Thursday, December 26, 2013

Forever Evil #1-4

As a homicidal Superman from an alternate universe rages unstoppably across the pages of a DC company-wide event, he is met by a confident Black Adam, who finds himself easily swatted away and the menacing alternate Superman continues unchecked.

That was a powerful dramatic moment in Forever Evil #3, penned by Geoff Johns. And the same description applies to a powerful dramatic moment in Infinite Crisis #6, penned by Geoff Johns. In the earlier story, the alternate Superman was Superboy Prime; in the more recent one, 7 and a half years later, the alternate Superman was Ultraman. Both stories have a primary menace from Earth Three, and a lot of the same characters on stage for a seven-issue event. One recalls art critic David Quantick's quotation "Pop will eat itself." Maybe Geoff Johns' company-wide events will eat themselves, too.

The New 52, or DCnU, is a reboot of the post-Infinite Crisis universe which began in the very issue I cited above. In many ways, it's a hard reboot, but as an allusion to the Sinestro Corps War (another company-wide event by Geoff Johns) reminds us, major portions of previous history are still in continuity. This messy blend between hard reboot and soft reboot don't improve the reading experience. We're reminded that Batman briefly wore a yellow power ring, but within pages of this, we are shown Catwoman marveling over being invited into the Batcave. Perhaps once that was a shocking moment, but in extremely recent DC history, that was old news. Likewise, to see that Batman had prepared a countermeasure for each member of the JLA was a striking moment back in Mark Waid's JLA story Tower of Babel.

As Forever Evil continues, we see familiar plot devices that are still in continuity, having survived the Flashpoint reboot. We see other familiar plot devices that are "new" to the characters but old to us, and as the two kinds of scene intersperse, I find myself asking if I'm supposed to be thinking "Oh, yeah" or "Hey, wow!" and gradually ceasing to feel invested in the story.

When this story began as Trinity War, I felt like many scenes were excellent, showing us the DCnU in fascinating scenes, with J'onn J'onzz and Shazam confronting Superman for the "first" time. It was clear in these scenes that their meetings were unfolding in very different ways from the previous continuity, and with better characterization this time around. As Trinity War gave way to Forever Evil, there's been less that's in any sense new, and more rehash of old themes.

It doesn't have to be this way. In a sense, the DCnU began in the mid-2000s with Geoff Johns showing succinct flashbacks (in Blackest Night, among other places) to early DC history that took the facts from the 1960s JLA (the same lineup, costumes, and villains) but adding the richer characterization that didn't exist in the 1960s. And so we see egos clashing as several Alpha males (and one Alpha female) had to find a new dynamic where none could dominate the others. This was new. This added something to the lore, making it better. Forever Evil dabbles in adding new things to the lore, but it feels like the tires are stuck in old ruts and will follow the same paths we've been led down before.

Perhaps there is a grander payoff in store. This story began with the destruction of Earth Three. It is hard to overlook the fact that a central element in DC lore, Crisis on Infinite Earths, also began with the destruction of Earth Three. In both cases, a common enemy bent on the destruction of everything that wasn't his destroyed the world of the Crime Syndicate before posing a threat to the worlds of our heroes later on. This itself was a grand thematic gesture, as it was the introduction of Earth Three back in 1964 that gave us the notion of a vast multiverse (and not just a pair of alternate universes).

If Johns is starting off with Earth Three in order to take the older story and reinvent it, with Darkseid now taking a role like that which the Anti-Monitor played before, we may be in the middle chapters of a series of events which will turn into a longer epic that adds to the existing lore instead of merely repeating it. If so, then Forever Evil, at least the earlier portions of it, may be recorded as a doldrum in a grand, memorable story.

If, however, we see in predictable fashion, the Justice Leagues escape from their prison, the forces of Luthor and Batman gradually gain in power before winning a climactic fistfight against the Crime Syndicate, then I'm going to have to question if following this epic was more entertaining than pulling old issues out of my collection to re-read stories that were at least original when they were new.


  1. As usual, succinct review. The transition from Post-Crisis, to Post-Infinite Crisis, to DCnU(52) has been incredibly awkward, IMO. I personally have no problem with rewriting/revising/altering "continuity" or canon -- so long as it serves a purpose. Unfortunately the New 52 "reboot" thus far, over two years in, has yielded little in the way of characters or stories that significantly add new ideas to the DCU.

    Like Rikdad, I'm hopeful we'll see a long-term payoff with Johns storytelling. I thought the aforementioned efforts from the late-90s onward to revise, reincorporate, and revitalize the Golden Age characters was laudable and entertaining. (Many will recall that Zero Hour was DC's 1994 attempt at undoing some of the Post-Crisis alterations. Johns seemingly took the process to a tidy conclusion in Infinite Crisis.

    In contrast, Grant Morrison's 2008 Final Crisis was awkwardly titled. It had almost no connection to either of the prior Crises. It did offer up a measure of "finality" insofar as tied into the deaths of the New Gods, the end of Kirby's "Fourth Age," and showcased the defeat and death of Darkseid, the "god of evil" in the DCU. If ever there had been an opportune time to hit the reset button on the DCU, 2009 would have been it from a storytelling standpoint. Instead, the Post-Final Crisis DCU muddled along for another two-and-a-half years until September 2011. (That is not to say that there were not good stories told during that period; just none of significant consequences to the DCU outside of Johns' Green Lantern stories such as Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, and to a lesser extent, Morrison's ongoing Bat-epic.

    And now... Darkseid is back. And he is seemingly the Big Bad of the DCU. Again. But I must reiterate: I have no problem with this. But as Rikdad notes, we're so far witnessing a retelling and co-mingling of a number of classic and notable DCU characters and stories. I've enjoyed the re-introduction of the modern Crime Syndicate.

    ***SPOILER for Scott Snyder's "Court of Owls" follows***

    The appearance of Earth 3's Owlman (a patricidal Thomas Wayne, Jr., who also kills his younger brother, Bruce) to some extent confuses the reintroduction of of Thomas Wayne, Jr., who also adopts the identity of a villainous Owlman, in Snyder's Court of Owls story from 2011-12. (Snyder seeded some ambiguity as to whether the self-identified Jr.'s identity and origin were real or not.)

    In any event, it's easy to see, given all these recurring characters and story elements how DC is wrestling with the weight of its history and the desire to do something new and surprising. We'll have to wait and see if Forever Evil (or what comes after) achieves that balance.

    In the meantime, I would note that Morrison's ouroboros conceit, the proverbial snake eating it's own tail, never seemed more appropriate.

  2. Great to read your blog rikdad! My interest in forever evil is waning but I read issue four just cause you blogged this. Ultraman teased a potential COIE situation which could be exciting, especially if it brings the old 52 back lol

  3. enjoyed this post on Forever Evil. As an amateur collector, I'm not particularly familiar with any introductions Earth Three might have had before the New 52, and I'm hoping the final 3 issues in the story arc prove to be more than just a predictable sequence of the Justice League breaking out to face the Crime Syndicate in an epic fight. Also interested in seeing what's to become of Dick Grayson.

  4. Greetings Rikdad! I enjoy your wisdom and insight. Always a great read. I am among the regulars of the old DCMB like yourself and migrated to DCU Guide that is a great imitation with a lot of the old faces. I would like to extend an invitation to the Forum and hope to see your insight continue there if you are up to it.

  5. The "Damien Son of Batman" mini wrapped up yesterday. I may have to read it all at once, but it seemed to.. just..end. It was something of a confusing piece, and I'd love your take on it.

  6. Thanks to all for the comments.
    I thought I'd note here, in case it hasn't been said elsewhere, that the central role of Darkseid in the near-destruction of Earth 2 is quite parallel to the successful attack on Earth 3 and the much less successful attack on Earth "1" (0?)

    I very much, agree, Michael -- I think we can envision the easy ending as you say, and it would be a letdown if it's that predictable.

  7. Hi Mike, and thanks for the invite. I will surely be turning that way soon, although I've been on the one hand pretty busy and on the other actually following pretty few DC series right now. But I'm sure that'll turn around.

    Incidentally, I recently read, among many other things, about the second half of the original JSA run in All Star Comics from about 1947-1952, and then the entire JSA series from 2006-2011. Interesting stuff. And I've got a few ideas for posts here, also on older material. When I'm thinking about more current things, I'll check out newdcuwiki.

  8. I am currently reading just two Batgirl and Green Lantern. As soon as Green Lantern went from "why I am reading this?" to "not bad, kinda interesting" Batgirl flip floped with it. I go on there for general comic conversations and the back issue bin. I am the guy who runs the Pre-risis Batman/Detective thread if you recall it over in Batman. I would actually perfer reading your write ups of older material. I like mid 60s to mid 80s' best but Golden Age is something I have taken more of an inertesr in through reading through the JLA/JSA team ups between 1963-1985. Hope to see you around soon. I have actually visited that site longer than been a member over at dc comics's message boards. It has a comprehensive list of characters and appearances list/chronology which I at one point based purchases of back issues on.

  9. Hello, I know this is far from topic but I do hope that you are watching True Detective, very much feels like a lot of influence of Morrison's work paired with x-files, any cop csi drama, it's too bad it's only 8 episodes and almost over but it's pretty special. - @kukheart

  10. Hi Kukheart!
    I did watch Season 1 of True Detective, and it certainly reminded me a bit of Morrison's three longer Batman runs. I'll avoid spoilers for those who might catch it later. One difference, owing to the medium: It had live actors in it, and they were terrific!

  11. An update to some of the thoughts I expressed in this piece: One one recent release day, I read Injustice: Gods Above and then Forever Evil, and I had to stop myself from confusing the plots, as both had Sinestro encounter a "bad" Superman on Earth, with different outcomes. The cannibalism of plots is at a bad state when two comics appearing the same week have such uncoordinated similarity.

  12. Remember Nightwing#116 and Inifinit Crisis#4? The NW issue had Dick faint upon Bruce arriving while Inifinite Crisis had DIck overlooking the ruins of Bludhaven when Bruce arrived. Some things never change.Continuity is a blessing and a curse. Hope you sign up on DCU Guide Forums!