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Out of all of the Forever Evil tie-in series none has so heavy a hook, so enticing a gimmick, than Justice League. For the next couple of issues the series will be devoted to giving readers the inside scoop on the origins of the Crime Syndicate – in all their vile glory.
Honestly, and this is something that I hardly ever imagined myself having to say about this series, but for the first time in a long while the main story of Justice League is finally worth reading. Though, tellingly, it’s an issue that has nothing to do with the main team itself – but all in all I do have to give the series recognition for finally crafting a story that makes me want to read more. I guess it is sort of a no-brainer as to why this issue is such an improvement – if there is any pair of things that Johns knows anything about it is Superman and Villains. Combining the two is just a logical formula for bringing out the best that Johns has to offer. The resulting product is something that is both incredibly familiar and reassuring – while also intensely creepy and eerie.
Everything that can be good about this whole event is encapsulated in this one issue. It’s a well-paced highlight reel of what exactly makes “Evil Universe” stories so entertaining and so fun to just dig into. The opening pages that spotlight the “evil” Krypton and Jor-El are some of the best enjoyment that I’ve gotten out of a high-tier DC Comics title in months. It’s over-the-top, it’s ridiculous, it’s cheesy – it’s everything Johns can be good at if he tried, and he does. Out side of the explicitly stated the issue is also littered with fun sight gags that spotlight the differences between the two worlds, which just adds to the experiences of the piece overall. While retaining a simplistic silver-age sense of tone at point – Johns is also never shy of keeping things down to earth, in incredibly dramatic moments nonetheless.
This issue also is also a great example of a sound bite that Johns has relayed from time to time describing his intentions with the series, especially concerning Ultraman, in that he wanted Ultraman to appear to be Superman – up until he starts to speak. And Johns pulls off that extant moment here with aplomb and tangible skill. After the origin sequence that kicks the story off, and it turns to Ultraman surveying the “good” versions of his old compatriots – it becomes actually suspenseful. The scene where Ultraman interrogates, there is no other word for what he does, Jimmy Olsen is a defining moment for just how petty and cruel Ultraman can be. There are varying levels of evil and Ultraman showcases them all within those few pages.
The Crime Syndicate are villains who are beyond redemption or humanity – and that’s something that Johns definitely gets. Forever Evil simply continues to be a an exciting ride, with only a few missteps in tie-ins, but even “a few” is a good batting average when it comes to these things. There is also a lot more coherency and things fall into place a lot more neatly than other events – people are talking and structure is being maintained – so far at least. There is one thing that I’ve neglected to talk about until right now though, and that is because I felt it best to save the best for last, and that has to be the artwork by Ivan Reis.
There are those who like to decry and shame Reis for being a “house style” artist, but this is exactly the type of story that needs that sort of aesthetic. Those moments of familiarity with Ultraman, and the moments where we could see Superman in him, would be nothing without Reis – who draws a spectacular Superman, and that lends itself here a lot. It’s enough to make me wish that Reis was doing the main event title, but other than that the art on the tie-ins more than makes up for it. It’s an excellent start to this arc, as well as a solid middle to the overall oeuvre, and I eagerly await the origins for the likes of Owlman and the other Syndicate members.