Forever Evil #7
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by David Finch, Richard Friend, and Sonia Oback.
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
As DC’s latest summer blockbuster Future’s End starts to ramp up, it is easy to forget that the company still has yet another event delivering its finale. Forever Evil from the start was billed as a game-changing event for the DC Universe as the Justice League was declared dead and the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 staked their claim to our Earth, never counting on the possibility that some of DC’s greatest villains would fill the void left by the missing Justice League and start to fight back against their vicious rule. While Geoff Johns and his team may have stumbled more than once within the pages of this event, I am elated to report that Forever Evil #7 delivers a mostly satisfying, albeit a bit rote in places, finale to the New 52's version of The Day Evil Won.
Forever Evil #7 chronicles the last, desperate push of Ultraman as he attempts for a final time to kill his enemies and conquer Earth Prime. Standing in his way however is the reawakened Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 and Lex Luthor’s ragtag group of a Justice League made up of characters that have all at one point sat at the table of the Legion of Doom. It is here that the comic really soars. Johns, a writer who proven his mettle delivering deftly handled character work, displays this inherent talent once again in the voices of Lex, his team, and the Crime Syndicate. His Ultraman is a genocidal junkie who is becoming more desperate by the second, his Captain Cold is a petty thief suddenly finding himself thrust into a situation worlds beyond his pay grade and power level, and his nightmare version of the Big Three - Luthor, Sinestro and Black Adam - carry with them a nobility and ruthless pragmatism toward the task at hand. The heroes had their turn and lost - now it's time for something completely different.
These scenes are further elevated with the freshly revealed big bad, Alexander Luthor, making his New 52 debut. A character who left plenty of scars on the pre-New 52 DC Universe here adds an extra layer of weirdness, as well as a credible, completely insane foe for the antiheroes to face. The only other character that could have possibly topped him would be Superboy-Prime, and judging from the direction that Forever Evil #7 takes throughout (and the doozy of a last page), it would not be surprising if that lunatic started menacing the New 52 soon. Its refreshing to see that Geoff Johns is still completely willing to lean into the more cosmic and metaphysical concepts of the DC Universe, opening up all new doors for the New 52 as a whole in the process.
It's with the finale’s B-story that Forever Evil #8 suffers. While the Luthor vs. Luthor scenes soar with a dizzying energy, the thread of the still in play actual heroes, Batman, Catwoman, Cyborg and Nightwing attempting to free the trapped Justice League from the Firestorm Matrix drags the book down to a crawl. These scenes are necessary, of course, because while Johns is having a blast pitting evil against evil, he has to resolve what has been this event’s central Mystery Box from the very start. Balance has to be restored no matter what, lest fans cry foul, and while it’s always fun to see Batman square off against his psychopathic counterpart, Owlman, it just distracts from the fun of the villains underhandedly saving the Earth. The Justice League, as a whole, has barely lifted a finger. Part of the overall enjoyment of Forever Evil was seeing how a different set of characters with morally ambiguous ideas about justice would handle a huge, global catastrophe like this. We all knew that the League proper would be back soon enough, and kudos to Johns for keeping the majority of the League, save for a few fan favorites, out of action, which added to novelty and later glee of seeing how the Legion of Doom would save the Earth, without the support of the full League. These scenes just felt like table setting for reestablishing the Justice League going forward.
David Finch displays here a level of raw emotion that we haven’t since the opening arc of New Avengers, breaking away from the stilted violence of the early issues and bringing Forever Evil #7 to a close with heavily charged emotion. Backed by the thick inks of Richard Friend and the mutedly vibrant colors of Sonia Oback, Finch gets yet another chance to just completely let loose in terms of action and emotive storytelling. The final showdown between Alexander, Sinestro, Black Adam and Lex feel visceral and fast-paced, each blow landing with a stunning thud and every bolt of lightening sizzling across the panel. Finch also makes a meal of the various emotional moments and bits of black humor peppered through Forever Evil #7, especially the death of Bizarro, which lends an extra level of humanity onto Johns’ Machiavellian take on Luthor. Finch also nails Captain Cold’s hangdog expression as he wishes that he could fly. There are a lot of quiet moments in this comic that work largely due to this unfettered art team.
The day has been saved, and Ultraman won’t stop sobbing in his cell. Geoff Johns took a huge risk launching Forever Evil directly out of the events of Trinity War, but after what has seemed like too long, Johns and his art team have delivered a largely satisfying final volley in the war against Earth-3. With the opening issues of Future’s End on shelves, the pressure must have been on Johns to deliver a solid finale to yet another major arc in his ambitious Justice League run. This could have been a complete misfire, but by relying on the character work that made his career, Johns hits the landing with confidence. The question is now, where do we go from here? Luthor and his merry band of miscreants have now proven that they can do everything the Justice League, but with ruthless efficiency. Is this the start of a paradigm shift in the New 52? Plus, what other fresh hell lurks in the folds of the Multiverse just waiting to strike Earth-Prime? Only time will tell, but if Forever Evil #7 has taught us anything, it is expect anything and everything.
Justice League #30
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Scott Hanna and Rod Reis
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's... Lex Luthor?
And don't bother getting up. He's just making himself comfortable.
Following the conclusion of Forever Evil, the bad guys are getting their just desserts - and in the case of Lex Luthor, that means public accolades and a fresh start. So what if the Justice League doesn't trust him? So what if Superman wants to put him in jail, or if Wonder Woman wants to put a sword in his throat? Geoff Johns gives Earth's mightiest superheroes the shake-up they need after getting caught napping on the job by the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, delivering an idea - like the romance of Superman and Wonder Woman before it - that might just be crazy enough to work.
For the most part, this issue is just catch-up and set-up - not that that will be necessary to most readers, given that Forever Evil #7 is also out today, but it's a good sentiment nonetheless, particularly for any readers who might be ditching DC's megaseries out of principle. There's not too much action in this issue, but when there is, Johns makes it count - there's a dynamic opening sequence establishing this crazy new status quo, all before he goes back to show how DC's most famous bald egomaniac managed to weasel his way into the world's greatest superteam. The character work here also comes across as very smooth, especially the way that both Superman and Batman are riled up in the wake of Lex Luthor's rising approval scores. There's a nice little beat in here with Wonder Woman and the Flash that also shows that this isn't a team that always agrees - on the contrary, there are some very, very different world views and perspectives to match the League's diverse set of powers.
But Johns clearly isn't ready to let go of his Forever Evil buzz yet, which is why Lex Luthor absolutely steals the show with every scene. Whether it's snottily submitting to a lie detector test with Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth or the surprising leverage he has on Batman, Luthor is the irritant this team has needed since its reboot, especially since Batman is a de facto leader of the team. Lex Luthor is the team's combination of Iron Man and Wolverine, the guy that nobody likes but has to admit has his uses. Unfortunately, once Lex leaves, the book does deflate a bit in his absence, even as Johns reminds us of some dangling threads from Forever Evil that the League will likely have to deal with soon.
The artistic tag-team between Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke is effective, providing two different but altogether exciting styles, as well as a great cast of characters to utilize them on. Reis takes the front section of the book, providing a bright, classic sensibility in the wake of all the death and destruction of Forever Evil (although the eerie darkness of Batman's eyes is a nice touch). Mahnke, however, handles all the big emotional moments with his scene featuring Lex and the new Watchtower, and it's nice to see moments like Superman coldly staring at his arch-nemesis, or the Flash subtly holding back Wonder Woman from possibly hanging Lex up by her lasso. Rod Reis's colorwork not only binds the two art styles together nicely (along with Scott Hanna's inks), but they lend a nice real-world weight to each scene.
While some readers would probably like to see a bit more action - particularly since our heroes have been sidelined for so long - I'd say that Johns, Reis and Mahnke are on the right track for a fun new chapter in the lives of the Justice League. Lex Luthor, along with less defined newbies Captain Cold and Shazam, bring a new flavor and dynamic to a team that has long needed some stability. As much as cribbing off the Avengers film was fun, the original Leaguers were a little too heroic to really be believed to be bickering and infighting. But including some villains and untested heroes to the mix? That's a tactic we haven't seen much of in the DC universe. Maybe Lex Luthor is the hero we deserve right now.