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

The Story: Not only is morality topsy-turvy on Earth-3, the spelling is off, too!

The Review: After I reviewed the first issue of Forever Evil, commenter Invasionforce and I had a slight disagreement about its merits.  Invasionforce was of the mind that the storyline served as a kind of political allegory, with “evil” as a stand-in for social Darwinism, where one’s fitness for survival need not include scruples or any humanist sentiment whatsoever.  I was of the mind that Forever Evil was just another splashy event drenched in mindless superpowered battles.

No offense to Invasionforce, but at this point, I’m convinced that history will validate my perspective on things.  It’s been many months since we’ve seen the Ultraman, Luthor, or anyone else espouse their views on anything; they’ve been too busy fulfilling their intended roles in this melodrama, either killing or getting killed as most befits their stature.  And that’d be hunky-dory with me if only the plotting and character work had a little more going for it.

My problem with Forever Evil is not that it lacks depth of meaning, but that it frequently lacks depth, period.  Even the smartest characters in the series come across as rather shallow.  Batman springs readily to mind.  Despite the fact any dummy with two eyes can see he’s in no position of power whatsoever, despite the fact that none of his enemies can care less what he thinks, he still has the gall to remind Luthor, “Don’t think this is going to earn you any favor with me.”  The dude’s just not getting it, which is deplorable from one of the DCU’s greatest minds.

Even more incredibly, Batman doesn’t immediately see the solution to Nightwing’s entrapment in the Murder Machine, an Apokoliptan bomb which will only disarm once his heart stops.  Considering how replete fiction—and non-fiction, come to think of it—is of people whose hearts temporarily stop and yet live to tell the tale, it’s amazing that Batman doesn’t spot the solution himself right away, much less see through Luthor’s apparently murderous, but life-saving scheme.  Luthor calls Batman an “idiot” for his blindness, and the insult is utterly, unfortunately deserved here.

Plot-wise, we also have problems.  If you found Power Ring’s death last issue disappointing for the way it ended all opportunity for the cowardly villain to show some dimension, you’re certain to find the Outsider’s quick, brutal, near unemotional murder by Manta an anticlimactic end for the villain who started all this.  Johns can unceremoniously twist the necks of as many Johnny Quicks as he wants, but the most interesting and important figures deserve better.

But I suppose room has to be made for even bigger personalities to take the stage.  I’m sure that a lot of people, especially anyone with a decent knowledge of Earth-3, guessed that the man beneath the burlap hood was Alexander Luthor, heroic counterpart to Earth-Prime’s villainous Luthor.  The revelation that the hooded man is indeed Alex would thus be almost dull if not for two strong, WTF-inducing twists: first, that Alex is not the paragon of virtue you might expect; and second, more spectacularly, that Alex has the power of “MAZAHS!!!”  If nothing else, it’s enough to drag you to the next issue of Forever Evil.

While this series hasn’t done any favors for Johns’ writing, it has given Finch’s art a lot more confidence and power.  There’s definitely a zip to the composition and action that we’re not accustomed to seeing from Finch, and it’s exactly what he needs to firmly entrench himself in the upper echelons of the mainstream artists.  There’s a really magnificent double-splash, with great lighting from Oback, of the Syndicate crashing in to attack Sinestro and Black Adam, the glass flying off the page.  Each character is not only perfectly posed, but posed to convey ruthless momentum.

Conclusion: Once again, an outrageous cliffhanger saves the issue from utter mediocrity.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Physics people—does it make sense for Black Manta’s suit to be completely sealed down to the microscopic level?  And while you’re at it, can you explain Cold’s ability to “stop atoms cold.

– If Alexander is as dangerous as all that and the Syndicate has him helpless in their grasp, why didn’t they just kill him when they had the chance?