Thursday, January 02, 2014


Earlier this week, Comics Alliance ran the fourth installment of our Assessor Evil series, recapping each issue of DC's current big event series, focusing on Forever Evil #4 (naturally). It's the issue where Deathstorm tells Power Ring to use his magic ring to give himself some balls. You can read the piece by clicking here.

The seven-part series is now just past the half-way point (although rather important chunks of it do seem to be occurring in other books, most notably Justice League, which is also written by Johns, and has been devoting itself to telling the back-stories of the various members of the Crime Syndicate, and, in the latest issue anyway, providing a rather important bit of movement on the plot point involving Nightwing, Owlman and the machinations of Superwoman).

It's still too early to assess the series as a whole, of course, but the two things that have struck me as rather large and pervasive negatives about it so far are 1) how small in scale and scope it is, and 2) how relatively little seems to be occurring, which may be linked the most obvious problem anyone could have predicted about the series since it's announcement—David Finch's very poor artwork.

Yes, the book's basic premise does involve the disappearance of some 20 or so of the world's heroes (the line-ups of all three Justice Leagues), including the most visible and prominent superheroes, like Superman and Wonder Woman. It does involve a powerful invading force from a different dimension (The Crime Syndicate), a worldwide super-prison break-outs and their creation of a huge army of super-villains, a black out of almost all electronics and electricity and an eclipse of the sun creating almost permanent darkness.

But all that happened before and during the first issue, and we've just finished the fourth issue. Since then? We've seen very little of any other heroes attempting to fight off the villains in the main series. I understand Forever Evil: ARGUS features Steve Trevor and, obviously, ARGUS. The various magical heroes have a tie-in event of their own ("Forever Evil: Blight"). And Suicide Squad is supposed to have a tie-in arc that may have actually already started (And I believe that's supposed to involve Power Girl and Steel, so that's two heroes accounted for).

I imagine the Green Lanterns who aren't Simon Baz, the JLoA's current Lantern, are meant to be busy out in outer space, having just wrapped up their big "Lights Out" crossover story, and still dealing with the ramifications of the end of Johns' run on Green Lantern

But where are the rest of the heroes of the DC Universe? Only the Teen Titans and a previously unheard of, New 52 version of The Doom Patrol have been mentioned in the pages of Forever Evil. Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon had a scene in the first issue, but has since disappeared, and not, to my knowledge, reappeared anywhere since, and I've been reading the Gotham City-based Forever Evil: Arkham War tie-in series.

And where is StormWatch, exactly? I've only read the first volume of their New 52 series, but I kind of got the idea that their mission statement was specifically to defend earth from extra-dimensional and/or apocalyptic threats, like the invasion Earth-New 52 from Earth-3. Basically, to do the sorts of stuff the JLA used to do when Grant Morrison was writing their adventures, only in secret. (And isn't the point of crossover event series like Forever Evil to kinda sorta  highlight lesser-known or less popular books by making them "important" in the eyes of the audience by tying them to the big events of the event series? The about-to-be-canceled  StormWatch could use the shot in the arm that is Ultraman and Owlman beating up Apollo and Midnighter, right? They probably could have staved off cancellation a few more months with a Forever Evil tie-in).

And where are Red Hood and The Outlaws? Batgirl, Black Canary and the Birds of Prey? Batwoman and Talon? Batwing or any of the small army of crimefighters that made up the disbanded Batman Inc? Where are Supergirl and Animal Man and Mera? Where are Aquaman's first superhero team, The Others? Or, hell, Hawk and Dove or Static or Grifter or Voodoo or Blue Beetle or Blue Devil or Black Lightning? What about those new heroes from The Movement? Or the heroes from Justice League International?

I realize not every single member of the DC Universe needs mentioned and/or accounted for in a big crossover story, but it seems odd that the focus has been so narrow—the Justice League books and the Teen Titans, basically—and that even a character specifically referenced in Forever Evil (Batgirl) hasn't been returned to yet.

The DC Universe looks extremely small, as does the threat to it, in Forever Evil, especially when compared to similar crises in the past (i.e. all of 'em, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Infinite Crisis, Johns' Day of Judgement or Blackest Night, Morrison's Final Crisis or even the mostly-forgotten Our Worlds At War). Or, hell, even individual arcs of, say, Grant Morrison's JLA run, almost each of which dealt with the literal end of the world, rather than simple changes in its management or the position of its moon.

At this point, the just-past-the-halfway-point point, it seems as if the Crime Syndicate will ultimately fall when Lex Luthor's team of rebelling villains (Bizarro, Captain Cold, Black Adam, Black Manta and Sinestro) team up with what's left of the Justice Leagues (Batman, Catwoman and Cyborg) to challenge them (likely with a big assist from Nightwing, and perhaps a dramatic last-issue return of the Justice Leagues). But what will really bring the Syndicate down will be their squabbles with one another and their inability to work together, which is what, nine times out of ten, dooms villain teams and allows the sometimes otherwise outmatched hero teams to prevail over them.

As for the little that is happening, I suspect that it's not only Johns' love of (and over use of) the splash page as a storytelling device, but also collaborator Finch's inability to draw too much too fast. The result is that not only are there too many splashes in these books (Forever Evil #4 includes a single two-page splash, but four single-page splashes, which means six of the book's 23 story pages are nothing but big drawings of a couple of characters posing), but they are generally not much to look at (Finch's covers are lazy and poorly designed, his splashes devoted to, say, Sinestro appearing or Power Ring and some villains appearing aren't any better, not containing enough visual information to justify the waste of all that space) and used on things that don't merit the space.

For example, the two-page spread here is nothing but Batman showing Catwoman the Batcave for the first time (in this continuity), something I think it's safe to assume every single reader of this comic book has seen dozens of times before, in comics as well as in various other media, to the point that everyone should know exactly what they'll see—computer, Bat-vehicles, costumes in glass cases, dinosaur, giant penny—and certainly didn't need 1/11th of 1/7th of a story about The Crime Syndicate conquering the DC Universe spent on allowing them to see David Finch draw the Batcave yet again.

Perhaps the relatively small and narrow focus, and well as the slow pace, has something to do with the fact that this was meant to be a Justice League story arc, or a "Trinity War"-like crossover story between the Justice League books. I think much of it has to do with Johns writing to Finch's weaknesses—his inability to draw a monthly book, for example—and stretching panels into massive splash pages in an effort fill space more easily, like a college kid using big margins and large font to reach the assigned page limit.


But wait, there's more! I reviewed The Wake: Part One, the five-issue, bargain-priced trade of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's Vertigo series, and Black is the Color, EDILW favorite Julia Grforer's new graphic novel from Fantagraphics, in a post at Robot 6 today. What do they have in common? Mermaids.

And, finally, I neglected to a post a link to my Good Comics For Kids review of the latest volume of Fantagraphics' Donald Duck comics collections, which are the greatest things in the world. So click here to read a little bit about Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain (Spoiler alert: It's great, and one of the greatest comics-reading experiences I've had this past calendar year)

1 comment:

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Remember at the end of FLASHPOINT? I had thought that Trinity War (and thus Forever Evil) was meant to be the DCU, Wildstorm, and Vertigo characters fighting and then teaming up, etc.

Then DC realized no one gave a crap about Grifter and Voodoo and I guess Vertigo is simply JL Dark.