Forever Evil #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: David Finch
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Publisher: DC Comics
Whereas last issue focused on the actions of the Crime Syndicate of America, Forever Evil #2 focuses on the motives behind these actions. It also begins to flesh out the various members of the Syndicate from the strong and ruthless Ultraman to the conniving Owlman and even the whimpering Power Ring. David Finch also gets to draw a couple big spreads and uses little things, like shadow and caricature to bring this dark incarnation of the DC Universe to life. Colorist Sonia Oback’s subdued palate adds to the feeling of gloom of hopelessness. But Forever Evil #2 does have its weaknesses as a comic, mainly in its pacing and large number of story lines.
By the end of this comic, the reader will know what makes the majority of the Crime Syndicate tick. Unfortunately, the female characters (Superwoman, Atomica) lack agency and get virtually nothing to do. Superwoman gets verbally slapped around while Owlman and Ultraman argue, and Atomica is merely Johnny Quick’s sexy sidekick. However, Johns gives depth to the other characters and even applies a twisted version of some of the arguments Batman and Superman have had to Ultraman and Owlman’s conflicts. And Power Ring might be the most interesting one of the bunch. In previous incarnations of the Crime Syndicate, his powers come from fear, but his relationship with his ring is much more complex. Every word he utters is filled with pain, and he has a creepy master/slave relationship with Deathstorm. In his characterization of the Crime Syndicate, Johns takes the various archetypes of the big DC heroes (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash) and makes them similar in appearance and disposition to the original characters, but without their moral compasses
David Finch’s pencils with the help of Richard Friend’s inks bring the characters and world of Forever Evil to life. His faces are ugly, but they fit characters from a world where evil is good and good is evil. Finch takes on the role of caricaturist in this issue and even mocks one of the most important scenes in DC Comics history in a twisted artistic achievement. His fight scenes are nothing spectacular, but are clear and easy to follow despite Oback’s dark coloring. Finch also manages to sprinkle in some symbols and metaphors from an opening close-up of Lex Luthor comparing himself and the human race to rats to an either more pivotal scene with Luthor. However, Finch’s grotesque figures wouldn’t work so well with Sonia Oback’s colors. Oback sets the overall atmosphere of Forever Evil #2 and allows the villains to bask in it while the rest of the world is trapped in darkness.
Despite all these strengths, Forever Evil #2 tries to tell too many stories at once. The B-plot involving the Teen Titans isn’t well-developed and resolves very easily. Red Robin and Superboy share a poignant conversation about heroism, but the rest of the team does nothing except fight the Crime Syndicate. Other subplots involving Gotham, the Rogues, and Kahndaq are mentioned, but barely elaborated. Hopefully, the tie-ins can do these stories justice. Forever Evil #2 also suffers from modern single issue’s most common problem: decompression. After the huge events of last issue, Forever Evil #2 sometimes sits and navel gazes when it should be moving the story forward. Plot-wise, this whole issue was a set-up for future incidents and also teased the miniseries tie-ins. However, Forever Evil #2 shows that even big event comics can have interesting characterization and a unique atmosphere and feel. This comic offers in the way of an exciting plot (with the exception of a twist or two), but the insights into the Crime Syndicate and Finch’s art make up for its shortcomings.