The very beginning of this series was based on the surprising development sprung upon readers at the end of “Trinity War,” and writer Geoff Johns keeps the surprises coming in “Forever Evil” #3. Artists David Finch and Richard Friend make the world look exactly like the literally dark and scary place it’s become under the rule of Earth-3’s invading Crime Syndicate, and they also provide a number of other great visuals that make this issue succeed as a sinisterly enjoyable entry in an already well-constructed event.
The latest surprises and stunning visuals come as early as the second page, following a concise summary of the story so far in the form of a compelling voiceover, giving way to an almost frame-worthy double page spread that not only explains what happened to the Justice League, but also how it happened. It’s the kind of explanation that Johns has historically done so well, by coming up with something that seems so ludicrous at first glance but actually makes perfect sense after a little bit of thought. A reveal like this might typically be served up as an issue-ending cliffhanger, but by putting it up front, Johns fully engages readers before the issue’s credits even appear, keeping their eyes glued to the pages for the rest of the issue. And now that the nature of the reveal is clear, those following the tie-ins to this event might want to go back and revisit “Justice League of America” #8 from a few weeks back.
Johns spends most of the issue focusing on the supervillains, and the sole standing superhero, and their various and disparate efforts in dealing with the planet’s super-occupation. The absence of heroes forges an interesting dynamic of bad guys vs. badder guys, with villains like Lex Luthor and Captain Cold assuming the roles of de-facto superheroes. Cold and the rest of The Flash’s rogues gallery understandably demonstrate some degree of ethics, but Johns ensures that not all of the deputized villains have sudden changes of heart; Luthor, as always, is in it only for himself, only now that drive pits him against the Crime Syndicate, and therefore in line with the missing Justice League, making him the proverbial enemy-of-the-enemy.
Fans will be happy to see the continuation of the Black Adam/Ultraman smackdown from “Justice League” #24, in a brief but brutal and intense battle that begs for a rematch at some point. It’s over a little too quickly, though, as Black Adam’s trick intended to deal the confrontation’s decisive blow doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that would work against a powerhouse like Ultraman, so it’s not a big shock, pun intended, when it doesn’t. The sequence leads to the appearance of another villain who has chosen not to ally himself with the Crime Syndicate, but whose motives seem rather manufactured. These minor missteps are the weak points of the issue but are easily overlooked when considering the issue as a whole; Johns has already established the Crime Syndicate as one of The New 52’s most interesting and formidable group of villains and continues to do so here, and now uses them as a catalyst to force an eclectic array of DC’s other villains to put on their white hats and do something that few if any of them have ever done: try and save the world.
Johns makes sure that “Forever Evil” #3 gives readers their money’s worth in the form of an intriguing idea with unexpected surprises amidst a foreboding but darkly fascinating environment. Finch and Friend do their part by making sure that the bad guys look good, and the true villains look threatening on a convincingly ruined and darkened world. Anyone who likes what Johns has done at DC and wants to see a modern-day DC multiverse done right will not want to miss this.