baddies Do It BetterA comic review article by: Shawn Hill, Jamil Scalese
Jamil Scalese: Back in December I dubbed Forever Evil one of the top miniseries of 2013 based on the body of work of three issues. I did so with some trepidation. Quite honestly, DC's first major crossover post-New 52 didn't deserve such an accolade at that point in time. Conceptually, it's a blast, but when I consider the potential of villain-centric comics I'm a little upset at how staggered this series has unfolded.The early parts only worked to set up tie-ins and the middle has taken its good ol' time getting to the point.
For the bulk of five issues Snail Luthor and his band of assassins, psychos and freaks have trudged along to reluctant heroism twenty pages at a time and Forever Evil #6 marks the point where all the various subplots converge. The ensuing fireworks show is enough to make you forget you spent 90 minutes in standstill traffic to get there.
Shawn, I'm pretty sure we share an affinity for the Crime Syndicate, so before we delve into the specifics of this issue I'm curious: has this event-style miniseries met your expectations? Are you feeling me on the pacing issues?
Shawn Hill: Has it really been going on for so long? The Ascendancy of the Villains seems so long ago, and such an anti-climax as it only happened outside of their major titles. What’s the legacy of that event now? This book, and the Joker’s Daughter? I know I’ve lost interest, and the speculator market may have, too, to judge by back issue prices.
Yes, I love the Crime Syndicate. I’ve always been fascinated by the evil doppelgangers story, and Johns has managed to spill out some new nuances on just how messed up Earth S (is it still Earth S?) is and what sort of freakazoids populate it. I’ve rather liked the depravity of this series, it’s not just for shock’s safe like Finch’s last foray into similar material (ugh, Ultimatum, shudder!); the fact that the Syndicate is fleeing a worse fate and only trying to survive adds a deeper level. And then of course I’ve also enjoyed seeing Johns pit Sinestro against Power Ring. Not only do I suspect he has a greater affinity for our world’s villains, but it’s fun seeing the Ring exist as such a pathetic parody of everything a Lantern is supposed to be.
And of course I’ve detected a subtextual theme in this story that I’ve enjoyed, that of fathers and sons. Luthor with B-Zero, and this issue so very much Batman with Dick. Even Sinestro’s battle with Power Ring was about an authority figure finding that an inferior man didn’t measure up. Then given the impending future of Ultraman and Superwoman … Johns actually has a point to this story! Of course, then this issue complicates all that, with a last minute reveal that, though sort of thrilling, seems to too closely mirror a previous Johns disaster-piece: Infinite Crisis.
Jamil: That’s a pretty savvy point on the fatherhood aspect. To take it a step further the focus on power dynamics in relationships also serves as a large motif. Everyone in this series is vying for control or holding dominance over someone else. Some places that’s working is Batman’s forced partnership with the Lex Luthor, and the tension between Ultraman and Owlman. One place it isn't is the whole Nightwing hostage thing, which we'll get to.
I think you are very right about Johns having a soft spot for the bad guys. You can at least pick that up from as many times as he’s tried to show us how badass Captain Cold is. I believe Geoff Johns shares a certain kinship with fans in that he is an unabashed nerd, that is, he isn't shy about catering to our needs. There are many great writers in the medium these days, but Johns always manages to deliver in regard to fun, sometimes shocking, comics.
His love for DC's villains bleeds through, and that's why, in part, I think he's milked this thing a little. Seeing the world through Lex Luthor's Kryptonite-tinted glasses has been a blast. Luthor is simply one of the company's best characters, hero, villain or otherwise, and the focus on his wants, dreams and fears is a fairly enthralling read. Crowning him the prime protagonist makes even more sense with the big surprise at the end of the issue.
I'm not going to be coy: the Syndicate’s hooded prisoner is revealed to be Alexander Luthor, Lex's Earth-3 counterpart. Most of comicdom predicted that as soon as he showed up at the end of “Trinity War”. However, Johns puts a really neat, zany and unexpected twist on Alexander's arrival that throws gum in the machine and, maybe for the first time in this series, does something fresh and novel with DC's legendary mythology.
Shawn: Well, Alexander Luthor, in all his guises, isn’t that novel for Johns. Though the way the Syndicate is all scared of him, and how they brought him along anyway is pretty compelling. It does up the complicated nature of what Johns is doing with this New 52 version of the Syndicate. Johns is pretty good at teasing out new twists on established continuity and relationships. I just hope it doesn’t lead where he sometimes gets confounded, with new twists and personalities that belie the complicated histories that went before. His Avengers sojourn years ago still haunts me; sometimes rather than entertaining, he goes for the facile or shocking twist, whether it makes sense or not. The nice thing about the Crime Syndicate is that subtle is something they’ve never been, anyway. Witness the fun this issue of antagonists like Black Adam and Sinestro taking them on so effectively.
Jamil: Let’s not forget the brutal means of dispatch demonstrated by Black Manta and Cold. In small pockets this is a really good comic, though I think you hit on what many feel like is Johns’ biggest heel -- the tendency to lean on the old ideas instead of powering forward with fresh ones.
In Forever Evil #6 I believe the writer does his part to deliver a very good, possibly great, issue, even despite the exterior flaws of series length, publisher climate, etc. Where I really feel like this issue fails is in Finch’s art, which is serviceable, but at crucial times careless and uninspired. The big moment with Cold and Johnny Quick moment looks terribly awkward, and there are sections of panelling toward the end that flow oddly. In some spots, like the intense double splash toward the middle of the book, the quality is exactly as you’d expect, but overall I didn’t love the art team’s effort.
Shawn: I thought the art was typical for Finch: maybe because I enjoy him more on a large cast than just skulking around the Bat-world, I’ve been enjoying it fine. I felt like there was great tension and justice in what happened to Quick, and Atomica trying to infiltrate the Manta’s suit; but you’re right, who was shooting at who was hard to follow at times. I think he was going for surprise, but more wide angle shots might have better established the players. Still, battles are chaotic and there were also great moments like Selina cracking her whip and then B-Zero grabbing it before she hit Lex that had a kind of Jim Lee grace.
As far as Nightwing’s gruesome predicament, I don't have strong feelings on the sense of doom this week. I've enjoyed his weird bonding with Owlman, and I like Bruce's concerned father now. It does seem like Bruce isn’t giving Lex credit where it’s due, but do you think it should have been left up to Dick to escape on his own?
Jamil: The Nightwing situation serves as an unnecessary weight on the plot in general, and while Dick’s “final” fate is still TBD I have no flippin’ clue to purpose of the entire hostage thread.
Why is Batman even in this comic? I thought a tiger’s stripes were supposed to camouflage, so why does DC show them so apparently? The title of this venture is “Forever Evil”, and Batman, last time I checked, isn’t a major DC villain. The publisher’s inability to move away from it’s bread and butter is almost kind of sad. Specific to the plot, I have a really hard time understanding why Grayson isn’t a bloody stain on Johnny Quick’s boot right now, and even though Justice League #25 was an overall great issue the idea that Owlman is keeping Dick alive to fulfill Nega-Dick’s role as sidekick seems farfetched. Would Bruce Wayne ever truly trust an evil Nightwing?
Despite some vital flaws I’m engaged. When DC first announced Forever Evil I felt pure giddy energy run through me. It’s kind of a dream concept, villains versus villains on a supreme scale. Though my interest dissipated over this autumn some of the happenings in this issue pumped me up for the finale.
Bring it on, Syndicate, Alex and mysterious monster from another dimension. In Lex Luthor we trust!
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Somehow that led to him writing the Harvey Kurtzman entry for Icons of the American Comic Book: from Captain America to Wonder Woman (2013). He also writes for Art New England and is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), an NGO of UNESCO.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.