Skipping past all of the Villains Month falderal, “Forever Evil: Arkham War” #1 by Peter J. Tomasi and Scot Eaton sheds light on the predicament of Gotham City following the liberation of prisoners from Blackgate and inmates from Arkham Asylum. The city is divided into districts with many of Batman’s most notable foes serving as district overlords.
What Peter J. Tomasi does not identify, however, is that Gotham has been overrun, but GCPD HQ is still safe enough for Gordon to be standing on the roof by the smashed out Bat-signal? It adds tension, establishes a crucial confrontation for later in this story and gives the good guys a point to rally around, but makes very little sense. In terms of the districting, Tomasi does bring Professor Pyg, Scarecrow and Penguin in for close-ups. Pyg has the most time in the spotlight, which unfortunately or him, he has to share with Bane. The writer does a nice job of positioning Bane for larger things and makes no secret of just how ruthless Batman’s one-time backbreaker can truly be.
That ruthlessness shines through on every page Bane inhabits. Save for the first page of the issue, which depicts an underwater scene, colorist Andrew Dalhouse filters Bane’s rampage through the comic book equivalent of red gels, tinting every move Bane makes with pain and terror for those around the behemoth. As would be expected in a DC comic featuring villains running roughshod, there is ample blood and gore in “Forever Evil: Arkham War” #1. Scot Eaton’s pencils are tight and strong, with very distinct figures covering a wide range of personalities and physiques. He does make some rough panel layout choices, however, as the harsh red coloring dims the details somewhat. As Bane manhandles a thug, a rectangular panel would have provided greater detail rather than forcing the reader to decipher the goings-on of an overfull, lopsided rhombus panel.
Villains Month and “Forever Evil” have afforded writers and artists the opportunity to explore the twisted psyches of demented and deranged villains that fill the DC Universe. Tomasi and company seize that opportunity to display what happens when the worst of those damaged madmen are given more freedom and power than any one of them has ever held before. The concept of Gotham split among villains is an entertaining concept and Bane’s assault on the city will certainly be an interesting read, but “Forever Evil: Arkham War” #1 needs just a little more personality to really hook readers. Right now this story is a trainwreck: readers will be attentive simply to see the destruction and carnage. Hopefully Tomasi and crew find a way to make the subsequent issues more memorable.