Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Forever Evil Finale

I blogged many months ago about the end of DC's Trinity War and the start of their major event: Forever Evil.  And when I say many months ago, I mean MANY!

The finale to the story has been long delayed and only came out onto the shelves a few weeks ago.  So was it worth the wait?

In short: yes!

I never doubt Geoff Johns, but the extended absence of the main series made me think that the last issue would have less momentum.  And to be sure if it had come out a month or two earlier, it would have had a much more immediate impact, especially regarding the fate of Dick Grayson.

For those unfamiliar, Forever Evil is the story of villains.  The Crime Syndicate, a mirror-universe version of the Justice League, has invaded from a parallel earth and taken out the League and taken over the world.  The only hope the world has are its "supervillains."  Our anti-heroes include Lex Luthor, Bizzaro, Black Manta, Captain Cold, Black Adam, and Sinestro.

Back in September, DC had a "Villains Month" where the regular books were hijacked by stories centering around each series' major villain.  While there were some good issues here and there, the overall experiment was a failure and here's why: we do not like villains.

I don't mean that we cannot enjoy the bad guy on some level.  But if they are persistently evil, we cannot root for them and their goals without also being evil on some level.  I may find the Joker fascinating.  But I cannot eagerly wish him success in blowing up an orphanage.  So many of the Villains Month stories left me a bit hollow.

Johns, however, understands this problem completely.  How do you get your audience to go along with the biggest collection of villains in the DC Universe?  By pitting them against villains even worse.

When set against the Crime Syndicate, we can root for Luthor and his gang.  We even begin to enjoy their ruthlessness against them because it is not directed at the good and the innocent, but at the guilty.  This is why characters like Marvel's Punisher can sustain a series: he is a psycho killing psychos.

When Johns sets the main DC villains loose upon this even worse threat, there is a good deal of fun and excitement.  And Johns has a lot of experience writing Cold, Sinestro, Adam, Manta, and Luthor.  He is smart enough to give them each a unique voice and some personality trait that makes them sympathetic.

This is also one of the best and most intriguing moments with Batman that I've seen in the new 52.  One of the things that always impresses me about Johns is his ability to take the story to a place that is unexpected and yet obvious.  Something is revealed about Batman that I didn't see coming but seems so obvious now.  I don't want to spoil it and Johns doesn't dwell on it, but it has far reaching consequences for the relationships of some important people in the DCU.

The finale, with art by David Lynch is very good and appropriately dark.  It matches not only the mood of the issue but the threat level of the story.

Johns does the classic move of setting up the his next big story in the finale of his last.  The climax of the story occurs earlier in the issue than you would expect.  He then uses the remaining time to set up the new threats that are coming.

The follow up in Justice League #30 is also top notch.   As all the dust begins to settle, the fault lines of good and evil are shaken up.  Since DC started the New 52, there were some bold re-imaginings, but many of the stories have simply retread old paths with an updated twist.

But Johns is now taking big chances and shaking things up the way Marvel used to do in the Ultimate Universe.  Unlike most events, it feels like something things have really changed.  This issue puts Luthor front and center in a way that I have never seen. Like all of the heroes, I don't trust him, but I don't see how he could be deceiving.  I love that Johns puts that conflict in me, the reader, that parallels the other heroes.

I cannot wait for the continuing Justice League adventures with the new status quo.  And I know there is a something great on the horizon.

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