DC Comics' event series pitting its bad guys again some even worse guys from another universe reaches its penultimate installment this week, as the home team of villains finally takes the fight to the evil invaders from Earth-3, the evil universe! Which of course means our super-close reading of this superhero epic also reaches its penultimate installments.
J. Caleb Mozzocco
The latest issue of DC Comics' Forever Evil opens as the previous four did, with Lex Luthor sharing a little anecdote about his childhood that somehow relates to the current state of affairs. In this issue, it ends with Luthor telling readers that "48 hours ago, a group of beings called the Crime Syndicate came to our world and declared it theirs."
Forty-eight hours! That's only two days! But man, this story seems like it's been going on for months now. Like, at least five months.
So let's refresh our memories. The Crime Syndicate of Earth-3? Ascendant. The heroes of all three Justice Leagues? MIA. The Society? Running rampant. Dick "Nightwing" Grayson? Publicly outted and held captive by the Syndicate. Earth's only hope? Batman, Catwoman, Lex Luthor and a small band of disaffected villains, who were just about to get in a big fight at the end of Forever Evil #4. But then Power Ring appeared with a group of Society members crashed through one wall, and Sinestro crashed through the other.
And that can only mean one thing: A big fight. Wait, two things: There are only two walls left in the big, empty Wayne Enterprises room everyone is convening in. It is now a structurally unsound, and likely quite drafty, building.
A prophetic child, full of microscopic earthworms and coated in pollen by bees. The child's nihilistic, sociopath of a father. A cowardly police officer. A pair of homosexuals beginning to drift apart. An infertile female. These are the ants of Michael DeForge's graphic novel Ant Colony, the collected, book form version of his once-serialized strip Ant Comic.
Readers follow them through the weird, black comedy of the waning days of their home colony—some of which is caused by the ants themselves, most of which is due to a war with a colony of red ants—as these survivors wander away and consider forming their own, new colony.
DeForge's ants are his own, centaur-shaped, many-legged creatures with human-ish faces of bright, primary colors and visible organs shining through their black exoskeletons. Their world is full of strangely-designed insects, ranging from bees shaped like the sort a young child might draw, and a giant, human-shaped, scary H.R. Giger goddess of a queen ant.
Despite their shapes, his ants live, think and act like humans...or is human life maybe not so different from that of ants? That's one of the many existential questions one can meditate on while reading Ant Colony, when one's not digging the semi-psychedelic character designs or the razor sharp sit-com gags (Typical punchline? "Should we kill this baby?").
DeForge is currently touring in support of the book, and we took the opportunity to ask him where these his strange insects came from, how his gag strip about ants evolved into a sweeping epic and how he learned to draw like Michael DeForge.
In mid-September of 2011, cartoonist Lucy Knisley and her friend Jane, who worked in the wine business in France, were at a tasting after-party when their host observed they both had unconventional careers. He put this down to the fact that they were in their "age of license," that time in your life when you're young and free enough to experiment.
Knisley took the phrase for the title of her next book, one of the two travelogues that Fantagraphics will be publishing. An Age of License, due this fall, chronicles a 2011 trip to attend a Norwegian comics convention, which Knisley uses to visit friends and family in Europe, and spend an extremely intense time with Henrik, a Swedish boy she had just met in New York. The second book, Displacement, is scheduled for summer of next year, and tells the story of a 2012 cruise with her elderly grandparents.
Both trips took place between the time she had completed Relish, her acclaimed, three-years-in-the-making memoir about food and growing up, but before First Second had published it in 2013, which seemingly catapulted the young, not-yet-thirty artist into a whole new level of cartooning success than she had been able to achieve with her previous work, like the 2008 travelogue French Milk and her mini-comics and anthology contributions.
The two new travelogues obviously aren't due in comics shops any time soon, but that doesn't mean the announcement didn't get a lot of folks excited, us included. We took the opportunity to talk to Knisley about the books, how they compare to her previously published work and what we can look forward to from them.
In the pages of Forever Evil, the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 -- the evil opposites of Earth-New 52's greatest heroes (plus an evil opposite of Alfred Pennyworth) -- have conquered the world!
The master villains have come up with a particularly brilliant plan to rid themselves of the DC Universe's heroes, trapping them all in sinister tie-in comics well beyond the pages of the main series. If you're wondering who's where, you can find most of the Justice Leaguers trapped in a weird prison in the pages of Justice League of America; Steve Trevor and his military team are in Forever Evil: ARGUS; the Teen Titans got sent into the future in the pages of Teen Titans; and all the magic guys are embroiled in their own 18-part tie-in crossover "Forever Evil: Blight", which is, amazingly, going to end up being much longer than Forever Evil itself will be. They don't call the Crime Syndicate villains for nothing.
It looks like the only forces left to challenge the Syndicate now are a handful of free-thinking bad-guys under the leadership of Lex Luthor, and Batman and his remaining Justice League allies, Catwoman and Cyborg. If they can put aside their differences and work together, they just might have a chance at saving the world from the clutches of the Crime Syndicate.
When we last visited the DC Universe in the wake of Forever Evil, it was a dark, grim and gritty place -- well, darker, grimmer and grittier than usual, anyway. Most of the members of the Justice League of America, Justice League Dark and Justice League Vanilla mysteriously disappeared after encountering the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, the evil doppelgangers of Earth-New 52's greatest heroes.
Rallying an army of supervillains behind them, the Syndicate announced the death of the Justice Leagues, outted Nightwing as Dick Grayson, moved the moon to eclipse the sun, and exiled the Teen Titans into the time stream. With the world pretty much conquered, the Syndicate went about the business of ruling it -- you know, establishing a currency and economic system, redrawing maps, writing up a constitution, designing a flag, developing a body of laws, intervening in disputes between countries and the meetings! Oh, the many meetings they'll have to have!
Is that what we're in for with the remaining issues of the seven-part series? Perhaps we would be, were it not for a handful of villains unwilling to sign up with the Crime Syndicate. Villains with home-world pride. Bad guys who are bad, to be sure, but not that bad. They're just almost always evil, not forever evil, and this issue, they start to get organized.
Last month was a pretty rough one for the heroes of the DC Universe. The Justice Leagues—all three of 'em—apparently fell before the onslaught of the Earth-3's Crime Syndicate, somewhere between the end of Trinity War and the first issue of Forever Evil #1. The Syndicate then proceeded to take over the world, opening all of the super-prisons, assembling all the super-villains into an army, destroying all communications for some annoying "This World Is Ours" spam and a brief infotainment segment where they revealed Nightwing's secret identity as Richard Grayson on television. Also they pushed the moon between Earth and the sun, plunging the world into darkness.
To add insult to injury, the villains booted the heroes off all of their comic books in September, writing their own names over the heroes' logos and starring in the books themselves!
Well, it's a new month and there's a new issue of Forever Evil, so we can find out if there's any hope at all for our heroes. Or at the very least, which of those Villains Month issues we really needed to read.
Remember Trinity War? The six-part,154-page, 24-dollar DC Comics crossover story that ended with a cliffhanger where the super-villains from inside Pandora's Box rushing towards all three Justice Leagues with the words "To Be Continued in Forever Evil #1" at the bottom of the last page? Remember how you were frustrated that the climactic battle of the weeks-long story was being saved for the start of another story entirely, but you took some small comfort in knowing you only had to wait one week to finally see it in Forever Evil #1?
Well, funny story: It's not here either.
And we're back for the final time as Trinity War reaches its epic conclusion, no doubt resolving all of its many mysteries and conflicts, tying up all of its loose ends and definitely not just leading directly into the next big DC Comics event. Right?
When we left off Pandora was trying to find someone capable of opening the skull-shaped "box" and restore the world to its pre-sinful state. She thought to try old "more powerful than a locomotive" himself, Superman, but touching the box turned him so (temporarily) evil that in a stand-off with between the Justice League and the Justice League of America, the Man of Steel accidentally killed fellow superhero Doctor Light and started getting really, really sick.
That sent Wonder Woman and the magical heroes of Justice League Dark after Pandora, but everyone who touched the box also went evil. A few issues of flying around, arguing, and fighting later, the box, all three Justice Leagues and the behind-the-scenes villain calling himself the Outsider all found each other in the same place at the same time.
And then what? Then we read the last installment of ComicsAlliance's Trinity War Correspondence to find out!
What's that, up ahead? Can you see it? Why, it looks like the end of DC Comics' Trinity War crossover! It's now in sight!
But before we look at the events of this penultimate chapter, let's cast a glance over our collective shoulder to see how we got here. First, the Justice League and the Justice League of America had a tense stand-off regarding international borders or somesuch, which ended with the Justice League's Superman accidentally killing the Justice League of America's Doctor Light, and then growing extremely ill.