New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium.
Trinity War was a bit of a bust. But fortunately, it was just setting the stage for another crossover! Move over Justice League, it’s time for the villains of DC to get their chance to shine!
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: David Finch
Collects: Forever Evil #1-7
WHAT’S THE STORY?
After the Trinity War crossover, Forever Evil is a full-blown event comic – a contained miniseries which various other books tie in to.
Alongside the seven-issue core series, the event also had tie ins in Constantine, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, Pandora, Phantom Stranger and Suicide Squad. On top of this, it also spawned several limited series: A.R.G.U.S., Arkham War and Rogues Rebellion.
As if that wasn’t enough, the entire DC line of comics published during November 2013 ran ‘Villains Month’, where the usual comics did villain spotlight issues; generally four per book.
The cause of the event is the writers behind the New 52 bringing Earth 3 back into continuity. You may be somewhat familiar with this if you’re a fan of The Flash TV show, but in DC comics, there is a multiverse filled with alternate realities. Generally, editorial limits the number of universes their writers focus on to around fifty (there are more, but that’s where they generally draw the line). Fifty-two main universes, with the ‘Prime Earth’, ‘New Earth’ or Earth 0 being the one where the majority of stories take place.
While in-story, ‘Prime Earth’ is famous for it’s Justice League and the heroes therein, Earth 2 is home to their (usually) elder counterparts, the Justice Society. Takes on the heroes that were mostly introduced in the forties and fifties before the more modern characters were introduced. You had an older Flash, an older Green Lantern; the original versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, among others. If you are a fan of DC TV, you may also know of the Justice Society from Legends of Tomorrow and the ongoing Stargirl.
Anyway, those two are the most famous universes. Other notable ones are Earth 12, the future as seen in the Batman Beyond TV series and comic books; Earth 11, where everyone’s genders are reversed; Earth 10, where Nazis won World War II and are opposed by a group of heroes called the Freedom Fighters, led by Uncle Sam (you know, from the poster); Earth 5, based on the characters of Captain Marvel/Shazam’s original owners, Fawcett Comics; Earth 4, based on the characters DC obtained from Charlton comics – the characters who would inspire the ‘heroes’ from Watchmen; and most relevant to today, Earth 3, where the Justice League is a group of villains called the Crime Syndicate.
The Crime Syndicate consists of Ultraman, the Earth 3 version of Superman, who consumes Kryptonite to gain more power but is weakened by sunlight; Superwoman, an Amazon who has taken on the name Lois Lane and carries a lasso that forces people to lose their inhibitions and reveal their desires; Owlman, the older brother of a deceased Bruce Wayne, who has become a crimelord rather than a vigilante. Both Owlman and Ultraman have a relationship with Superwoman, who plays them against each other.
This particular iteration of the Crime Syndicate also sees evil versions of Firestorm (Deathstorm), the Flash (Johnny Quick), the Atom (Atomica) and Green Lantern (Power Ring). They are aided by Cyborg’s autonomous, virus-infected armour (Grid), and are seen to have previously counted an evil Aquaman (Sea King) among their number.
Real Name: Alexander Joseph Luthor
Affiliation: The Legion of Doom
First Appearance: Action Comics #23 (April 1940)
Mirroring the journey of his nemesis, Lex Luthor hailed from Smallville, Kansas before moving to the gleaming city of Metropolis. Upon Superman‘s arrival in the big city, Luthor was one of the first to study and attempt to bring down the alien hero alongside corrupt businessman Glen Glenmorgan, and subsequently worked his way into power when Glenmorgan was brought down by Superman. One of the most brilliant, yet devious men on the planet, Lex Luthor became an industrialist of great renown. Blessed with an unparalleled genius, which he has used to amass great wealth and influence, Luthor is usually able to achieve nearly anything he sets his mind to. However, in spite of all his great achievements, one thing Luthor still cannot overcome is his great hatred for Superman, whose natural powers spit in the face of everything Luthor has worked so hard to achieve.
WHAT’S THE PLOT?
After the events of Trinity War, the Justice League is dead.
In wake of their passing, doppelgangers from Earth 3, the Crime Syndicate, have emerged and taken over the world. Lead by the nefarious Ultraman, these villains seek to transform the planet into a dark, crime-ridden dystopia.
Through the machinations of their Alfred Pennyworth, they have formed an army of the worlds greatest supervillains, who now wreak havoc across the globe, snuffing out any hope of resistance from the remaining heroes.
Batman and Catwoman, the only surviving Leaguers, have an insurmountable task ahead of them if they want to restore the world to what it was, which means teaming up with Lex Luthor and his newly formed Injustice League – Bizarro, Black Adam, Black Manta, Captain Cold & Sinestro.
It’s villain versus villain for the fate of the Earth.
WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
You might think, what with this even spinning out of Trinity War, that this comic would be of similar quality. Thankfully, it’s far from. It is the undeniable peak in quality of Johns’ Justice League run thus far.
By focusing on the character of Lex Luthor, and journeying through this temporary new DC landscape where the villains rule, Johns keeps this story focused and interesting. Luthor is a brilliant central character and seeing him form an ‘Injustice League’ of the DC Superheroes’ greatest foes makes for entertaining reading and an interesting deviation from the norm.
Seeing characters like Black Adam and Sinestro get their ‘epic hero moments’ seem well deserved, and it’s nice to see the bad guys come out on top in a way that isn’t detrimental to the success of the superheroes. By removing the Justice League from the board for the entirety of the story, it also bypasses any having to go through the ‘fight-then-band together for the greater good’ trope over and over. You get it once when Batman and Luthor come into contact, and then it’s done. There’s no time wasted here on getting Superman and Luthor, Flash and Captain Cold or Aquaman and Black Manta on the same page. The stage is set, we move forward.
The art is all done by David Finch, whose gritty style perfectly captures the tone of this story. He’s able to swap between the epic sci-fi elements and grungy street-level scenes with ease, and every character he depicts feels alive and emotive. He gives a real sense of danger to the story; he captures both the literal darkness and the darkness that hangs in the air of this broken world well.
Overall, this story is just fun. And it’s contained too, so you could probably read the whole thing in a vacuum. Sure, it ties into Trinity War, but ‘the Justice League’s dead, their doppelgangers are here’ is all you really need to know to go in. You get introduced to all the characters that are important, and it’s not like every time a supervillain shows up in a comic book you’re required to know their storied, sixty-plus year backstory.