Comics Alliance Presents Assessor Evil, Part One: Krypto-Cocaine [‘Forever Evil’ Spoilers]
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.
Forever Evil #1 jumps ahead to some point after what certainly must have been an amazing fight scene that, according to the villainous victors, left every member of the Justice Leagues dead. This replaces the mystery of what would happen once Pandora's Box was finally opened with the new mystery of what happened after Pandora's Box was finally opened.
Obviously DC is taking the "Evil" part of this book seriously.
Forever Evil #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Penciled by David Finch
Inked by Richard Friend
Colored by Sonia Oback
If you haven't read Trinity War (or even just the spoilers contained in our Trinity War Correspondence feature) then you need to know how that ended: the evil Alfred Pennyworth from Earth-3 unionized most of the DC supervillains. With the help of sleeper agents Atomica and Grid (posing as the Atom and Cyborg's robot bits, respectively), he opened Pandora's Box and allowed the Crime Syndicate, the evil dopplegangers of the Justice League, to enter Earth-New 52. Presumably a big fight of some sort happened, but I guess they're going to save that for a flashback or tie-in or something.
Forever Evil #1 opens with a very succinct, two-panel, 73-word sequence that defines Lex Luthor's character as effectively and efficiently as it's ever been defined. High five, Geoff Johns!
Luthor's thinking about this anecdote while trying very hard to convince Thomas Kord of Chicago to sell his technology company, Kord Industries. When the honeyed approach fails, Luthor tries the more vinegary method, threatening Kord's entire family (in a manner Luthor no doubt learned from reading the 2008 Jason Aaron-written Joker's Asylum: The Penguin #1), an entire family that includes a son that is a student at Northwestern. That right there is an Easter Egg for all of the fans of Ted Kord/Blue Beetle II in Forever Evil's reading audience.
Why is Luthor making big business deals instead of sitting in the prison cell we last saw him in during Trinity War, part of the same storyline by the same writer? I don't know. Let's go with "lawyers."
Then! Suddenly! An electromagnetic pulse knocks out all power in Metropolis save for the battery of Lex's broken smart phone, the screen of which flashes, "This World Is Ours."
Meanwhile, in Gotham City, Nightwing is swinging above the rooftops with a bound and gagged Mr. Zsasz, whom he captured in Chicago. He's on his way to deliver the psycho to Arkham Asylum. Has Nightwing swung all the way from Chicago to Gotham on Bat-Ropes? Don't the law enforcement agencies of either city transfer their own prisoners, or do they leave it to vigilantes to take care of that sort of thing? In any case, Mr. Zsasz could use a good lawyer. He should talk to Luthor.
But then! Suddenly! Nightwing is attacked by a very fast, vaguely Batman-like adversary wearing owl-like goggles. Nightwing says, "Batman?" instead of "Oh man, not another of the Court of Owls' Talon guys," which is what you think might be his first guess, seeing as how he's been fighting guys dressed like owls for about a year or so now. It's not Batman or a Talon, however; it's Owlman of the Crime Syndicate! And then! Nightwing's attacked by an equally mysterious, super-strong flying lady with a glowing, golden length of barbed wire. It's Superwoman! The pair of baddies break open the gates of Arkham as we cut to the evil Flash-like figure Johnny Quick opening Central City's prison Iron Heights (where the Flash keeps his villains) and a pair of characters that look a lot like Firestorm and Green Lantern (Deathstorm and Power Ring) rescue Black Manta from Belle Reeve Prison in Louisiana.
Back in Metropolis, Luthor watches in amazement as a villain who looks a lot like Superman (it's Ultraman) rifles through his office looking for a chunk of Kryptonite. And then Ultraman does something extremely Geoff Johnsian, with the term "Geoff Johnsian" here being defined as "something a children's superhero character does that is such a self-consciously adult thing to do that it comes across as more hilarious than serious." That something? Ultraman grinds the kryptonite into powder and then snorts it.
Now freed from their various prisons, the villains of the DC Universe assemble at Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, where the Justice League's satellite Watchtower crash-landed in a previous issue of Justice League (Happy Harbor is, by the way, where the original Justice League's first headquarters was. As with the Kord references, this might just be a knowing wink to readers, or it might be leading up to a restoration of an old story element). The bad guys are drawn across a massive four-page, fold-out splash, which promises a few good, solid minutes of spot-the-villain fun.
There's someone in there who looks like it might be Black Adam, but we know from Trinity War that he's dead and that Billy "Shazam" Batson's wearing that costume now. So is that Black Adam or Black Shazam? And say, there's Professor Pyg from Grant Morrison's run on the Batman comics, although he's not dancing. Oh, and over there is the Flamingo; that's two more Morrison-created Bat-villains than I would have expected to see. We can also spot Copperhead with his hand on Hugo Strange's shoulder. Are they friends?
Before the assembled Legion of Doom and some unseen TV cameras, Ultraman gives a press conference. He declares that the Justice League is dead and throws out some trophies to prove it: Aquaman's trident, Wonder Woman's lasso, Superman's tattered cape. He introduces his teammates. He threatens the remaining heroes on Earth (which appear to be only Batgirl, Amanda Waller and the Teen Titans, from what we're shown). And then he hauls out a bound and badly beaten Nightwing, unmasking him to the world as Dick Grayson -- even putting his driver's license up on the screen with the embarrassing photo and everything!
Finally, Ultraman says the title of the book in Latin: "Aeternus Malum. Forever Evil" before flying into space and moving the moon in front of the sun to cause an eclipse. Why? Because Earth-3 resident Ultraman is the opposite of Superman: Instead of gaining power from the sun and being hurt by kryptonite, the sun hurts him and he gains power by, um, snorting kryptonite.
Is this the end of the world as we know it? That's what Lex Luthor seems to think. Superman's greatest enemy who wasn't invited to join his local villain's union, falls to his his knees and cries, "This is a job for Superman. So where the hell is he?"
Good question, Lex. That's why we picked up Forever Evil #1 in the first place, to find out what happened to Superman and friends when the Crime Syndicate attacked them in Trinity War. But I guess we won't find out just yet. Perhaps all will be revealed in one of the next six issues. Or in one of the special tie-in miniseries. Or in one of the 52 one-shot issues with the fancy 3-D covers that we've put to shame with our beautiful animated GIF.
The only way to know for sure is to buy them all.
You see? Evil.
Custom graphics by Dylan Todd.