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Don’t blame me if you get spoiled from here on out, kids.
Forever Evil #1 (DC Comics, $3.99), written by Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch, has arrived to much fanfare. This is the “real” event that the Justice League’s recent “Trinity War” storyline led into. I suppose, to keep things easy to follow, the “Trinity War” collected edition will be labeled “Prelude to Forever Evil”. That’s fine, we all know that trade paperback sales are the golden goose for the big three comic publishers these days. So what’s “Forever Evil” all about? Let’s dive in to this wretched hive of scum and villainy (and that’s just DC editorial).
In the conclusion to “Trinity War”, Pandora’s Box was literally opened (you, sir or madam, have a filthy mind) and the infamous Crime Syndicate made their way onto Earth-One (the home of the contemporary “New 52” universe of DC heroes). The Crime Syndicate are from the corrupt Earth 3, a parallel world where evil reigns and heroes don’t really exist (Earth 3’s greatest hero has historically been their version of Lex Luthor). The Crime Syndicate are perverse analogues to ‘our’ Justice League: Ultraman (their Superman), Superwoman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Power Ring (Green Lantern), Johnny Quick (The Flash), Deathstorm (Firestorm), Atomica (a female version of size-changing hero The Atom who infiltrated our Justice League) and Grid (Cyborg). In some cases, the Crime Syndicate are the exact same individual secret identity (Owlman IS their Bruce Wayne) but others aren’t (Superwoman is their Lois Lane, but with Amazonian powers).
They invade ‘our’ earth and begin liberating any and all incarcerated or committed super-villains (busting open places like Arkham Asylum and Belle Reve prison) and summon all the baddies to the decimated Justice League Watchtower to announce their intentions: To unify all villains in the DC Universe to overrun this earth just as they overwhelmed Earth 3. This issue is mostly setup, and we see various DC villains and villain groups react and deliberate as to whether to join up with the Crime Syndicate and become “The Secret Society of Super Villains” (which is a name so dated and rooted in the ‘70s that Stan Lee thinks it’s too schmaltzy). To show how serious and dominant they are, The Crime Syndicate reveal that they’ve captured a DC hero and unmask him for all to see.
Nightwing’s secret identity is revealed to both the collected villains and the world at large (via Grid’s taking over of all broadcast systems) as Richard “Dick” Grayson.
Dan Didio, DC’s satanic overlord, has had it out for Nightwing for years. Nightwing (Batman’s first Robin if you’re from Rio Linda) was supposed to be killed off years ago in “Infinite Crisis” but fans rallied and complained to stave off his fictitious execution. NEVER MIND that nobody in comics stays dead, ever (except effing Uncle Ben), but I digress. I love Nightwing, and as a Perez/Wolfman New Teen Titans loyalist I’ve followed his character progression for years. Both periods that he stepped into the bat-suit were compelling–particularly Scott Snyder’s “Black Mirror” story five years ago. Didio feels that there are too many Robins/ex-Robins, and he has a point. In current DC “New 52” continuity, there’s Nightwing, Red Robin (Tim Drake, who used to be Batman’s Robin in the old continuity but now is just in the Teen Titans, there’s Jason Todd, who died as Robin in the ‘80s but was somehow brought back and is now the vigilante “Red Hood”, and Damien Wayne, the most recent Robin, who was actually Bruce Wayne’s son with Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter Talia. He’s dead now too. What the heck? The problem is that DC wants its cake and to eat it, too. They want the fresh start of a complete universe reboot (the last true one for them was after 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths) but they want the history of some characters (Batman and Green Lantern) to remain intact as to not offend the creators who put so much into those characters (and in Green Lantern’s case very recently) but they can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to universe build, universe build and re-start EVERYTHING. Rebooting is a necessary evil when trying to keep characters contemporary and accessible to the masses, but if you’re doing it, go all the way.
For this unmasking to mean anything, how in the world does it not lead to the world-at-large figuring out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Anyone should be able to determine that Nightwing was Robin, and Dick Grayson lived with Bruce Wayne. They must be diminishing Grayson’s former role as Robin in the current continuity. I hate that they pick and choose what is canon from before the reboot and can just shrug their shoulders when their core audience complains that it makes no sense. As Alan Moore said, “This is an imaginary story. Aren’t they all?” Well, yeah, but they have to stick to their own rules if they want people to still care. The big picture is that they’re bringing in Carrie Kelly (from 1986’s Dark Knight Returns) to eventually be Robin, and possibly be in the Man of Steel sequel. Okay, fine, whatever, DC. I’ve given up on rationalizing the current status-quo. You win.
The villain-dominated nature of this book carries over throughout the DC line this month and replaces all normal monthly titles with one-shots featuring the bad-guys. They haven’t come out and said which books are stand-alone origin tales or which tie-in to the main Forever Evil title. Some of the books have been good so far, and though some have been average, the 3-D covers that these issues sport are pretty striking. There should be a sales bump for DC this month since each of their best-selling titles are being replaced by multiple related villain tales (Batman alone has at least eleven this month). We now see the real reason this crossover is happening, for the same reason crossovers always happen.
The story by “Captain DC” Geoff Johns, is ok if you’re already a DC wonk like me, but again, because of the “reboot/no reboot/ret-con/that-never-happened” nature of DC’s universe, we just don’t know the ramifications just yet and I can’t get into this like I would’ve in the past. The art from Finch is adequate, if a bit scratchy. I miss George Perez and his clone Phil Jimenez on books such as this one that feature casts of thousands.
The story is obviously setting up to have our villains, led by Lex Luthor naturally, rise up against the Crime Syndicate. Ho hum. Doodle doodle dee, wubba wubba wubba.
I’m really freaking tired of event books. I’m becoming apathetic toward DC, and I never thought that would happen.
No Five anythings of Doom this column. The will to live has been sucked out of me.
Damn you, Didio.