The four I missed were The Creeper, Deadshot, Deathstroke and Joker's Daughter. (For the purposes of this post, I'm referring to them by character/star, not actual title, as the actual titles are those of the hero characters or teams that usually—but not always—interact with the villains on the covers, and all have decimal points in them and I don't want to deal with that shit right now.)
Of those, the only one I've seen on a comics shelf was the Deadshot one, a week or two after release, and I did flip-through it, even if I didn't read it. It didn't appear to have anything to do with Forever Evil, and looked rather dull. He jumps out of an airplane and shoots a guy with a special bullet and thinks about his life, is what I got from the flip-through. He still looks way too much like Lord Zedd from Power Rangers).
The third week was the hardest week to read; that week, I read all 13, and I think that may have exceeded the limit of the number of violent, mostly shoddily-made comic books about evil and depravity that I can read and write about in a single evening. My eyes, head, fingers, stomach and soul all kind of hurt before I closed my laptop for the night.
Here are some thoughts on the whole month's line in general.
1.) I think all of the covers would have been improved if the heroes themselves were not included in the backgrounds. They were likely included to both provide an additional background element for the weird 3D-like process and to symbolically riff on the idea of the villains "taking over" the heroes' books. If you looked at any of them, you'll notice that they each featured the hero of the book bound or otherwise defeated-looking in the background.
In many cases, images of the hero bound were repeated from book to book, regardless of the artist drawing the foreground. It tended to look incredibly cheap and lazy, particularly in the case of the Batman books, where there were about three or so different images of Batman spread across some 12-16 books.
It was worst on the Justice League books, as they just showed a whole team of characters laying around on the ground, asleep. In some of these, there weren't actually any backgrounds, so the prone heroes just sort of floated around with their eyes closed, some propped up against something, or an implied something which was actually just nothing. I think just about every single image would have been improved without the heroes in the background but, again, I understand why they were there in the first place. (The Batman/Superman issue featuring Doomsday looked particularly weird, as a defeated, prone Superman was in the background, but there was no sign of Batman at all).
2.) The decimal points and the rigging of the sales charts, in which they published four issues of the most popular titles in a franchise and no issues of the secondary or tertiary titles (that is, four issues of Green Lantern, and no issues of Green Lantern Corps or Green Lantern: New Guardians or Red Lanterns), can't possibly help sell any comics in October, December, February or March. Say you liked the issue with The Cyborg Superman in it, or The Ventriloquist, and wanted to see more of those characters by those writers; you might naturally look for future issues of Action Comics and Batman: The Dark Knight, as those were the titles devoted to telling stories featuring those characters, but it looks like they will actually be continuing in Supergirl and Batgirl. So good luck unlocking the Da Vinci code to follow these characters and creators!
3.) There were more bad books than good ones. I devised a 1-10 rating system, but didn't award anything any number higher than a nine, and I think the average worked out to about a 4.
I think the best books were The Riddler, Parasite*, Killer Croc, Ocean Master, Ra's al Ghul, The Rogues and Bizarro. Those are the ones I gave eights and nines, but since nothing got a ten, I guess you should count the nines as tens and eights as nines.
There are some obvious trends in those seven issues: Three of them are Batman comics, two are Superman comics. Most have at least a little to do with Forever Evil, at least as a source of inspiration. But the main similarity they all have is simply this: They all featured good writing and good-to-great artwork. This isn't—or it really shouldn't be—any great secret or anything, but I guess it still bears repeating in many circles. The best way to make the best comics is to get good writers and good artists and good writer/artists, and assign them the work.
4.) In terms of importance in relation to the unified catalyst of the month's promotion (which does feel more like something someone in marketing came up with to tie into the big crossover story, rather than something Geoff Johns thought would serve the big crossover story), The Secret Society one was probably the only really essential read, in that it was so heavily connected to the events of Forever Evil, focusing on Earth-3's Alfred Pennyworth and Thomas Wayne, aka Owlman, and offering clues and suggestions regarding several plot elements.
The Lex Luthor issue is probably the next most essential, given the role he played in Forever Evil #1 (as the protagonist and therefore default "hero" of the book), and the comic is a day-in-the-life story of Luthor leading up to the events of that particular book.
The Rogues and Scarecrow and Bane issues were about as connected to the events of Forever Evil as any of the books mentioned between now and #5 on my list of observations, but are perhaps of greater note because they lead directly into spin-off/tie-in series (Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion and Forever Evil: Arkham War), and will therefore potentially play greater roles in the remainder of the Forever Evil series.
Black Adam, Black Manta, Killer Frost, Harley Quinn and Deadshot all more-or-less declare extreme dissatisfaction with Syndicate rule in some of the books, and are therefore likely to play a bigger role later in the series, if it does indeed turn out to be an Earth-52 vs. Earth-3 villain war, or a team-up of Earth-52 heroes and villains to repel the invaders and their allies.
The books having at least a little to do with the events of Forever Evil, either in a red-sky, this-is-what-so-and-so-was-up-to-at-the-time or a more direct expansion of cameo roles in Forever Evil sort of way, are these: Bane, Black Adam, Black Hand, Black Manta, Cheetah, Clayface, Court of Owls, Grodd, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Killer Frost, Mr. Freeze, Ocean Master, Man-Bat, Metallo, Parasite, Poison Ivy, Ra's al Ghul, Two-Face, and The League of Assassins, Scarecrow and Ventriloquist.
The books having nothing at all to do with the events of Forever Evil were these: Arcane, Bizarro, Brainiac, Count Vertigo, Cyborg Superman, Darkseid, Desaad, Dial E, Doomsday, Eclipso, First Born H'El, Joker, Lobo, Mongul, Penguin, Relic, Reverse Flash, Shadow Thief, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Trigon and Zod. That's a lot.
5.) What's striking to me about how high that number of books having nothing at all to do with Forever Evil is the fact that Forever Evil involves a group of brand-new (to the New 52) villains that we the readers don't know anything about; villains from another world who likely have long and exciting backstories that would certainly have proven a lot more interesting than almost any of the stories of the characters mentioned in the previous story arc, some of which do tie in to their home titles (Reverse Flash read like an issue of Flash, for example, and told a piece of a storyline already in-progress), but others of which are just standalone filler issues not really connected to anything at all.
Why weren't any of those 23 issues devoted to The Crime Syndicate (as a whole), Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, Power Ring, Deathstorm, Atomica, The Outsider, Sea King and Talon? Wouldn't their origins be a hell of a lot more interesting than a day-in-the-life of the Penguin or Count Vertigo, or retellings of origins for The First Born and Sinestro and Brainiac? I would have appreciated a Dr. Psycho origin, given his relatively prominent role in "Trinity War," or some other Society members like Giganta, Signalman and Vandal Savage. I found the Seven Deadly Sins that plague Pandora to be unlikable and poorly-designed, but they sure seem more relevant to the current state of the DCU and the stories going on in it. What's up with them?
6.) The names of a few creators appeared a lot during these issues.
Geoff Johns had the most writing credits at four, although all four of those were co-writing credits (Black Manta and Ocean Master with Tony Bedard; Secret Society and Black Adam with Sterling Gates).
Greg Pak, Charles Soule, Matt Kindt and Peter J. Tomasi were the most prolific writers involved, all four writing three issues solo, making it a four-way tie for most productive writer in September. Brian Buccellato was involved with the writing of all three Flash issues, but a few of those were as co-writer.
Of the artists involved, Jeremy Haun and Szymon Kudranski were the only two who managed more than one issue apiece, the former drawing The Riddler and Ra's al Ghul issues, the latter The Scarecrow and Secret Society issues.
7.) What if instead of spotlighting sometimes random Earth-New 52 villains, they instead offered Earth-3 versions of the New 52? You know, their regular offerings, only starring the evil opposites of the stars from Earth 3? I don't know that those comics would have been any better, and the selling of them might have been a bit more tricky, but I bet they would have been interesting.
I looked at everything DC offered in August, and tried to think of Earth 3 opposites that could have starred in 'em
1.) All-Star Western could probably keep the same title, actually; I would be curious to see what an alignment-flipped version of Jonah Hex's Old West from Earth 3 might have looked like though. Or wait, would the Old West be in the East of the America on Earth 3...?
...Hey, they only published 45 New 52 titles in August...? Or did I just miss seven?
You'll note that would make for an awful lot of Owlman comics, just as Earth-52 has a bunch of Batman comics. Luckily, there would be a lot opponents of Owlman, like The Jester, Man-Owl, Crusader Croc, Crow Man and so on.
8.) This is what September's line-up would have looked like if they were publishing 52 villain spot-lights aimed solely at me, personally:
Action Comics #23.1: Bizarro
Action Comics #23.2: Mr. Mxyzptlk
Action Comics #23.3: Titano
Action Comics #23.4: Terra-Man
Aquaman #23.1: Iceberg Head
Aquaman #23.2: The Human Flying Fish
Batman #23.1: Bat-Mite
Batman #23.2: Calendar Man
Batman #23.3: Catman
Batman #23.4: Killer Moth
Batman and Robin #23.1: Anarky
Batman and Robin #23.2: The Human Flea
Batman and Robin #23.3: The General
Batman and Robin #23.4: Cluemaster and The Spoiler
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: King Tut
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Captain Stingaree
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3: The Scarecrow
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4: Kiteman
Batman/Superman #3.1: Composite Superman
Detective Comics #23.1: Zebra Man
Detective Comics #23.2: The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City
Detective Comics #23.3: The Rainbow Creature
Detective Comics #23.4: The Mad Hatter
Earth 2 #15.1: Ragdoll
Earth 2 #15.2: Sportsmaster
Flash #23.1: The Turtle
Flash #23.2: Rainbow Raider
Flash #23.3: The Top
Green Arrow: #23.1: Mr. Mephisto ***
Green Lantern #23.1: Invisible Destroyer
Green Lantern #23.2: Goldface
Green Lantern #23.3: The Shark
Green Lantern #24.3: Major Disaster
Justice League #23.1: Starro
Justice League #23.2: Dr. Sivana
Justice League #23.3: Mr. Mind
Justice League #24.4: Animal Vegetable Mineral Man
Justice League Dark #23.1: Monster Society of Evil
Justice League Dark #23.2: Blackbriar Thorn
Justice League of America #7.1: Lion Mane
Justice League of America #7.2: Gentleman Ghost
Justice League of America #7.3: The Man-Hawks
Justice League of America #7.4: Solaris, The Tyrant Sun
Superman #23.1: King Krypton
Superman #23.2: Ultra-Humanite
Superman #23.3: Destructo
Superman #24.4 : Krull
Swamp Thing #23.1: Cranius
Teen Titans #23.1: The Mad Mod
Teen Titans #23.2: The Brotherhood of Evil
Wonder Woman #23.1: Egg-Fu
Wonder Woman #23.2: The Blue Snowman
Of course, even then, these would all have to be made by writers I liked and and artists I liked, or writers and artists that I had never heard of, but would like the work of once I read it. I would go on to suggest creative teams for the above, but that seems way too much like fantasy football to me, but wait, half of this blog post was like fantasy football already, wasn't it? Only without the possibility of winning any money...?
*Abhay Khosla chose the issue of Superman featuring Parasite as his sample representing the Villains Month endeavor. He found it wanting, but I think he did a good job of distilling what's off about The New 52 in general, although he does acknowledge that maybe it won't be such a big deal when we get some distance from it, as he compares his feelings about it now to his perception of the feelings of the people who were unhappy about the Post-Crisis DCU. But listen:
So ultimately the thing that makes a DC Comic feel most like a real DC comic now (besides being dull) is that feeling of “everything would be better if my time machine could take us back in time” which is the most DC thing there is left, now, for me. So, so DC, that. I know it’s been said before by other people, but: they didn’t just create a new universe; they created a new old-universe-that-it-was-a-mistake-to-throw-away. You know? I kinda find the poetry of it all interesting, if not the reading the DC comics part.I think that's a better"that's it in a nutshell" than what I've been trying to articulate as they only partially re-booted their universe, jumped ahead five years in time and they won't tell anyone (creators included) what they actually changed and what they didn't, except in dribs and drabs (and sometimes those drabs contradict the dribs).
**Go ahead, look him up.
***Says Wikipedia, "Hobo posing as demonic mastermind to extort fellow hobos into committing crimes." Move over, Count Vertigo!