So I’ve Been Reading FOREVER EVIL

Event storylines are always promising in scope, but very rarely do any of them really work and make a big, interesting impact. They tend to start off big, and then fade away as people lose interest and focus instead on the books they actually like rather than the ones which are billed as ‘important’. Last year alone we all decided to clip our toenails rather than have to read Infinity, while Battle of the Atom proved to be ten issues of alternate universes and navel-gazing.

Of all the events of the last few years, I’d suggest barely two or three had particular long-term interest. Unity has been very good at Valiant, but that aside? Everything else has been a bit of a let-down. So enter FOREVER EVIL.

Spoilers below.

DC’s event comes as the culmination of Geoff Johns’ work with the Justice League, it appears, as the writer is drastically stepping down his writing duties for DC over the next few months. The basic premise is that all the Justice League character have vanished somewhere – revealed to almost literally be up their own arses, in the tie-in books – and a team of evil characters have taken over. There’s an Evil Flash, Evil Wonder Woman, Evil Batman and so on.

In response to this, Lex Luthor has assembled a team of also evil but not THAT evil characters to stop them. Including an Evil Green Lantern, an Evil Aquaman, and…. well. You get the idea.

It’s been absolutely nuts. And I think I’m actually really enjoying it?

As a storyline, it’s pretty dire. But as a collection of inexplicable dialogue, complete nonsense and thoroughly entertaining character work? It’s been worth reading, every issue. Which is more than anyone could say about Fear Itself.

Forever Evil has a lot of problems, most of them springing from the fact that the build-up to the event took a load of characters and hid them so they couldn’t show up during the main storyline. And then, when the time came to explain where they’d been hidden, we got the least satisfying answer ever. What would have been the most interesting prologue – the Justice League fighting their dopplegangers and losing – happened between the end of Justice League and the start of Forever Evil.

So as we start the event, we’re already at a disadvantage. And the series doesn’t help itself along the way either, with the dialogue reading as by-the-numbers for most of the characters. Having decided on a single idea for characterising each of the villains, Johns then hits that same button every issue, to lessening impact. Thankfully he killed off evil Green Lantern this week, whose repeated reminders of how cowardly he is were starting to grate. Evil Supermen snorts Kryptonite like cocaine, evil Flash and evil Atom are dating, and Evil Wonder Woman exists. Those basic ideas are seen every issue, with no interest in developing them.

So why am I enjoying the series? Well, it seems to encapsulate the DC Universe as a whole, doesn’t it? It’s serious to the point that the central enjoyment is making fun of how self-important it is. The tone has an inherent sense of camp which I don’t think was intended to come across, so Captain Cold’s every line reads like it came from a superhero pantomime.

And, also, this represents Geoff Johns as his most predictable. He’s a good writer, and I like much of his Green Lantern run. But here he picks up several characters he’s been drawn to in the past – you notice how much attention Sinestro and Black Manta get in comparison to, say, Catwoman – and plays around with them a bit. He cuts arms off, because it’s not a Geoff Johns storyline without a hand getting lopped off, and he goes for spectacle over sense.

In issue 5, the most recent, a battle is going on which destroys two walls of the room the combatants are standing in. What happens later on? Someone gets thrown through a THIRD wall. The building keeps on standing! It’s so silly. The storyline moves slowly because Johns pauses often for a page or two of character beats, although these tend to be the same beats – reworded – that we heard last week.

And at the heart of all of this lies David Finch, who has spent the last few years attached solely to projects people make fun of. Ultimatum proved that he can’t handle big casts or fight sequences – and the fight sequence here proves particularly incoherent, especially a sequence where Catwoman tries to get Black Adam to fight Giganta. His work is veiny and static, throughout, with almost no sense of movement in any of the panels. His women looks ridiculous.

While the men compete to have the most over-emphasised muscles and wrinkles on their face, the women all have the same face as each other, polished to the extent of looking like porcelain. It’s actually really unnerving to have Batman be covered in shadow and worry and grimness, as is Batman’s wont, whilst a thirteen year old china doll talks to him.

If DC are aware of the fact that this is pantomime, then fair play and well done. But this doesn’t feel like they’re self-aware, not at all. It’s a melodramatic mess, played in the most unintentionally entertaining style imaginable. But it’s still much more fun than any event I’ve read for about five years. It’s… worth… reading?

I don’t know what to think anymore.


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