When DC Comics first announced Forever Evil, the company’s first universe-wide event since the New 52 reboot, I was excited, but more than a bit worried. It wasn’t that I didn’t think DC could pull off finishing the story they began in Forever Evil #1. The epic of the Crime Syndicate’s journey from Earth 3 to the New 52 Earth (I’m not sure what the official name for that is…Earth 0?) and the fall of the heroes we all know and love had enough on its own to make for a great story. No, my worry came from how DC was going to fill the pages of the enormous amount of tie-in titles Forever Evil includes. No less than three separate new titles and everything from Constantine to Pandora to all three Justice League books will be stamped with the Forever Evil moniker for months to come. That is a whole lot of pages to fill with Forever Evil goodness, and the main Forever Evil title may suffer because of it. We may have a long way to go before Forever Evil and its multitudes of tie-ins gives us the ultimate verdict on how DC balanced all this, but Justice League issue #24, an early Forever Evil tie-in, did not fail to impress.
The book benefits greatly from the fact that issue #24 is written by Geoff Johns, the same scribe of the Forever Evil title itself, assuring that the writer at least understands the overall story being told. And, boy, does Johns get it! The plot has nice elements that push the overall Forever Evil story along quite nicely, but that isn’t the main focus of the issue. Johns inherently understands that the truly intriguing aspect of the entire Forever Evil story-line up to this very early point is the Crime Syndicate itself, and the writer finds a perfect balance between giving us that backstory and guiding the current one. The book opens up on a doomed planet and a couple hoping to save their infant son from imminent doom. A familiar story, right? Yeah, except this is not the Superman origin story, it’s the twisted tale of the Crime Syndicate’s own version of Supes, Ultraman, and his similar, yet much more sinister, origin, and it’s all so uniquely compelling. While we get to see the earliest moments of Ultraman’s life; wonderfully showing how the character was destined for evilness from the cradle; his later years; portraying duplicate, and not nearly as nice, versions of Ma and Pa Kent; further cement the disturbing nature of the character, and Ultraman’s brutal treatment of “Earth 0’s” Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane leave no doubts that we are dealing with a megalomaniacal psychopath with the power of Superman. This culminates nicely as The New 52’s resident megalomaniacal psychopath, Black Adam, shows up to teach Ultraman a lesson in cruelty. The issue ends as Black Adam, not Ultraman, may be the one getting the lesson. The art is simply amazing, and penciler Ivan Reis does not disappoint as his consistent artwork brilliantly captures the emotions of each and every character, from the confident look of an infant Ultraman to the rage of a Black Adam determined to rid his world of interlopers, and everything in between. The cover, hearkening back to Justice League issue 1, was not only brilliantly drawn, but acted as a really fun complement to the overall story.
First, let me get this out of the way: I wish I had something negative to say about the art, but I don’t. It’s just spectacular work from the first panel, remains consistently brilliant throughout, and shines in the beautiful, yet sporadic, epic full-page spreads. The art is almost TOO good, but that’s more of a complaint on every other book, not Justice League #24. While the characters that make up the Crime Syndicate are very interesting, and I want to know more about them, I’m not sure if JL can keep up the pace of giving us individual tidbits of Crime Syndicate members’ backstories without getting bogged down in the Forever Evil event title itself. The timing and pace of one or the other may suffer because of this reliance on giving readers what they want: More of the Crime Syndicate. That certainly takes nothing away from this single issue, but it is a worthwhile concern as the title moves forward with the main event book. Another problem I had with the issue occurred in only a single panel showing a scene very reminiscent of Madame Zanadu’s vision way back in the beginning or Trinity War. Madame Z’s vision starred the trinity we all know – Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman – not these Injustice League rejects from Earth 3. Confused much? Yes! Yes I am!
This may come as a surprise, but if you are reading Forever Evil you do not necessarily want to read this title. There are a few points in the issue that directly relate to things going on in Forever Evil, but it is definitely not “required reading” needed to enjoy the event, and barely adds anything meaningful to Forever Evil. This issue is definitely for anyone interested in the individual members of the Crime Syndicate themselves, and, if the book keeps to the trend of issue 24, JL should continue to give us some great insight into not only what these characters are up to as part of the overall Forever Evil event, but also the sordid past of these evil beings. Justice League issue #24 does not fail to meet the expectations of fans of the Forever Evil event, but doesn’t really hang its hat on the event either. There’s plenty there for everyone, that “plenty” is very well told, and the promise of this book in the future of the overall event makes this issue well worth picking up. If you’re not sold on the whole Forever Evil deal don’t give this a second look. If you’re even the least bit interested in the event, however, Justice League #24 may still not be worth getting as it doesn’t seem very integral to the event. If you are a huge fan of the Crime Syndicate, however, make sure to leave enough room for Justice League #24 in your weekly stack.