When the Justice League is dead, villains must become our heroes. In Forever Evil, the League’s evil mirror image from another dimensions conquers Earth and only Lex Luthor can save the day.
It’s been almost a year since the highly publicized mini-series Forever Evil concluded so I thought it would be a good idea to go back and revisit this story with fresh eyes. So how well does Forever Evil read as a stand-alone graphic novel nearly one year later? And just how good of a job did DC do with collecting the sprawling Forever Evil saga in one sleek hardcover? Here’s what I thought…
The graphic novel of Forever Evil includes all seven issues of the Forever Evil mini-series by Geoff Johns, David Finch, and Richard Friend as well as a gallery of the title’s numerous variant covers. None of the tie-ins from Justice League, Justice League of America, Arkham War, or any other series are collected with it. This is surprising since Trinity War, what I consider to be a far inferior saga by comparison, included EVERYTHING with its graphic novel release.
This most notable absence as a result is the lack of Cyborg, who plays a pivotal role in the story. All of his actions are only found in the pages of Justice League. Therefore, to get the most satisfying Forever Evil experience, you’ll need to pick up Justice League, Volume 5: Forever Heroes as well and be prepared to jump back and forth between chapters from each book. Cyborg is thrown into the main Forever Evil book in such a way that it feels disingenuous and like a deus ex machina, but if you read both works together it plays far better.
If you think you’d like to read EVERY tie-in that Forever Evil had, I have some remarks on that behind the spoiler tag below (there aren’t any spoilers, I just didn’t want this info taking up too much space):
Side Note: For Those Who Want The Whole Thing
If you’re not interested in reading Forever Evil as a stand-alone and want to get the full experience, you’ll find yourself incredibly overwhelmed by the volume of tie-ins this thing had. It’s a fun storyline, but it became a grotsque cash-grab. We’re talking several issues each of the following titles: Justice League, JLA, Justice League Dark, Arkham War, Rogues Rebellion, ARGUS, Suicide Squad, Pandora, Phantom Stranger, Constantine, and a total of 52 Villains Month one-shots.
If you want to tackle all of that, God bless ya! But personally I think you could get by pretty easily if you just read Forever Evil along with this list of books:
- Justice League #24-29
- VILLAINS MONTH Black Adam #1
- VILLAINS MONTH The Secret Society
Those titles fill in all the biggest gaps and add depth to some of the ancillary characters as well. Despite what might seem like an obvious choice, you do not need to read Trinity War to enjoy Forever Evil. The important part about what happened to the Justice League is gradually revealed through flashbacks in Forever Evil and it works just fine. And honestly, all that nonsense Trinity War introduces about seven spirits being the cause for all the evil in the world is never spoken of ever again in Forever Evil.
The two graphic novels are going to earn about the same score from me, but that’s just because Trinity War‘s graphic novel was a much better pieced-together collection for your money and it had better artwork. Forever Evil‘s hardcover did a poor job of adding necessary chapters, but it’s an overall better story.
Giving Forever Evil some time to cool and getting to sit down and read it from start to finish as a stand-alone graphic novel was an interesting experience. At the time it was published I was immersed in all of the tie-ins so even though their pages weren’t in the actual Forever Evil issues I would subconsciously fill in any of the blanks. I also had the massive hype around the title influencing my opinions of it, but all that hype gradually turned into backlash and that probably had an effect on me too. For those who don’t know, the community really seemed to turn its back on Forever Evil once the delays began. Folks started to joke about how Forever Evil proved not to be all that evil, but was definitely earning the name “Forever” as in “This series is taking forever.”
Now, however, I can sit down and enjoy the saga in its purest form without a 2-month long break between chapters and my conclusion is this:
Forever Evil is a fun book if you like Lex Luthor and want to see some big action scenes and some funny banter between DC characters that you rarely see interact with one another. I doubt it’ll ever become a classic or even earn a place on many reader’s list of favorite events, but it’s enjoyable, light reading. There’s a lot of fan-service here, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it really only has one character with any depth (Lex Luthor), one relationship we care about (Luthor and Bizarro), and the rest is just splash pages, one-liners, and more questions than answers.
Besides featuring some thrilling action scenes and funny dialogue, the book’s biggest strengths are Lex Luthor’s turn from the dark to the light and the strange father/son bond that forms between him and Bizarro. In this story we see Lex rise up as a champion for good when the world is overrun by super villains. He is brilliant, dangerous, and he makes for an intriguing albeit unorthodox hero. The problem is that nobody else in the book is all that capable or interesting. Sure, his band of misfits each seem to get at least one splash page showing them do something bad ass, but it never really goes beyond that. It’s all about making Lex Luthor look awesome and everything and everyone else in the story is secondary.
The other villains who find themselves slipping from the dark side and into the grey area of the anti-hero don’t join the crusade naturally, instead they all meet up by coincidence. At the same exact time. We have this exciting new world controlled by all the evil forces of the DC Universe and we don’t traverse through it at all, we just race toward a climax. Well, not really race, but use Motherbox technology to teleport and save even more time!
Imagine if it were a long trek across an apocalyptic DC Comics landscape: Luthor and his group struggle to reach the fallen Watchtower at the end of their journey and confront the evil Crime Syndicate but first they have to pass through cities that are now under the rule of such formidable baddies as The Black Hand, Hector Hammond, or Reverse Flash (or whatever he’s called nowadays– Zoom?). That, to me, sounds more interesting, but some of us like to play the game in full and others like to blow the warp whistle and skip to the final page.
Some characters are forgotten about entirely for whole sections of the story. Deathstroke is seen fighting Deathstorm one moment and then he’s not heard of again until the battle is over. He’s A-Okay, of course, and Deathstorm shows up again in another location, apparently never having been involved in any sort of fight. An even bigger problem is that the story’s climax. Reaching the end requires you to know about big events that took place in other books. This means that we get loads of exposition in the final chapter explaining what’s been happening in JLA and Justice League and how all of THAT is going to be integral to saving the day. It just feels kind of cheap. Most of Forever Evil‘s narrative problems come from the fact that we have this great big story that would be really cool if it was all told together by one creative team with a clear vision– and it totally could have been. Instead it was stripped for parts and those parts were divided among several other titles to generate more money. You’re given an ending that seems quite satisfying on the surface and it will even get you a little excited about the next big event, but about five minutes after finishing the book you start to remember all the loose ends. Many loose ends and obstacles that were totally glossed over. All those things that you start to realize Forever Evil doesn’t address with its finale will nag at you if you take this book too seriously. However, if you were just in it for the laughs and the action then you’re going to walk away from this saga with a smile on your face and an eagerness to suggest it to your friends.
The visuals by David Finch are brilliant when the tale is at its most bombastic. The action is always a blast and you swear you can hear the thunder behind every super-powered punch. He’s also an amazing artist when it comes to drawing monsters and other nastiness so it’s easy to see why he was the clear choice for this event. However, whenever Forever Evil attempts to give us an emotional moment or get the slightest bit serious for a second the faces Finch pencils just aren’t capable of emoting and often look all too similar with their tight skin and high cheekbones. Perhaps even more annoying is the way characters will change appearance from panel to panel during these calmer scenes in which everybody is just standing around talking. Continuity errors occur such as a mask that’s in tatters will be like brand new in the following panel only to go back to being shredded once again on the next page. Bizarro’s uniform will be a fully armored suit in one chapter but nothing but a T-shirt in the issue that follows. And unfortunately, the saga’s most memorable visual, that three page fold out that I previewed above, is no longer a fold-out when you pick up the graphic novel. This really neuters Finch’s hard work. The jaw-dropping moment of seeing all those villains side-by-side is gone, separated between three individual pages with some of the imagery even getting lost to the tightly bound spine.
A Closer Look – A Review for Every Chapter
If you want to pick apart the good and the bad of Forever Evil a little more with me you can go back and read my thoughts on every individual chapter as they were published by clicking on the following links. It’s definitely a different kind of review since you’re seeing my reactions to events as they were published from month to month (and sometimes a couple months apart since the release schedule for this series was so terrible). And yes, the speech bubble of Bizarro growling in chapter 7 is still connected to Dick Grayson in the graphic novel. *sigh*
One last quick rant about the ending…
The book’s finale is so rushed that we completely gloss over the fact that the Teen Titans got sucked into a weird dimensional vortex thing and, oh yeah, the world is still totally overrun with super villains. And how laughable was that scene where Lex Luthor is the only person in the world smart enough to Google “Dick Grayson” and make the connection that Bruce Wayne must therefore be Batman?
Five Crime Syndicate character sketches by David Finch and a variant cover gallery. Pretty lackluster when you consider this was DC’s big event of 2014. You’d think there would be something more substantial here. I would’ve liked some commentary since so many elements from its predecessor, Trinity War, were absent (Whatever happened to the whole Seven Deadly Sins things? Why was Power Ring hyped up so much in advertisements when what was teased didn’t come until Forever Evil was over and done with?).
I forgot to mention: Batman’s in this. He survives the attack on the Justice League because his image on a cover sells more comics and seeing him as the butt of a joke or constantly upstaged by Luthor is an easy way to make it clear that Lex Luthor is a BAMF. It’s not a good story for Batman.
Value: Sale Price
It’s a fun read, but not for the full price of $24.99. The re-read value just isn’t there! It’s in no way a classic that you’ll be coming back to again and again, it’s lacking any good bonus material, and it doesn’t include any of the tie-in issues either. I say look out for a bargain price that looks right to you. At the time I write this, Amazon is offering the book for $18.75, which still seems like too much.
It’s missing vital chapters from Justice League and leaves too many loose ends to get a full endorsement, but watching all of your favorite villains intermingle is undeniably fun when Geoff Johns is at the helm. The key is coming into this book with the right expectations. If you’re coming to play then you’re going to have a great time, but if you’re looking for something with depth then you’re going to walk away from Forever Evil grumpy about how great the story could have been if only it had been treated more seriously.