By: Geoff Johns (story), Ivan Reis (pencils), Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Eber Ferreira (inks), Rod Reis (colors)

The Story: Hear now the story of a baby, rocketed from a doomed planet, sent to doom our own.

The Review: With Forever Evil, Johns is wandering into some tricky territory, story-wise.  Our heroes are no longer the pristine models of goodness and nobility they used to be, and it doesn’t make sense for their “evil” counterparts to be entirely depraved bastions of sin either.  Anyway, it would get pretty boring watching the Earth-3 folks do the predictably nasty thing in every scenario.  Where’s the tension if they don’t deal with niceties like ethical considerations?

So far, Johns has done a fairly decent job adding some dimension to the Crime Syndicate, or at least some of them (Johnny Quick and Atomica are beyond any hope of having some depth).  But as he explores the origins of Ultraman, there are times when he paints the characters’ callousness with such broad strokes that it becomes petty, almost comical.  Note “Jor-Il” and Lara-3’s last moments on the doomed Krypton-3:

“This is all your fault, Jor-Il,” Lara-3 mutters sullenly as they watch their son’s rocket depart.

“Shut up and die, Lara,” he says, with what you imagine to be weariness.

Still, there is an interesting aspect to Ultraman’s (“Kal-Il”) upbringing in the conflicted indoctrination he receives on his way to Earth-3.  Even as his father’s robotic voice instructs him in the art of domination (“Weakness of any kind must be rooted out and destroyed”), there is also an undermining note of doubt echoing each tenet (“I have no confidence in you,” “You’re already a disappointment,” “I know how weak you really are.”).  Obviously, daddy issues.  The question is how this cocktail of confidence and disgust has manifested in the psyche of Ultraman today, and whether it will play a part in the outcome of the storyline.

Although Johns spends a bit too much of this issue rehashing Ultraman’s disagreement with the world he’s landed on (“They protect the sick.  They coddle their handicapped.”), he does reveal a few important bits of new information: Ultraman’s source of power and weakness, the long-term side effects of Power Ring’s ring, the appearance of the Doom Patrol (hurrah!), Grid’s gestating motivations (“I am a computer virus, attempting to evolve into something that can think and feel, Ultraman.  I long to feel…something.”).  Say what you like about Johns, but he always finds a way to weave these disparate elements together into some master plan.

The rest of the issue is taken up by a rather great scene of Ultraman visiting the offices of The Daily Planet, curious to see what has become of his friends (though I use that term loosely) on this gentler, meeker world.  Johns does generate a powerful tension in Ultraman’s clear absence of sympathy as it encroaches upon the completely helpless journalists, their desperate attempts to call out for Superman failing.  Enter Black Adam—and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the end of the issue.

That final scene is a standout especially because of Reis’ art.  Though I think there are more dramatic artists in the DC ranks, he’s quite effective on his own terms.  He adds just the right amount of hardness to Ultraman’s face to convey, without much in the way of action, that this is a very different kind of Kryptonian the Daily Planet folks are dealing with.  Rod Reis’ sinister colors also play their part in that scene, draping the office in an eerie blue-black that makes the danger seem all the greater.

Conclusion: Though sometimes evil is depicted with no small amount of caricature, there are suggestions of more profound developments going on.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I do like the idea that on Earth-3, Lee Oswald became president.  I expect that means John F. Kennedy would have been his crazed (though charismatic) assassin if Ultraman hadn’t gotten to it first.