Spotlight: Forever Evil #1

(w) Geoff Johns

Forever_Evil_1_v43xi7j9q0_(a) David Finch

** SPOILERS FOR “TRINITY WAR” AS WELL AS THIS ISSUE **

Months before it ever started, “Trinity War” was believed to be DC’s first big crossover event. It would focus on the three Justice Leagues — proper, of America, and Dark, respectively — and have major ramifications for the entire DCnU. Instead, “Trinity War” ended up being more of a prelude chapter to Forever Evil, the first TRUE crossover in the ‘New 52’, one that actually will reach into every corner of this shared comic book universe.

The opening sequence in Forever Evil #1 is truly chilling. Lex Luthor is one of the most vile and dark villains Superman or the Justice League have ever faced; he’s academically, scientifically, and culturally brilliant; his multi-billion dollar company owns much of Metropolis, real estate or otherwise; and he just so happens to want to rule the world. Kord Industries is in the way of Luthor’s plans, so instead of negotiating with the stubborn Thomas Kord, Luthor simply threatens the man’s entire family with a frighteningly specific plan should Kord fail to sign over control of his family’s legacy company to a psychopath with a chip on his shoulder for Superman. This scene shows how well Johns knows this character and sets an overall tone for the issue going forward.

Obviously, this is the first of seven issues, so there’s a lot more questions being raised than answers being given. At the end of “Trinity War”, the Crime Syndicate arrived via interdimensional portal from the dying Earth 3. The final pages of Justice League #23 only gave vague hints as to the Crime Syndicate’s motives, but Forever Evil #1 expounds on those hints and fleshes out a world under the thumb of super-powered despots. Heroes are gone, criminals run amok doing whatever they like, infrastructure has crumbled, and the message broadcast by the Crime Syndicate over every communication bandwidth available becomes clear: This world is ours.

We don’t get to see the Crime Syndicate much in Forever Evil #1, nor do we get to see the actual battle between the Syndicate and the three Justice Leagues that results in the disappearance of nearly every superhero. I do wish there had been more information about how the Leagues fell. Most likely, we’ll get the full story starting next month when various DC titles start tying-in to Forever Evil, but that’s a full month without any real answers, which is a 6/10 on the frustration scale. I don’t know why DC is content with everything being so vague right now, but it seems to be an ongoing problem for many titles: not enough information to keep readers interested. I will be reading the rest of Forever Evil because I’m extremely interested in what comes next, but for the casual reader interested in the villains of the DCnU, this crossover event could be too much too fast without context.

GRADE

8/10

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Justice League of America #3

(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

I want to like Justice League of America more than I do. The first issue was fun in as much as a set-up issue can be, and the second issue was build-up for the teams first mission. There hasn’t been a lot of time to develop the team dynamic, and it’s starting to hurt the series as a whole. It’s surprising because Geoff Johns is usually spot-on when it comes to character development and team books.

Before I get into the issue proper, I want to address something that’s been bothering me since the first issue. WHERE IS SIMON BAZ? He was completely absent from the first two issues — his dossier introduction aside — and in Justice League of America #3, he appears in all of two panels, and they’re both panorama shots so he’s barely visible. Simon’s inclusion on the team is a big reason why I was interested in the title in the first place, and he’s still nowhere to be seen three issues in. A lot of people had the same issue with Justice League when it first began, but those first six issues were a complete origin story where all the Leaguers meet for the first time. The JLA is established and has yet to have a full-team mission.

Alright. Moving on.



** SPOILERS AHEAD **


Justice League of America #3 opens with a scene between Stargirl and Amanda Waller. While their conversation starts off innocently enough, it quickly takes a sharp left turn when Waller takes a hard stance against Stargirl’s wish to be a more active member of the team. The comic book trope of the youngest superhero of the bunch feeling left out drives the sequence, but Waller’s ugly attitude shows just how sketchy this team is at it’s most basic level. Courtney Whitmore — as Waller reveals her name to be — joined the team as a bright-eyed, optimistic do-gooder who is now being blackmailed into running PR for this government-sanctioned superhero team. It’s all very intriguing. And David Finch’s facial work really characterizes Waller’s ugly nature.

Vibe feels like a ‘deus ex machina’ to get the team and himself out of almost any technological quandary. Oh, there’s a security camera? Vibe can’t be photographed and neither can those around him…as of this issue. Not in his own series; only in this issue of Justice League of America. Also, I really don’t like Katana. I’ve never read any of her pre-New 52 material, and the first issue of Katana was so hideous I just put it down and screamed into a pillow for a few minutes. She just seems like such a ridiculous Japanese stereotype that I just can’t understand why people stomach her.

Green Arrow’s faux pas during an orchestrated arrest of Catwoman fantastically well done, and Ollie’s subsequent use of the privileged information about Catwoman’s true allegiances to garner a place on the team is eloquent and hilarious.

Speaking of Catwoman, I read Catwoman #19 after Justice League of America #3 because it’s supposed to be a look at Selina’s 48 hours inside Arkham Asylum before she escapes at the end of JLA #3. I wouldn’t recommend doing the same unless you’re interested in reading a story that has nothing to do with anything at all. The whole plan was for Catwoman to get info about the Secret Society whilst inside Arkham. Instead, she antagonizes everyone and really doesn’t get much in the process. 

GRADE
7/10

Total Side Note:
Within the pages of Catwoman #19, Ann Nocenti took it upon herself to explain that Arkham Asylum isn’t actually a historic mansion turned into a hospital, but rather a fully modern facility employing holographic technology to make it look like a historic mansion. 

Two reasons why I hate this so much.

1.) It totally and completely destroys the idea that Arkham is a genuinely frightening place. The facility’s presence is juxtaposed to it’s primary function which is what made it such a compelling part of the Batman mythos. If this holds across other titles, it will mean that Arkham is just another loony bin, no different than your average high-tech insane asylum.

2.) If Dr. Arkham has the money to spend on holographic infrastructure for an entire facility, why can’t he spend more on security, overall structural integrity, and pooling of resources to achieve real results? It makes absolutely no sense. If Dr. Arkham is some weirdo who only runs the asylum to play around with the criminally insane, why does Batman trust him? And if he truly does think he’s doing the best he can, why does Batman suffer such a fool?

Justice League of America #2

(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

After a brisk yet satisfying first issue, Justice League of America #2 stumbles a bit as Geoff Johns attempts to get the action rolling as quickly as possible. Honestly, it’s kind of annoying that the “Secret Society” is already known to so many people. I know Martian Manhunter says that all the villains he’s interrogated have no idea what the Society is, but the fact remains that A.R.G.U.S. knows about it so how secret can it truly be? Johns spent six issues building up to Darkseid’s arrival in Justice League. Here, the team is already assembled and out on their first mission. I’m all for getting to the point, but this seems needlessly fast paced.

The most unfortunate part is that this entire issue feels very much like it could have been the first, with the first issue as a #0. I know DC already did “Zero Month”, but if Johns wants things to move at this kind of speed, he’s already misstepped because the first issue was so slow. Both issues have been good, but neither fit together particularly well, and that’s not a good relationship between the first and second issues of a new flagship series. 

Surprisingly, Green Arrow turns out to be the surprise star of JLA #2, and he’s only conscious for the latter half of the issue. I still don’t know why, but Johns insists on writing Steve Trevor as a massive ass, and his conversation with a newly awake Ollie Queen reasserts this bewildering fact all over again. Back in Justice League #8, Arrow attempted to join the League proper with less than desirable results. Trevor approached Arrow and it was established that Green Arrow would be an agent of A.R.G.U.S. It seems that now, after Ollie’s been through the gauntlet to uncover the Society, Trevor has no problem throwing him to the curb without a satisfying explanation. The emotional tension between Ollie and Steve is great, and Ollie’s insistance that Steve “sold out” is a fantastic throwback to Green Arrow’s classic counterculture characterization.

Even though JLA #2 doesn’t have the same feel as the first issue, Geoff Johns is still stetting up something big. Perhaps the series is supposed to feel like it’s not completely sure of itself, much like Steve Trevor and his grasp on the JLA situation in general. Last year’s The New 52 #1, which came out on Free Comic Book Day, portended the coming of a Trinity War that pitted hero against hero. That reality is coming closer and closer to fruition with more characters and plot lines being introduced.

GRADE
7.5/10

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #12

STORY: Gregg Hurwitz
ART: David Finch

Batman: The Dark Knight started out as the weakest Batman title in DC’s arsenal. Detective Comics explored the more emotional aspects of Bruce Wayne’s life, Batman was all about the psychological, and Batman and Robin provided the familial themes so important to Batman’s characterization. The Dark Knight didn’t really have much to explore that the other three titles weren’t already delving into, and it showed. It didn’t help that David Finch – the acclaimed artist – was attempting scripting duties. Now that Gregg Hurwitz has taken over the writing duties, things have started to pick up with the debut of the ‘New 52’ Scarecrow.

Hurwtiz’s Scarecrow is far more visceral than previous incarnations as the son to a mentally unbalanced psychologist (how ironically fun is that?), Crane has a disturbing connection to fear that makes a lot more sense with his inclinations to toy with fear on the molecular and chemical level. “Well, Dad…Take a look at me now!” hearkens to universal paternal issues that trigger deep-seeded rage. More interestingly, Hurwitz has made Crane’s fear toxin a viable threat once again – it goes deeper and coaxes the subconscious fears that are usually blocked out.

“You see, that’s why I understand you, Batman. You fear nothing. Except fear itself,” pretty much sums up Batman as a whole. Bruce fights every day of his life to stave off the fear that criminals use to subdue their victims, but in the end, it’s Batman himself who uses fear the most. He uses that fear to “prove yourself, over and over.” – Scarecrow claims he’s mastered fear while Bruce runs from it. On a psychological level, Bruce fills the void in his life with the fight against fear. On the emotional side, Batman uses fear as a crutch more often than not, and that’s why Scarecrow can win, why he continues to be a thorn in Batman’s side.

And that’s the real tragedy: that Batman’s void can really never be filled because he will never be able to conquer his own fear and ascend to a greater cause.

GRADE
A

(NIGHT OF THE OWLS) BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #9

STORY: Judd Winick
ART: David Finch and Richard Friend

While this is the correct Talon, Red Robin does not fight him….?

As you probably know either from experience or simply just from prior knowledge of DC’s business practices, Batman has a big presence in the ‘New 52.’ Not only is he DC’s most popular hero, but it’s possible the sales numbers for Bat-related books keep others afloat (I’m looking at you, Demon Knights.) But with a big presence comes a larger potential for shitty, unnecessary titles that add bloat instead of important – or even interesting – plot or character development. Batman: The Dark Knight falls right in the middle; it’s not a terrible book, but it’s also not the best Batman-related title that DC offers. That being said, Batman: The Dark Knight #9 happens to be my favorite crossover issue for “Night of the Owls”. It’s an issue that focuses mostly on a Talon named Carver who’s career lasted too long. Technically, he was the final talon before Dick Grayson’s generation, giving him a closer connection to the events of Batman’s life.

Inner monologue is a tricky thing to successfully convey. If – at any moment – the reader feels like the character’s thoughts are corny, cheesy, or downright ridiculous, it’s a lot harder to relate to that particular title. No one thinks in sentences about their grand plans and how their unique abilities will help them complete said plans (i.e. – I never think to myself, “I’m going to use my skill in writing to keep up with my blog now!” and then proceed to write.) We call this the ‘Scott Lobdell Principle’ here at “The Endless Reel.” The trick is to integrate the reader so smoothly into the thoughts of the desired character, that the reader becomes connected (no matter how temporarily) to said character. Judd Winick is one of those writers who gets it – he makes inner monologue feel less forced.

Batman: The Dark Knight #9 follows Talon Carver’s life from childhood to undead resurrection. It’s been interesting to see how DC’s conveyed these Talons as enemies. At first, it seemed like they were somewhat mindless drones that obeyed the Court of Owls without question. As we near the end of “Night of the Owls”, it’s becoming more and more clear that these Talons have control over their own thoughts, and some choose to be completely loyal, while others explore the undead life they’ve been given. In this case, Carver obeys the Court, but mostly for his own sense of redemption. Carver’s career as a Talon ended in disgrace after he botched an assassination, was seen by the Batman, and then fled.

Carver was the Talon sent after Lincoln March that we met a few weeks ago in Batman #9. B:TDK reinterprets the scene to include Talon Carver’s perspective on the events. In the end, Carver is still old, slow, and weak. The difference is that this time, he accepts his fate; he feels deserving of the cruel end he’s been dealt because he’s no longer good enough for anything else.

“Night of the Owls” has been at it’s best when it gives the Talons compelling characterization. Batman: The Dark Knight #9 does the best job – so far – of making an emotional connection between the reader and Talon Carver. And he escapes at the end! Does this mean we haven’t seen the last of Carver? Will he return as a Talon or as a new villain? Next month promises the return of Scarecrow, but part of me just wants to change this series’ title to Carver and follow this Talon on his quest to understand where he fits into the world.

GRADE:
A

PS – The cover is a total mislead – Red Robin shows up for exactly one panel, and it’s only to listen to orders from Batman. A total letdown. This grade would have been an ‘A+’ if not for that tease.