Forever Evil, DC’s massive post-summer event, improves on an awful first issue with a passable second one, but its problems still linger.
Forever Evil was always going to be a fairly rough read. Not because of how ‘extreme’ it is or something; books featuring supervillains just tend to – not always; just generally – be a bit worse than the average book, because writers reveling in the freedom from conventional story morality tend to abandon all semblance of storytelling structure, pacing, and characterization as well. That was the mistake of Forever Evil #1, which gave us a lot of ostensibly ‘cool’ moments but nothing worth hanging onto or talking about when the issue was over, nothing beneath the absolute thinnest of surface levels.
Forever Evil #2 is, at least, a vast improvement over that debut issue. The Crime Syndicate gets a little bit of shading. Mostly fairly boring, predictable stuff if you’ve read any other comic about supervillains, but it’s better than following a group of grimacing, grunting ciphers for the entire series, and the relationship between Deathstorm and Power Ring is legitimately chilling in a way I didn’t think Johns was capable of anymore. Is all that wiped out by introducing Bizarro as a grimacing, grunting cipher? We shall see. But Forever Evil #2 does feature a little bit of progress in making us care about what’s happening.
I think the biggest issue is one of commitment. If Forever Evil is about the fate of the world when a new force upends the balance of power in favor of the worst of the worst, then why are we spending so much time with them? Wouldn’t it be much scarier to follow it from the point of view of heroes whose world was upended confronting a threat they can’t comprehend or defeat? If Forever Evil is about how self-defeating evil is, then why set up the Crime Syndicate as world-conquering bad-asses who already defeated the Justice League? If Forever Evil is about dark times and desperate measures – the most likely scenario, given the way Johns sets up Lex Luthor and the Rogues as unlikely heroes in this world – then why do we spend so much time with the Crime Syndicate and away from the actual, y’know, characters?
Don’t get me wrong: Forever Evil #2 isn’t a particularly awful book, unlike #1. But Johns and Finch still haven’t found their hook, still haven’t found the core idea of the series. There are a couple interesting moments, and the art team does some very solid works, but there’s just nothing going on beneath the surface, and not enough going on on the surface to justify that. Forever Evil can still grow into something fun, if not particularly compelling, but these first two issues are bizarrely misjudged.