Friday, May 23, 2014

Review - Forever Evil

Warning - Major Spoilers Below.

After a long delayed seventh and final issue hit the stores this Wednesday, DC's 'Forever Evil' event series has come to a close.  And a huge close it was.  For me, it's up there with the best event series I've read.  It deftly hit every point on the Event Series checklist, and was exciting all the way through.  What's the Event Series Checklist, you say?  Well, here it is:

  • Has an enemy that more formidable than what the cast of characters in the universe usually face
  • Shuffles the deck amongst the regular heroes and villains, leading to alliances of necessity necessary to overcome the threat
  • Introduces some new characters (or gets rid of some existing ones)
  • Fleshes out some previously one or two dimensional characters into something broader
  • Elevates former bit players to a potentially bigger future role
  • Requires hard choices among the protagonists that alter existing relationships
  • Requires solutions above and beyond the norm
  • Changes the existing universe in major ways going forward
We got all of those here.  The Crime Syndicate coming over from Earth 3 imprisoned most of the Justice League members, took over the world's communication systems, and set free all of the imprisoned Super Criminals in the DC world.  The few remaining heroes who tried to fight them straight up were dealt with pretty quickly.  We got introduced New 52 style to Alexander Luthor from Earth 3, Bizarro, Ted Kord, and the Metal Men. We also bid goodbye to Luthor and Bizarro by series end, and seemingly to Vibe and Element Woman.  And we got a alliance of Batman and Catwoman along with Lex, Black Manta, Sinestro, and some other villains (Deathstroke, Captain Cold and Cyborg were all contributing by series end).  We got the 'death' of Nightwing.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The real winner of the series, character wise, was Lex Luthor.  The story was narrated from his point of view, and over seven issues we got the full range of his character.  We saw the evil, the confidence and the condescending superiority complex that we've come to expect from him over the years.  But we got a lot more.  When Bizarro, his underdeveloped creation, needed guidance and a confidence boost, instead of dismissing him Luthor put his proverbial arm around him and led him on.  When Dick Grayson was connected to the Murder Machine, and the only way to stop it was to stop his heart, Luthor didn't just kill him like you thought he would; he came up with a way to stop the machine and keep Grayson alive.  And at the end of the story he did a complete 180 in how he treated Ted Kord versus how he dealt with Kord's father at the beginning of the first issue.  (At the beginning of issue 1, he basically told Ted's father that he was taking his company.  At the end of issue 7 he told Ted, now in charge of Kord industries after his father's passing, that he was no longer pursuing the company and that he wanted Ted to run it and become a good competitor to Lexcorp).  The dialogue between he and Batman throughout the series was a classic 'you and I aren't that different' conversation, executed perfectly.  Lex and Bruce really are a lot alike.  They don't fully trust the superhumans that are operating on Earth, they see themselves as necessary saviors because they can see things that others can't and are willing to do what it takes to make things right in the world.  They aren't afraid to make personal sacrifices to do so, either.

And we got some serious hard choices.  When the villains in the makeshift alliance to take down the Syndicate made it clear that they weren't going to take anyone alive, Batman objected but ultimately chose to stay with the group.  This was a subtle but important compromise to his legendary no killing moral code.  By the end of the series Black Manta, Sinestro, and Luthor had killed members of the Syndicate, and got no chastising from Bruce over their actions.  In limiting his protests, and in the various tidbits of information he revealed to Luthor along the way, Batman made himself vulnerable in ways he probably will regret later.  He also was faced with revealing what may be a friendship killer when he admitted to having a close enough attachment to Wonder Woman to use her lasso to pull all of the trapped Justice Leaguers back to freedom.  Have he and Wonder Woman been engaging in their own clandestine relationship unbeknownst to Superman, Wonder Woman's boyfriend?  Did they have a previous relationship?  What gives?  And in rebuffing Catwoman's advances, Bruce chose to avert an attachment ('People close to me get hurt' he said in issue 3) but may have created another monster in the form of a spurned love interest.  Catwoman's rejection of full on criminality may have been as much about trying to please Batman as any altruism on her part.  We'll see.

And the best thing about the way the series ended is that it did indeed change things in the DC Universe.  Lex Luthor is now a bona fide hero who saved the world, and is looking to continue as the savior he's always seen himself as.  The Justice League America team, set up by ARGUS as a counterweight to the original Justice League, is now in the wind and in the process of shedding members and picking up new ones.  The original League is going through the same process as Luthor looks to become a part of it over Superman's objections.  Dick Grayson can no longer be Nightwing since he was unmasked in front of the entire world.  There are the surviving Crime Syndicate members; a weakened Ultraman, the imprisoned Superwoman, and the escaped Owlman.  The ring that was being worn by Earth 3's Hal Jordan before he was killed by Sinestro is off in search of a new host.  And finally, there was the reveal of the Anti-Monitor, who has plundered the universe of Earth 3 and is looking for a confrontation with Darkseid.  The series tie-ins were all relevant to the main story as well.  Captain Cold's crew, the Rogues, are now looking at a more complicated life than the one they were living before the Syndicate arrived.  Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller, of ARGUS, are now looking at life under far more scrutiny than they'd faced before.  So yeah, there's a lot to look forward to in the future.

The long wait for the final resolution was worth the payoff.  Excellent work, guys.

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