It took 9 long months, but it finally happened. Forever Evil #7 hit comic shops last week signifying the bitter end of DC’s latest universe-wide event, and although the epic was full of great moment after great moment, a clunky start and one very untimely delay did a whole lot to derail this otherwise exciting roller-coaster ride of a blockbuster event.
Although Forever Evil #1 was released on September 4th, 2013, you have to go way back to Free Comic Book Day 2012 and DC’s The New 52 Free Comic Book Day Special Edition #1 to get to the real start of this ambitious series of events. That’s right, Forever Evil was nothing more than a single part of a much larger plan for DC Comics, a plan that we’re still currently seeing DC implement. In this FCBD issue we get new insights into Pandora, The Phantom Stranger, and The Question’s punishments before the Council of Eternity, as well as a foreshadowing of DC’s Trinity War, an event that promised a lot, but only delivered one thing: Another event.
I know a lot of people who had a huge problem with Trinity War, and not really because of what it was, but because of what they assumed it would be, and people just hate being wrong. While I like to think of it more as a surprise, many assumed that the “Trinity” in Trinity War was a reference to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, or the new Trinity of Sin characters Pandora, The Phantom Stranger, and The Question, while still others assumed it referred to the three distinct Justice League teams of the DCU, The Justice League, The Justice League of America, and The Justice League Dark, with the latter being the most popular of the assumptions, probably due in great part to DC’s solicits for the event suggesting as much. This turned out to be a huge misdirection tactic, and despite the various Justice Leagues fighting over Pandora’s Box, the “Trinity” of the Trinity War shockingly referred to The Outsider’s plan to use Pandora’s Box to simultaneously hamstring all three Justice Leagues while bringing the Earth-3 incarnation of the Justice League into the New 52. “Trinity” always referred to the three of Earth-3, and never really had anything to do with the Trinity of Sin, Bats, Supes, and WW, or the 3 Leagues, and the misdirection meant to surprise was missed by many readers who simply couldn’t get over the fact that they had made a wrong guess. Admittedly, Trinity War was not the most interesting read ever written, but that page reveal of the Crime Syndicate standing in the DCU-proper was awesome, and made everything that came after it an exciting proposal. Well, almost everything.
With the release of Forever Evil #1 on September 4th, 2013, DC Comics also started a promotional campaign that seems to be turning into a DC Comics trend. During this premiere month for the event, DC halted their regular publishing line and released 52 comics starring the best and worst of DC’s villains. 3-D lenticular covers and fan-favorite villainous characters helped push this promotional stunt to success, and while most of the issues had absolutely nothing to do with the Forever Evil event overall, it was a new and different approach to selling and publishing comics, and the buzz that came along with the month-long endeavor helped to solidify the event as something special. Although this wasn’t enough to make Forever Evil anything more than some cool elements and even cooler moments wrapped up in a less than perfect event, as a single block in a bigger foundation, Forever Evil has changed the status quo in the DCU for the foreseeable future.
There were some really fun things going on within the pages of Forever Evil, as well as in the tie-ins surrounding the event. The members of the Crime Syndicate itself were wonderfully depicted, and from Ultraman’s Kryptonite addiction, Grid’s quest for emotions, Johny Quick and Atomica’s Bonnie & Clyde-esque relationship, Power Ring’s problems with his…well, Power Ring, and Superwoman’s love quadrangle and baby-daddy issues did a great job of making these carbon-copy character knockoffs more than simply carbon-copy character knockoffs. The kidnapping and outing to the world of Nightwing as Dick Grayson did a great job of establishing the Crime Syndicate as villains that were willing to go above and beyond what DC’s usual batch of badguys were willing to do. The mystery of the hooded man was an interesting element of the event, albeit a telegraphed aspect of the end of the series, and seeing long-time Lex Luthor cohorts Otis and Bizzaro was fun. Although Cyborg’s destruction at the beginning of the event left me bewildered at the repairs and upgrades he receives later on, the whole Firestorm Matrix prison that entrapped the Justice League was an ingenious plot device, but seemed a bit drawn-out as the overarching story-element of the Justice League of America tie-in arc. Despite the awesomeness that surrounded Lex’s Injustice League team of Captain Cold, Bizzaro, Black Manta, Black Adam, and Lex himself, the happenstance that lead to each members’ joining the team seemed forced. Batman with a Yellow Lantern Ring, Sinestro making an appearance, Lex and Bats team-up, Dick’s death and resurrection, Captain Cold putting it to Johnny Quick, the reveal of the hooded man as Alexander Luthor as the power stealing Mazahs, and the fun moments and universe-redefining end of issue #7 of Forever Evil were quite enjoyable, but the changes to the status quo felt lost on a single character, Lex Luthor, and a single title, Justice League, than found to be universe-changing.
While Forever Evil excels when it comes to interesting moments that make for blockbuster comic book events, the overarching plot devices that defined the actual story of Forever Evil were telegraphed from the beginning of the event, leaving readers wanting by the end. With the first issue reveal of a hooded man and the suggestion that he holds a certain amount of power over the Crime Syndicate let the cat out of the bag early in this event, and it wasn’t hard to guess that Lex Luthor would be at the center of overthrowing the Syndicate by the end of it all. Additionally, there were plenty of unexplained WTF moments in this series that left readers scratching their heads. Despite Cyborg being held together by nothing more than the green hue of a Green Lantern’s ring, Batman and Catwoman seem to have no problem taking Victor’s lifeless, useless, Cyborg-free body to the Red Room for repairs. It was very-well established that Victor dies without his cyborg implants, and as much sense as using Green Lantern’s power to keep him alive makes, him staying alive long enough for Batman to get him to the shop for repairs makes absolutely none. Then we have the convenient meetup of the Injustice League, with Lex and Bizzaro in the perfect location to see Black Adam get beat up by Ultraman without Ultraman seeing them, Black Manta in the perfect position to drag Black Adam out of the ocean, and Captain Cold just happening to get away from a fight he had no business getting away from way too close to Lex and Bizarro to make any damned sense at all. The biggest hurdle tripping up this event, however, had nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with boring tie-ins and untimely delays. Although the Justice League tie-ins starring the individual members of the Crime Syndicate were the shining stars of the tie-ins, the separate stories being told in Justice League of America the Dark family of DC titles, and just about every other DC comic fell flat on several levels. Justice League of America dealt with the Firestorm matrix prison that entrapped most of the JL members, and although the tie-in had some great elements, Martian Manhunter and Stargirl’s adventure was confusing, felt unimportant, and dragged for at least 3 issues too many than it should have. I understand why the story was part of the overall event, I’m just not sure it should have been. That same unimportant tone was heard in the Dark tie-in story known as Blight, and although it explored interesting details of how the Syndicate dealt with magic-using characters of the DCU, the 18-part, 4-title-spanning epic within an epic was way too unwieldy and uneventful to be anywhere close to entertaining. Although the Arkham War and Suicide Squad tie-ins were way better than the others, by the end of the Forever Evil event itself they felt worthless and horribly useless in light of the new status quo established by the supported event. Furthermore, the almost two month delay of the release of the last issue, which in turn caused delays for most of the tie-in books, was an inexcusable circumstance when it comes to comic book events. Any steam that had been building to the climactic ending of Forever Evil escaped during this two month hiatus, and the ultimate end of the series that did nothing but setup yet another event was intriguing, but only for what may come after Forever Evil, and did nothing to remedy the mediocrity of the event as a whole.
When one judges Forever Evil based on its standing as a comic book event it loses much of its appeal due to underlying plot holes, bad tie-ins, and the use of gimmicky character moments that were the only driving force of the series from issue to issue. But Forever Evil isn’t just a single event. It’s only a small portion of something much bigger going on at DC, and we’ve been seeing that something bigger in the form of DC’s weekly event Futures End. Without Trinity War there is no Forever Evil, and without Forever Evil there simply is no Futures End. While we have yet to know for sure just how good Futures End will end up being, the very fact that DC is taking a chance with something so epic and all-encompassing is a great approach for a publisher that has been losing to Marvel when it comes to big events. Septembers are another piece of evidence that points to a categorical change to the way DC handles events, and while September 2013 saw DC make waves with Villain’s Month, September 2014 sees a similar month-long event with a series of one-shot issues featuring 3-D lenticular covers. Do you see the same trend I’m seeing? After the entire plan DC has implemented comes to fruition it may be a different story for Forever Evil, but, until that day comes, I have to score it as it is now, and wait for any future context to build itself. Perhaps, someday, Forever Evil will seem better than it was, but that day is not today.
Story: 2 Out of 5
Art: 3 Out of 5
Overall: 2.5 Out of 5