Forever Evil is DC’s is major 2013 event. It concluded, after much delay, in May 2014 and offered important changes to the current state of the DC Universe. The main storyline follows Lex Luthor, from the nearest moment right before Earth 1 is invaded by the calamitous Crime Syndicate of Earth 3. Be warned before you go further, there are spoilers below. Although we tried our best to keep them to a minimum.
As you may have gathered by the covers, Earth 1’s heroes have allegedly fallen and the villains are running amuk from Metropolis to LA, all thanks to an impromptu invasion from Earth 3’s Crime Syndicate.
The Syndicate has brought down the Hall of Justice, its remains in Rhode Island, and at the base of the wreckage a secret meeting for every blackguard in the franchise is held. In exchange for their compliance, the Syndicate presents the cape of Superman, the trident of Aquaman, and the identity of Nightwing. Dick Grayson is unmasked on stage and via a live worldwide broadcast. Any who question or defy this new order are to be eradicated swiftly. An example is made of Monocle, and the rest seem to fall in line. Naturally this new hierarchy doesn’t sit well for Lex Luthor.
The Syndicate continue to make adjustments to earth, as the begin to settle in. Lex ends the first issue on his knees crying out, “This looks like a job for Superman. So where the hell is he?”. Johns then introduces the remaining heroes who’d survived the Syndicates attack, including Batman, who joins Luthor’s ranks. Luthor also teams up with his own Superman clone, B-Zero (Bizarro), Black Manta, Captain Cold, and Black Adam. Together they plot to take down the Syndicate and restore balance along with their own brands of justice.
It is early on revealed that the Syndicate’s motivations for conquering Earth 1 aren’t exactly truthful. They claim to have nothing left on their planet after ruling their own, but it is revealed that they are running from something, are harboring a prisoner whom Ultraman wishes to protect, and have a love triangle which promises to be dealt with harshly. The fabric of the Syndicate is exposed to be weak and getting weaker. It’s a good thing Luthor picked up the world’s greatest detective before facing this particular criminal outfit.
The formula used by writer Geoff Johns is antiquated but effective. His talent for telling heroic tales is undeniable, but Forever Evil boasted a lineup of DC’s most incredulous characters and a heroic story of good versus evil wasn’t exactly what readers may have had in mind. Johns takes the time to establish Lex Luthor, the storyline’s main antihero, as the most ruthless kind of human being. By proxy, the writer is giving parameters to the audience for how vile DC’s underground really is. They kill kittens, they threaten to widow mothers and turn their sons into drug addicts. This isn’t, however, what the story is about.
There is a definite darker tone to this comic. The world is littered with death. All machines are overridden, everyone is completely off the grid. The Syndicate had managed to hack every broadcast and computer in order to control not only what anyone could watch and when, but how Earth’s technology behaves. As a result, Cyborg was split into two, in panels which will make any empathetic reader cringe. Still, it’s not a story about villains being villains, it’s about villains being anti-heroes.
Strategically, the paradigm of good versus evil might be easier to write, but the concept doesn’t exactly scream forever evil. It’d be a refreshing change if DC could take a nod from Marvel (see Magneto), and step away from this formula a bit when presenting titles such as this one. The systematic arc of Hero vs. Villain, or Anti-Hero fights on the side of justice this time, can feel like a failsafe. However, when reading this arc for simply good fun and the core spirit of DC comics, it’s quite good.
Negatives aside, Johns strings this arc together quite nicely. It was a shame that the delays allowed for spoilers. Seeing characters such as Luthor in other comics, working alongside heroes, quells curiosity for those who wanted to follow DC’s stories in chronological order. The dynamic pencils done by David Finch really set this event above others DC has done in the past. Particularly in the Directors Cut of issue number one, readers can fully appreciate Finch’s talent. The moody color scheme set by the talented Richard Friend’s solidified Forever Evil’s artwork to match John’s driven storytelling.
Reading Forever Evil is recommended, if you enjoy strong heroic tales of triumph over wrongdoing. Readers may want to consider passing up on this event if they’re looking for a comic that’s more villain-centric, or if they adore Nightwing. Personally, I was looking for a chance to see my favorite scoundrels have their way for a bit. But I have enough love for DC in my heart to really enjoy this arc for what it is. The evil was evil, and as usual, justice prevails in its own way.