By: Geoff Johns (story), David Finch (pencils) Richard Friend (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)

The Story: As it turns out, nice guys do finish last.

The Review: Obviously, I have a judgmental streak, otherwise I wouldn’t be so committed to this gig, but usually I try to suppress my instincts to make snap judgments.  After all, we wouldn’t get very far in this world if we let initial impressions dictate the course of our actions.  That begin said, every time I hear Forever Evil, I can’t help giving in to a shudder.  There’s just a lot of eye-rolling lameness going on in that title.

Nevertheless, I support the purpose of the series even if the branding makes me want to gag.  As many of these comic book writers are so fond of saying, a superhero is only as good as his villains, and DC happens to have a lot of good ones.  Even more than its heroes, DC’s villains have more recognition in the public consciousness than any from the Marvel end of the industry, and it seems right, now that the DCU is young anew, to celebrate that fact.

You don’t get quite the thrill of seeing all these criminals banded up together as you would with, say, a team-up of Justice Leagues, but having them appear so close together does reveal interesting distinctions in their motivations.  Compare the familial camaraderie of Flash’s Rogues to the dynamic of Batman’s rogues, who interact more like respected colleagues in their chosen profession of evil.  Or compare the deeply personal hatred which drives Black Manta’s vendetta against Aquaman with Luthor’s intellectual resentment for Superman.

Clearly, villainy comes in as many flavors as heroism, which means that not all of DC’s baddies necessarily share the Crime Syndicate’s quest for domination, of displaying and exerting their power for its own sake.  If this isn’t enough of a point for contention, then how about the paradox of DC’s villains, after years of subjugation by the Justice League, suddenly becoming willing (and unwilling) followers of essentially the Justice League’s doppelgangers?  There’s something kind of compelling in that; even in a scenario where the villains have won, they still stand in the League’s shadows.

Of course, having evil rule the day is a marvelous tagline and all, but after that, then what?  If this all leads to some powerful storylines where the villains test the limits of their wickedness, or the remaining heroes demonstrate their conviction against such adversity, or the non-super members of the DCU rise up to fight for hope, and all gain new dimensions to their characters in the process, then it’ll all be worth it.  But if none of these happen, then Forever Evil is just the empty marketing ploy cynics believe it to be.

Here’s a bigger question, though: what exactly happened to the actual Leaguers?  When we last saw them in Justice League #23, they were admittedly trying to regroup from the Syndicate’s sudden appearance, but otherwise still alive.  It seems pretty outrageous that Johns would simply go from there to “the Justice League is dead,” (“Hell, yes, they are.”) thereby skipping over some fairly crucial plot points in the process.  Maybe the timing of this Villains Month campaign got in the way somehow, but I find the absence of the confrontation scene unforgivably careless.

Finch has his detractors, and I suppose he always will—for good reason—but he’s certainly grown through his DC work.  His storytelling has gotten a little more creative, and the range of expression he can offer has broadened somewhat, too.  Characters no longer look like clones of each other, although strong similarities persist.  Funnily enough, it is on this series where the forces of darkness have won that Finch has finally started to shake off the gritty, grimy, qualities of his art in favor of a brighter, more overtly superheroic aesthetic, and the fact that Oback’s colors can be more clearly seen confirms the change.  Finch isn’t one of DC’s top pop artists, like Ivan Reis or Doug Mahnke, but he’s slowly moving in that direction.

Conclusion: Like its star characters, this series has some serious flaws, but also like its characters, hope remains that this can all turn to some good in the end.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Black Adam is back!  How?  Why?

– Hmm.  If Thomas Kord is this young in the DCU, how young is his son, Ted?  Surely not younger than Jaime Reyes?

– I’m not sure how much I approve of how far Johns carries the whole opposite routine with the Earth-3 characters, especially Ultraman.  I mean, inhaling Kryptonite for strength and getting stung by the light of the sun?  Why doesn’t he have  thin, spindly frame or shoot cold vision from his eyes, then?

– On the plus side, if Ultraman consumes all the Kryptonite on Earth, there’ll be that much less for Superman to worry about when he gets back.  See, and you thought there was no reason for optimism.