Assessor Evil, Part 7: And They All Lived Evilly Forever After…
So what have you been up to the ast three months? If you're penciller David Finch or inker Richard Friend, you were probably drawing liking a maniac, while avoiding daily, shouty phone calls from editors, as the seven-issue, "monthly" series Forever Evil finally shipped its final issue this Wednesday, a good three months after its sixth issue dropped. The delay has caused some trouble in DC's line, as it delayed the release of tie-in issues, and created some glitches in storytlines (Perhaps the most notable was that two issues of the series Justice League United, which picks up where Justice League of America ended, shipped before the final issue of JLoA).
To DC's credit, they did let the art team they (perhaps foolishly) chose finish up the story all by themselves, without calling in fill-in pencil artists or the small battalions of inkers they sometimes do when the pencils come in late. There are no additional artists, not even inkers, credited here, which is something of a surprise. Given the several epilogues, including a big tease for what will certainly be the next big crossover event series, it would have been fairly easy to have several different artists draw the last 11 pages without the style change being very jarring.
At the end of Justice League/Justice League of America/Justice League Dark crossover Trinity War, it was revealed that Pandora's skull-shaped box was actually a sort of evil Mother Box to the New 52 version of Earth-3, and out popped the Crime Syndicate, a super-team composed of the evil opposites of DC's greatest heroes.
They defeated the three Leagues (off-panel) and claimed to have killed them. They broke open every super-prison on Earth to release the villains and organized them all into a sort of supervillain army. Ultraman blocked out the sun by moving the moon in front of it and it somehow stayed there. And then the Syndicate went about their own soap opera lives, worrying about who was the real father of Superwoman's baby or when and if the creature that destroyed their homeworld might follow them to this world.
With the Justice Leagues missing, the only ones left to stop the Syndicates were villains too egotistical to fall in line with the others: Lex Luthor, Black Adam, Sinestro, Black Manta and Deathstroke, plus not-that-evil-for-a-villain Captain Cold, and Luthor's failed clone of Superman "B-Zero," who we'll all come to call Bizarro..
Oh, and Batman was still around too, because, come on, he's Batman.
When we last saw an issue of Forever Evil, everyone had convened at the Crime Syndicate's headquarters for a big showdown, wherein it was revealed that the Syndicate had brought the Lex Luthor of Earth-3, now empowered by the power of "Mazahs" (his world's Shazam), with them. That Luthor was now free to seek revenge. And the Syndicate's hostage Nightwing, outted to the entire world as Dick Grayson, had a bomb attached to his heart.
And now, for one last time, let's plunge into a new issue of Forever Evil...
Forever Evil #7
Written by Geoff Johns
Penciled by David Finch
Inked by Richard Friend
Colored by Sonia Oback
Edited by Brian Cunningham and Kate Durré
Lex Luthor had stopped Grayson's heart in order to stop and defuse the bomb, but, as you might have expected, he was only stopping his heart long enough to do so, and had every intention of reviving him immediately afterwards. Batman, the world's greatest detective, didn't think of this, and was busy trying to strangle Luthor mid-operation.
Everything works out okay for Dick, of course, but Batman takes a moment to affectionately hug his former ward and sidekick, which gets Luthor thinking: Batman genuinely cares about the life of Nightwing. Hmm...
His thoughts are interrupted by Bizarro, who embraces his creator in a super-strong bear hug, emulating Batman and Nightwing. This is my favorite part of this comic.
Suddenly, the door opens and it's Syndicator The Grid, standing there! But he falls face-forward, his head rolling off, revealing Cyborg standing behind him. "Grid had a bad day," Cyborg said, surely quoting a half-dozen action movies. For Grid's bad day, and how it is that Cyborg is no longer the head and half-a-torso he was in the first few issues of this series, see recent issues of Justice League.
After a quick catch-up on what's been going on in the various tie-in issues, they all split-up: Cyborg, Batman, Catwoman and Grayson go to the basement to rescue the Justice Leagues, who have actually been trapped inside the captive Firestorm this whole time, while Luthor and Bizarro go after the Syndicate.
To rescue the Leaguers, Batman needs to drape Wonder Woman's lasso of truth over Firestorm (which Cyborg has brought with him from the pages of tie-in series Forever Evil: ARGUS) and channel his strong emotional connection to Wonder Woman (as Catwoman is the first to notice, Batman totally has a cursh on Wonder Woman, who is currently his best friend's girl). It works, but not until the end of the book, which means it really is up to the villains to stop the worse villains in order to save the world.
Superwoman reveals to Ultraman that she's been in league with Earth-3's Luthor all along, as he is the real father of her baby! This Luthor, easily distinguished from our Luthor by his long, thick hair and voluminous beard, proceeds to kill Deathstorm, the evil Firestorm (somehow absorbing his powers; its never explained, but apparently whenever Hirsute Luthor kills a super-person, he gets their superpowers).
He then punches his fist into Bizarro's chest, killing him. (Noooo! Not my favorite Forever Evil character!)
After a page to mourn, Bald Luthor develops a plan to take out Hirsute Luthor. It involves several pages of punching and posturing, but climaxes with Sinestro plunging a lightning rod into Hirsute Luthor's heart, Bald Luthor grabbing it and saying "Mazahs!" and, since they have the same voice, this calls down the Mazahs lightning, changing Hirsuite Luthor from a Captain Marvel-like superhero back into a human being, lacking the power of Zeus and the stamina of Atlas. So our Luthor plunges a blade into the chest of their Luthor and CHNKKFF, that's that.
Or is it? Ultraman throws a tree at the surviving Luthor, just as Sinestro and Black Adam, miscolored to look like Superman, push the moon away from the sun, draining Ultraman of his last remaining bits of power.
The now completely powerless Ultraman, "the weakest man on the planet," begs Luthor to kill him. So, just to be a jerk, Luthor lets him live.
Then Luthor notices Atomica, and squashes her to death.
And now it's the end. Well, except for all the epilogues.
Epilogue #1: Freed from their Firestorm prison, the heroes immediately realize they're not out of trouble just yet. Superman is still dying from the sliver of kryptonite Atomica stuck in his brain back during "Trinity War." Luthor is able to save him by performing brain surgery on him. He does so without making any incision in Superman's head, so I guess he just stuck a really long pair of tweezers into Superman's ear and felt around...?
At any rate, Superman is totally not dead.
Epilogue #2: Former supervillain Luthor is being lauded as the world's greatest hero for saving earth from alien invaders that the Justice League failed to stop, and thus finds himself in a new position of power (Please, let's not compare this new state of affairs to Marvel's Secret Invasion/"Dark Regin." That was years ago; if you must accuse DC of ripping any storylines off of Marvel, pointing out the similarities between The New 52: Future's End and Age of Ultron is much more timely). Luthor offers the villains who helped him save teh world the opportunity to wipe their criminal records clean and start fresh.
Sinestro and Black Adam laugh at him and fly off. Catwoman and Black Manta sneak off, leaving just Captain Cold and Luthor on the rooftop (Hey, guess which two former villains join the Justice League in issue #30?).
Epilogue #3: In Gotham City, Batman repeats Luthor's offer to Catwoman, but she asks if all he wants from her is for her to stop being a bad guy, and when he implies that he can't be her boyfriend (Because the only woman for him is Lady Justice, presumably), she jumps off the roof they're standing on (But she's holding a rope! She's not so distraught that she's killing herself or anything!).
And, in a two-panel scene in the Batcave, Batman and Dick Grayson deal with Nightwing's secret identity being revealed to the whole world. "This isn't about your true identity being exposed to the world--it's about taking advantage of that," Batman says, while holding a folder or thin book of some kind open in front of him. "This mission will be the most dangerous thing I've ever asked you to do."
Oh, so that's probably an advance copy of Grayson #1 that Batman's holding.
Epilogue #4: Luthor takes a meeting with brilliant grad student Ted Kord, who appears wearing a t shirt bearing the logo for Kord Industries, which just-so-happens to be the logo for Blue Beetle. Luthor killed Ted Kord's dad in the first issue of Forever Evil to try and take over his company, but now Ted's offering to sell. Luthor refuses to take it. Is Luthor turning over a new leaf, or just getting sneakier and more manipulative when it comes to doing evil deeds?
In the next three-pages, we get a rapid-fire update of where various characters are: Element Woman and Vibe are MIA, Owlman has escaped and is currently posing atop a gargoyle in a big city that is probably Gotham, Ultaman is incarcerated and sobbing uncontrolably, Superwoman is also incarcerated and still pregnant, Luthor is trying to rebuild his buddy Bizarro and he finally realized something that should have been evident to everyone in the DC Universe the moment the Syndicate revealed that Nightwing was Dick Grayson: Batman is Bruce Wayne.
Yes, Bruce Wayne, the Gotham billionaire whose parents were killed by a criminal and then spent years away from Gotham City, returning just a few months before Batman appeared, the man who publicly announced that he was Batman's financier (and that of all of Batman, Inc), and the man who raised Dick Grayson who, remember, turned out to Nightwing, is Batman.
I think I just realized something. Lex Luthor may be the smartest man in the DC Universe, but it's not necessarily because he's so brilliant. Rather, it's because everyone else in the DCU is apparently pretty dim.
Epilogue #5: Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Batman are meeting in the Batcave, and Superman tells them that Darkseid must be returning to Earth, since he assumes that it was Darkseid who destroyed Earth-3 and so rattled the Syndicate.
But Superman is wrong! As the last page reveals. Some blurry red lines that create a sort of cat's cradle over a ruined urban environment, which I guess is maybe also the red lightning seen in the sky a few issues ago, speaks aloud: You have consumed all the power you can from this universe... But I will find you another universe to consume, Anti-Monitor."
And there stands The New 52 Anti-Monitor, looking like a mash-up of the character from Crisis on Infinite Earths with some New Gods-esque Kirby fashion and more and shinier robot parts.
While DC hasn't announced their next crossover event series yet, I think it's safe to assume it's going to feature the Anti-Monitor, the Multiverse and have some derivation of the words "Infinite" and "Crisis" in the title.