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Forever Evil #6
posted March 5, 2014
 

imageCreators: Geoff Johns, David Finch, Richard Friend
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, March 2014, $3.99
Ordering Numbers: DEC130197 (Diamond Number)

I thought this a deeply unpleasant comic book even for something bearing the title "Forever Evil." This is the sixth issue in a sort-of company-wide event series where the New 52 iteration of the DC Universe is taken over by that reality's version of the alternate-universe Justice League doppelgangers The Crime Syndicate. I call it sort-of company-wide in that it takes place in many of the big titles, and certainly has repurcussions for a lot of the series in terms of what's being depicted, but in many comics doesn't seem to be noteworthy at all. Because comics companies have in recent years mostly shut down their lines to do series like these, this makes this particular storyline seems less important, almost a put-on. When the stakes are worldwide catastrophe, a story that feels like a random issue of a comic from 1997 in and of itself becomes unsettling and weird. It's the casual apocalypse, the meanwhile armageddon.

In this slow-moving sixth issue we find Batman and Lex Luthor leading a small group of homegrown super-villains that have broken with the Crime Syndicate to that evil group's forward, operational headquarters on Earth DiDio in order to free the captured Dick Grayson and, one assumes, do anything else that might weaken, thwart or harm the world's new rulers. Despite having an entire universe of settings and backdrops at their disposal, Johns and Finch depict the issue's big set pieces in rooms and hallways of a ruthlessly generic nature. I had to go back to the comic book once I finished it to suss out where they were this whole time (a fallen satellite). Even the cliffs people stand on look like they're from central casting. The fighting is somehow brutish and dramatically feckless. The outcomes are to the point: one character has his leg removed and neck snapped, another is knifed to death, a longstanding character's life is threatened and seems to lean towards the darker outcome at the moment of the issue's cliffhanger. We also get an even newer bad guy brought to the forefront via the cliche of "these impressive bad people are nothing compared to this even more amazingly impressive bad person that scares these first bad people who were bad enough, believe me." This character was apparently so terrifying and powerful that these god-like beings jacked up full of evil like kids on candy during All-Saints Day wet themselves at the possibility of his return but keep him in a chair with ropes like this is an episode of Simon and Simon. No one seems to exist in the entire world other than the 20 or so people we see smacking each other around here, and for the reality it depicts, no one else really does.

I don't mean to malign any of the creators involved here; Geoff Johns and David Finch are an A-list pairing for one of these kinds of things. It seems hopelessly generic, though, not even holding together as a basic network of plot points, let alone looking like it might want to do something with theme or even tone. If I can't blame the chefs, I might think about indicting the ingredients. Most DC superhero mini-series and events are about the fundamental awesomeness of various DC properties. I actually get less of that here than I have in any similar "Big DC Comic" of the last quarter century. The characters I'm reading about here are decidedly not awesome. They don't do cool things (Captain Cold and Black Manta sort of do, I guess). They sort of shuffle around, angrily talking at each other and having fights. They aren't doing anything noble or interesting or attempting something that might have any reality as an idea beyond the requirements of the current scene. It feels like a role-playing game firing through the half-hour before someone's Mom is coming to pick up a key player. You could make these characters a lot of different characters, the same way you realize through a dull movie that the exact thing you're watching could appear on cable TV with a downgraded cast. I'm sure there are Valiant and Dark Horse and Image characters that could stumble through these same, broadly-played scenarios. I wonder if part of this comes back to DC relaunching their superhero universe in 2011 without really being able to execute the hard work of building up these characters as their own thing. It's easy for me to imagine something more interesting for every single character to do. Next time I'll do that instead of reading.