Forever Evil #6
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by David Finch and Richard Friend
Although I didn’t particularly care for DC’s last event mini series Trinity War all that much, I gotta admit, I’ve enjoyed the fallout which resulted, as chronicled in the current mini series Forever Evil. For those among you not following, Forever Evil is about what happens when the Justice League is replaced in “our” universe with their evil counterparts from Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate. The villains of Earth, under the leadership of Lex Luthor, rally against them together with the one Leaguer who managed to remain on our Earth – Batman. Although the book got off to a slow start, somewhere around issue four or so, things began to pick up, and in issue six the S hits the F finally for the Syndicate, and it ain’t pretty.
The best thing so far about this series is how Lex Luthor centric it is; in a world without a Justice League, Luthor ends up being what he’s always wanted to be, the world’s most important man and its savior, without an alien Superman hogging all the glory. Leading a “league” of his own, featuring some of DC’s best villains-Captain Cold, Catwoman, Black Adam, Bizarro, Black Manta, Sinestro and Deathstroke- Lex in this issue shows the Crime Syndicate just how great he really is, and why he is not someone to be underestimated. This issue also gives us a great Batman/Lex confrontation that will change their dynamic forever. Well, as long as “forever” lasts in comics these days.
David Finch is an artist I have always had mixed feelings about; sometimes his artwork veers towards the pin up factor that modern comics indulge in so much… you know, lots of gorgeous splash pages and beautiful shots of characters posing (and if they’re women their butts and usually sticking out in some awkward position); He’s not always a good storyteller, but that seems not to be a problem here. Sure, there are some big splashy pages, but there is some economical storytelling going on too. This is probably my favorite work of David Finch’s to date. I’m still nervous about him taking over Wonder Woman later this year, but I’m now slightly less nervous.
But the real star of this book is Geoff Johns, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this is Geoff Johns’ best work since the New 52 began. By using the Crime Syndicate and re-inventing them, and getting the chance to put the spotlight on fan-favorite villains in new roles as heroes, I sense him having more fun behind the keyboard than he has in a long time. There is almost no one who writes Sinestro and Captain Cold better than Johns, and adding Lex Luthor to the mix has provided him with truly fun toys to play with. This is a reinvigorated Geoff Johns, and it’s kind of great to see him so enthused again.
The hype on this issue promises the final fate of Nightwing, and no spoilers, I don’t see anything “final” going on in this issue in regards to Dick Grayson. However, we DO finally find out just who is the prisoner from Earth-3 with the hood on that the Syndicate brought back with them. I won’t say who it is, but I can tell you it’s NOT Wally West, as some have speculated. I’ll give you a hint though; he does share hair color with Wally. And that’s all I’m gonna give ya. I think that’s enough.
There is a lot of work left to be done before this series is over; the rest of the Justice League has to come back, and the Syndicate needs to be defeated, and that feels like a lot is going to be crammed into the upcoming final issue. Nevertheless, issue six was a blast to read, and that final page sure was a doozy.
Batman/Superman Annual #1
Written by Greg Pak with Art by Jae Lee, Kenneth Rocafort, and Phillip Tan
After having defeated Mongul in issues 5-7 of their team-up title, Superman and Batman must place the big yellow intergalactic warlord in the Phantom Zone. Defeating Mongul, however, is just the beginning of their problems it turns out. Mongul’s planet Warworld appears in Earth orbit, throwing the Earth into chaos. This is a detail I loved by the way; SO often in sci-fi comics and movies, an enormous ship the or planetoid appears in Earth orbit and doesn’t affect the tides or throw the planet into chaos or anything. It would be much worse than this in reality, but at least it’s acknowledged that something bad would happen.
Out of Warworld comes Jochi, another big alien mutha who claims to be the son of Mongul. He’s not here to free his father, who by his own laws must suffer his defeat. But Mongul is still family, and therefore someone’s gotta pay. He issues an ultimatum to the World’s Finest duo – come to Warworld with “two of your clan” or he destroys the Earth, Death Star style. Superman recruits his cousin Kara (Supergirl to you) and Steel. Batman recruits the Red Hood and Batgirl, who mostly invites herself, to be honest. Wonder Woman makes an annoying cameo here, angry that Superman hasn’t asked her to help or represent his “clan.” She says that while he’s a protector, she is a warrior, trained by the God of War himself. Supes says he needs her on Earth, and then Diana meets Supergirl for the first time, and literally greets her with “You… girl” and gives her a magic sword to deal the killing blow Clark never will. I hate this overly aggressive, so happy to kill Wonder Woman DC is forcing on us, and Greg Pak emphasizes everything I hate about New 52 Diana in two pages. If this is his version of Wonder Woman, I’m glad this is a Superman/Batman title alone.
But as much as I hate how Greg Pak might write Wonder Woman, he nails Superman and Batman’s voices and dynamic, and also writes a pretty decent Supergirl and Batgirl as well. In fact, this is the first time I’ve really liked Kara since the new 52 started. The story is what you’d call a “one and done”, which is a nice break from the constant crossovers and events and multi-issue sagas. It shows that you can tell big, large canvas superhero stories, and they don’t have to take half a year to tell.
The art, however, is a mixed bag. The book is split up in three chapters, and so is the art. Jae Lee’s art is jaw droppingly beautiful as always, with each page being almost frame worthy. I’ve gone on record about how much I hate Jim Lee’s redesigns for Superman’s costume, and especially Supergirl’s, but Jae Lee doesn’t only make me tolerate the new designs… he kind of makes me like them. He manages to take the basic designs and remove all the annoying piping and extra details that makes it all look like armor and far too busy. When Jae Lee draws it, it looks like some kind of fabric again, and that makes all the difference. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway would say, he knows how to take a garment and edit.
Unfortunately, he’s not the only artist on the book; Kenneth Rocafort draws the second chapter of the annual, and although he’s a very capable artist, he resorts to drawing the armor look on everyone. Having said that though, most of Rocafort’s pages are rather stunning, he draws the aliens of Warworld with incredible detail, and the editors of this book were wise in giving him the portion of the book that takes place mostly on the alien Warworld. And I can’t really blame Rocafort for drawing the costumes the way they are, he’s probably just following DC editorial mandate (but that makes Jae Lee ignoring it even more punk rock.)
Sadly, I don’t have too many good things to say about the art in the final portion of the book, as done by Phillip Tan. I’ve seen Philip Tan do good work before, but this is not one of those times. The ten pages he draws are easily the worst in the book, mostly due to what seems to be an inability to draw human faces well. Superman looks like Bizarro, and only Batman looks okay because his face is obscured by a mask. I’ve seen Tan do much better than this, but the art’s flaws are more evident when compared to the pages of Lee and Rocafort.
Nevertheless, the good outweighs the bad in this issue, and for fans of the Superman and Batman families of characters, there are worse ways to spend six bucks. As this isn’t a lead-in to some bigger crossover or other story, it’s just a fun self contained story with comics’ biggest icons, and one that’s hard not to enjoy in the end.