Geoff Johns is, as we already knew, orchestrating serial events, now in the New 52 as he did for much of the past several years beginning with Infinite Crisis. Trinity War led right into Forever Evil, and it's long been apparent that another event would take the baton, in due time, from this one.
While it followed many familiar patterns from pre-Flashpoint continuity, Forever Evil ended on an original note, or at the very least blended a large number of stories we'd seen before. Johns did some of his most inventive work in creating or adapting new characters in his reimagined Crime Syndicate, although most of that squad, save its own Trinity, is now dead.
Probably the single greatest surprise of the series is that the heavy hitters of the Justice League did absolutely nothing to defeat the big bads. Batman and Cyborg played supporting roles in the victory, but most of the Leaguers needed to be saved themselves, thereby disproving the old adage that every major DC event ends with Superman punching something.
The event's possible death was teased but Dick Grayson literally came back from the dead. We've seen the death of the Nightwing character, but DC's ninth-oldest superhero lives to fight another day.
The great original stroke of the series is that a group of classic super villains saved the day, not in a supporting role, but doing almost all of the heavy lifting. Luthor prevailed as the central figure, leading the more powerful members of his team, slaying two members of the Crime Syndicate, and single-handedly saving Dick Grayson, Batman, and Superman. This leads to Luthor asking for JLA membership in Justice League #30, seizing to capitalize on his role as a human savior with no superhuman powers.
But, despite Luthor's plausible story while lassoed by Wonder Woman, is this all just an act? Luthor surely has the ability, whether with self hypnosis or some other means, to fake his way around that test. The older story guiding the narrative here might be 1961's "Death of Superman" story in which Luthor pretends, over an extended period of time, to turn good in order to lure Superman into a death trap. Despite outward appearances, perhaps Luthor is doing so here. Evidence of this is his unilateral invitation of Shazam to join the Justice League despite his ongoing disdain of superpowered beings. Maybe Shazam's strength will be utilized by Luthor in a future devastating strike against the Justice League. This would hearken to another existing story in which Luthor used a mind-controlled Shazam as a weapon against Superman, Kingdom Come. The richest possibilties might be for the story to explore Luthor as a hero for several months, then have him find out, to his own surprise, that he'd been acting that way as a ruse involving self hypnosis, with the heroes struggling to fend off his betrayal.
Johns was also used misdirection in his clues regarding the bigger threat to come. While it seemed all along (and still does, to Superman at least) that Darkseid was the threat behind Earth Three's destruction, we find out at the end that the Anti-Monitor is the muscle behind the event, but someone still unknown is the mastermind. This is in keeping with Johns' love of throwing the biggest villains into a surprise reveal, and he's used the Anti-Monitor for this purpose before, with one page at the end of Sinestro Corps War Special #1 containing Sinestro, Parallax, Superboy Prime, Cyborg Superman, the Manhunters, and the Anti-Monitor. Johns also used the Anti-Monitor in Blackest Night. Here, we see a war of unsurpassable proportions building: The Anti-Monitor and his unseen master are planning an attack against Darkseid. In order to gain power for these attacks, he consumes the energy of a positive-matter universe, and he began with Earth Three. As I observed in an earlier post, destroying Earth Three is precisely how Crisis on Infinite Earths began, so Johns is setting up a sequel to that event. For those who are keeping score in the New 52, Darkseid has been turned away from an attack on Earth Prime, and has devastated Earth Two, nearly conquering it. Now we see that his nemesis has taken Earth Three for its sheer energy, and we have the makings of a battle that could carry over to any of the 49 other Earths as well.
Again, we see Johns riffing on older stories on an unprecedented level, as even Infinite Crisis was a sequel to COIE. Forever Evil #7 managed to remix old themes just enough to avoid the series being a forgettable retelling of ideas we'd seen before. Johns continues to keep interest going, but he's teetering on the edge of a Crisis of Infinite Story Recycling.