I have put up with DC’s Forever Evil event for going on six months now, since last September. It started off fairly well I think, all things considering, but has kind of been wallowing along for a while now. With the penultimate issue in stores this week, I believe things are finally looking up, even though the new issue is still plagued by many missteps, and the story really is all over the place sadly. But I must admit that I get a weird kick out of reading this title, even though I haven’t been enjoying it all that much. On a very basic level, this is quite an interesting series.
In the previous issues, we’ve seen some big reversals for the Crime Syndicate, even though they still hold innumerable advantages over the heroes of the world and are almost unassailable. But, with Luthor’s Injustice League on the prowl now, things are changing a little bit, bit by bit. Because in the absence of the heroes of the world, whether they are dead or unreachable, it is up to the villains to save the world, quite literally, and any heroes alive who are still willing to make a stand are in very, very short supply. And the art hasn’t improved at all, which is still very disappointing.
For the Crime Syndicate of America, the end has finally begun. For four issues now, they’ve continued to establish their dominance over the Earth. Whether we talk about the big time heroes like those of the three Justice Leagues, or the lesser heroes like the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans, they’ve taken out almost everyone, and have shown themselves to be supreme. But nothing lasts forever. And this new issue is a perfect example of that. The story has taken a long time to get to this point, but it is finally here, and I’m honestly very relieved that things are actually moving forward now.
The new issue is a contest of arms. In the last issue we saw that Lex Luthor led his band of supervillains to Wayne Enterprises in Gotham to procure some tech, but ran into Batman and Catwoman there. In the midst of it all, Power Ring arrived with a band of Earth 1’s villains like Deathstroke and Giganta to take them all out. This is the issue that packs a ton of action into the story and moves the story forward in the context of the big enemy that the Crime Syndicate ran away from, from their own Earth.
A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
The sluggishness and boredom, I am feeling it. When you stretch out an event across two books for several months, you need to make sure that the pacing of the entire story is spot on. It is essential. Sure, event stories make for much better reads in collected formats, but readers do have to get over the hurdle of the monthly schedules. And when books are delayed, then that hurdle gets ever bigger. This is what Geoff Johns’ latest event, with artists David Finch and Ivan Reis, is suffering from now. Last month’s Justice League #25 was inexplicably delayed. That then led to a delay in the release of Forever Evil #4 which came out this week along with Justice League #26. Whatever the delay might have meant to achieve, Forever Evil #4 proved to be a disappointment.
The main issue with the Forever Evil event is that it appears to be moving far too slowly. Each issue contains a tiny bit of plot progression and a tiny bit of character progression. The stories are generally written quite well, but taken together, there is a clear problem there. And it doesn’t help that each month David Finch’s artwork proves to be a big disappointment. I ask myself if Forever Evil #4 was worth the three week delay. The answer would be a no.
The seventh book cover that I pick for the “12 Days of Best Covers of 2013″ list is Gene Mollica’s (again) excellent cover for Jean Johnson’s third Theirs Not To Reason Why novel, Hellfire, published by Ace Books. I discovered Jean earlier this year, that is, I started reading her books earlier this year but actually heard of her work last year through an SF Signal podcast. Jean made a switch from writing romance fantasy novels to writing military space opera with this series and all the three books in this series have been quite excellent. I’m definitely a fan of her work now, and I may even give one of her (many) romance fantasy series a chance, just to see how those books hold up.
The seventh comic cover that I pick is actually a splash art for DC’s (at the time) three Justice League titles. With Justice League #22 (Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis), Justice League of America #6 (Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke), and Justice League Dark #22 (Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin), DC kicked off its Trinity War crossover that saw all the three different Leagues go up against each other, manipulated by a villain none of them could have been foreseen. The event got me to start reading Justice League Dark and right now under writer J. M. DeMatteis it is currently one of my favourite DC monthlies. All three issues were quite fantastic, and they set a great tone for the crossover as well.
Without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
After a 2-week delay (might be as much as 3), Geoff Johns’ Justice League #25 finally hit stands this week. As the overlord of all of the Forever Evil titles and controlling the core story of this mega-event, Geoff Johns has been doing great on his most high-profile New 52 book and the new issue is more of the same. If the art on Forever Evil itself could be much better, then that mini-series too could be really good. Thankfully, this is where we get Justice League to plug in all the gaps, where Geoff can let loose with all his crazy ideas and come out with something really good.
Despite what it shows on the cover (another misleading Forever Evil cover by the way), Justice League #25 really is about Geoff exploring the backhistory of Owlman, who is the Earth 3 evil version of Batman. And other than Owlman, we also get to see Dick Grayson through Owlman’s eyes, which was pretty neatly handled. Sadly, Ivan Reis & Co. are not on the art duties on this issue, and we have Doug Mahnke & Co. stepping up to the table, but that ends up benefiting the title rather than taking away from it. And in the end, this proves to be another great issue of Justice League from Geoff and team.
After all the build-up in the previous issues of Justice League Dark and The Phantom Stranger, writer J. M. DeMatteis gets things into gear finally with this week’s issue of the latter series. We’ve seen how the manifestation of pure evil that crossed over from Earth 3 to Earth 1 with the Crime Syndicate has begun to effect the supernatural-oriented heroes of the DC Universe and we’ve seen how Constantine and his allies have tried to take the fight to this manifestation, Blight, and failed. Now, Constantine has rebounded from that defeat by doing the impossible: bringing the Trinity of Sin to his doorstep in chains in order to solicit their help, essentially at the point of a gun.
Ever since DeMatteis took over on the series he has been turning out one great issue after another and this new issue follows that trend. It is moody, it has character drama, it has tension, it has action. Its got everything, in short, and DeMatteis has been incredibly consistent with his writing along with Fernando Blanco and Brad Anderson on the artwork. Issue #14 is where the status quo for all these characters really shifts and where a new (temporary) Justice League Dark is born.
Part of DC’s third wave of launch titles for its New 52 reboot from 2011 was The Phantom Stranger, written by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and drawn by Brett Anderson. I picked up the zero issue (which was the first of the new ongoing) in September last year but I wasn’t too taken with it. The story just didn’t work for me, and I ended up ignoring the title altogether. But then came the Trinity War event this year and since a different writer was on the series at the time, I decided to read the tie-in issues and see if things had gotten better. They had.
I’ve been reading The Phantom Stranger since issue #10 (July), and I have to say that I’m really enjoying. There’s something about DeMatteis’ writing that really draws you in, presents a compelling character that you can really follow, with some great premises in each issue and a great build-up of all the mysteries in Phantom Stranger’s life. It also helps that Fernando Blanco is an excellent artist. All of which means that, first with Trinity War and now with the Forever Evil: Blight arcs, I’m really enjoying this series.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Trinity War and possibly the Forever Evil story so far.
Event comics are often maligned because of their meta-perspective, giving us the overlay of events happening across an entire line. Some can be really good, such as how the recently concluded X-Men: Battle of the Atom was in its first month, or how Throne of Atlantis and Trinity War were. But some can be… bad, such as Infinity because the event comics don’t really give you a consistent story to follow. Or characters for that matter. Geoff Johns has had more experience with event comics than most writers today given all the work he did for Green Lantern in its pre-New 52 days, and so he’s often a dependable guy for such comics.
Sadly, he seems to be missing the mark again and again with Forever Evil, the main 7-issue event mini-series specifically. In two issues thus far he’s given a lot of different perspectives to advance the main storyline, setting up the various tie-in comics for the event, or even drawing on them to further the main storyline. Its a “feeding off each other” effect that isn’t really working for me. And the art is mediocre at best.
This week was a bit heavy on DC reading, mostly because a lot of top titles were released, titles I’d been looking forward to all month and so I went all-out for the most part. Some bit of Marvel and Image mixed in as well, which is always great to break up the monotony of reading just the DC-stuff. Read a bit more this week than I usually do, which was a surprise since this week was also marred by reading a really huge science fiction novel, which proved to be a long, long slog, so that’s something I guess.
Also, I finally managed to read a graphic novel, which was great. It wasn’t one that I was really planning to read, but it was on the list for a long time, so it all balances out in the end, which is what matters most. And now I’m pumped on to read more, and this week should be good on that front. Fingers crossed!
If there’s been one high-profile DC comic coming out this month other than Forever Evil #2, then that’s this one, Justice League #24. Geoff Johns has emerged as the premier storyteller of New 52, right alongside Gail Simone and Scott Snyder, and he’s been doing a fairly good job in the two years and one month of DC’s universe-wide relaunch. First Throne of Atlantis, then Trinity War, and now Forever Evil, he’s been writing some really good comics and this new issue marks the high point of the month for me.
I’ll be honest, I think Forever Evil has been a bit stumbling around with its first two issues thus far, but I have confidence in Geoff to pull things off because he really understands his characters and his vision for his story is always spectacular. After the end of Trinity War in August with Justice League #23, I was impatient to get to the next issue and while some of the related Villain’s Month issues gave me that fix, Justice League #24 is where all the pay-off is at.