Last month, DC kicked off Forever Evil in a spectacular fashion. But now that the opening chapter’s over, it’s time to get into the action. So, can this event live up to its astonishing first chapter? Well…
This issue is really focused around three separate parties: The Crime Syndicate, the Teen Titans, and Lex Luthor. I’ll start with the Crime Syndicate, because they’re definitely the main attraction of this issue.
We get to see how these characters interact, and as one would expect, they don’t get along very well. There are romances among them, but also secrets and lies. Ultraman rules the group through fear, Johnny Quick and Atomica just want to run wild, Owlman wants order, the Grid’s motives are still murky, and so on. We get a lot of fascinating dialogue from these characters, but the most interesting bit was between Deathstorm and Power Ring, with the latter being dependent on the former just to keep it together.
Look, I’m not racist against skeleton people or anything, but there are limits to who you should trust.
Ultimately what makes the Crime Syndicate so fascinating is that every action they take is filled with tension. You’re just expecting one of these people to go nuts and kill the others at any moment. And it’s fantastic, because they’re the exact opposite of the Justice League Geoff Johns has created in the New 52.
The current Justice League isn’t perfect, but they’re alright for the most part. They’re righteous, genuinely care for and rely on each other, and although they have their own dark sides and often fight and disagree, it’s just because they have different methods which they have some trouble making work together.
The Crime Syndicate is the perfect antithesis of this. They’re despicable, use each other for their own selfish ends, and while the Justice League has some infighting, it’s amazing that these people can stay together at all.
At the same time, they don’t seem entirely evil. Owlman has a compassionate side, although what motivates it is questionable. Power Ring doesn’t really seem outright evil so much as scared and doing whatever it takes for him to feel safe, and while Johnny Quick and Atomica are violent psychopaths, they at least genuinely care for each other. Even Ultraman seems to at the very least have some empathy, so while the Crime Syndicate as a whole is evil and relishes in it, they have some depth themselves, and a lot of threads have been set up here that are sure to be interesting as they develop over the next five months.
The Teen Titans and Lex Luthor’s stories here are much less complicated, but still interesting. With the Justice League gone, Red Robin convinces the rest of the team to step up and fight the Crime Syndicate, and while it goes horribly for them (even the cover and solicits for the book stated that the Teen Titans were going to get their butts handed to them), it’s a fantastic action scene. We get to see just how powerful and terrifying a few of these Crime Syndicate members really are.
Were I of weaker constitution this scene would give me nightmares. It’s still freaky, though.
Lex’s story is more build-up for the rest of the event. With the Justice Leagues gone, he acknowledges that he has to do something about the Crime Syndicate, and starts building up his army against them. In this issue, he only gets one recruit, and while I won’t spoil it here, if you read Lex’s Villains Month one-shot or the specific character’s, it’s pretty obvious who it is.
Johns nails Luthor’s personality to a tee here.
I’d like to comment on the art, but honestly, it’s pretty much all the same things I’ve said about the art in the last issue, and I think that’s going to stay the case for the rest of the event. Overall, the pencils of David Finch, inks of Richard Friend, and colors of Sonia Oback all look good. Everything is bold and intense, and the art especially works during the action sequences, but there are still some moments with bizarre shading.
Speaking of the art team, somebody really needs to tell them that they’re drawing Johnny Quick incorrectly. This is what he looks like in Justice League #23 and how the eventual Forever Evil action figure will look:
It’s kind of like an evil version of Earth 2’s Jay Garrick, which I personally think is a neat touch.
And here’s how he looks in Forever Evil:
I don’t know how such a glaring (and frankly ugly) consistency got past the editors, but this is definitely the kind of thing they should be trying to prevent.
From the story side, there’s one issue that’s actually brought up in the book itself. Red Robin makes mention of this when we first see the Teen Titans.
Where are all the other heroes? I realize that the Justice League, JLA, and JLD all got sent away, and that’s over twenty characters, but there are still other heroes. Ignoring Nightwing and the Teen Titans and assuming that the Gotham-based characters are dealing with the events of Arkham War, you’ve still got the entirety of S.H.A.D.E., Animal Man, Supergirl, Batman Inc., the Movement, the Green Team, and more.
I know that some characters will be addressed in tie-in issues of the various Justice League books, but the general implication of both Villains Month and Forever Evil has been that with the Justice League gone, there are no heroes to stop the Crime Syndicate and Secret Society from running rampant, and that’s simply untrue.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing for this issue (it’s not like they could go around the entire DC Universe and tell you what every character is doing at once, plus you can assume that stuff like “Lights Out” immediately takes the Lantern Corps off the table), but it is an important topic that needs to be addressed at some point down the line.
All said and done, this was still a really good comic. Didn’t quite have the impact of the first issue, and I think it would’ve been nice to see Lex bring together the anti-Syndicate group a bit more, but it’s a great read all the same.
Forever Evil #2 is available from digital and physical retailers for $3.99 USD.