Forever Evil / Arkham War

Dodano: 18 July 2016

[Total: 1]

LESSER EVIL

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Since its inception, the superhero genre has created countless villains. At first they merely served as plot devices – their only purpose was to be defeated by the protagonists, so that they could give meaning to the latter’s existence and prove the righteousness of their mission. To this day, in the hands of lesser writers, many of them are one-dimensional, bland stereotypes. Others, however, whose motivations and methods have been developed for years by talented creators, proved to be popular with the audience thanks to their uniqueness and complexity. In time, the antagonists have become fully rounded characters, equal to the protagonists. Each of them has his own story and personality – sometimes even more interesting than those of the superheroes. As a result, more and more comics have started to appear in which the villains are the main characters and are allowed to show their points of view. The readers can understand them better and even…  sympathize with them. This is the plot of Forever Evil, the miniseries in which the most famous DC villains are depicted in a surprising light, whereas its tie-in, Forever Evil: Arkham War, fails miserably.

 

Forever Evil is the first crossover of The New 52 universe, which was created after DC rebooted its entire line of comics in the miniseries Flashpoint. Both of them were written by Geoff Johns, best known as the creator of Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, Batman: Earth One and the latest run of Justice League. Forever Evil is a direct continuation of the events described in the last title. Fortunately, they are very skillfully summarized at the beginning of the volume, so that even new readers can understand everything.

The Justice League has been attacked by the Crime Syndicate – their evil counterparts from an alternate universe. The superheroes have vanished and the villains have taken over the world. Earth’s only hope is a team of DC villains: Captain Cold, Bizarro, Black Manta, Sinestro, Black Adam, Deadshot and Lex Luthor, who decides to prove that he has always been right – you can’t rely on superheroes, only his leadership can save the world.

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From the very first scene it’s clear that Johns understands Superman’s nemesis. Behind the mask of businessman hides a ruthless, cruel manipulator, who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. It quickly turns out, however, that this already fascinating villain can be made even more interesting. When the Crime Syndicate arrives on Earth, Luthor immediately assembles a team in order to save his planet from the Justice League’s evil counterparts. He is not going to join them just because their villains too. Especially since Luthor doesn’t see himself as evil. His long inner monologues reveal his complex character and motivations. He doesn’t trust superheroes because he believes that people have idolized them so much that they became apathetic and put Earth’s fate in their hands. Luthor wants to prove that an ordinary man, without superpowers, can take matters into his own hands and save the world with the power of intellect.

His allies in his mission are other villains of the DC universe. The comic perfectly captures their diversity, revealing their motivations to the readers. Deadshot only cares about money and doesn’t have any problems with switching sides. The rogues of the Flash are not mindless genocidal maniacs and refuse to destroy Central City. One of them is Captain Cold who, despite being Barry Allen’s enemy, respects him as well. Black Manta also shares an unusual bond with his opponent – he wants to have revenge on the Syndicate because they took away from him the opportunity to kill Aquaman. The most interesting, however, is the surprising relationship between Luthor and Bizarro, a Superman’s clone he created. Both funny and touching at the same time, it brings to mind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s not the only reference to a literary classic in this comic. One of the Syndicate’s members, Power Ring – Hal Jordan’s evil counterpart – is being physically and mentally destroyed by his ring, which has its own malevolent personality. This inevitably brings to mind The Lord of the Rings’ tragic character, Gollum. Power Ring’s character also proves that even the Syndicate’s members are complex individuals. Superwoman cares about the safety of her child, whereas Owlman wants to protect the captured Nightwing, who reminds him of his dead partner.

With that said, Forever Evil is not only a character study, but also a dynamic action worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Every character has an opportunity to show off his unique superpowers and gadgets. The story can also be surprisingly funny at times. All of that is impressively illustrated by David Finch, whose realistic style is similar to another, equally talented artist, Jim Lee. The comic contains a lot of dramatic, beautifully drawn and detailed splash pages. Unfortunately, it can sometimes affect the pacing of the story. In order for everything to be balanced, some panels have to be very small and crowded. This doesn’t change the fact, however, that Forever Evil is a surprising, fun and action-packed story that will probably encourage new readers to grab the author’s Justice League run in order to find out what happened before the miniseries and what is going to happen next.

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It’s all the more frustrating that Forever Evil: Arkham War – one of Forever Evil’s tie-ins, which describes what happened in Gotham during Batman’s absence – is an incredibly bland, boring and disappointing comic. The writer Peter J. Tomasi (known for his run of Batman and Robin in The New 52) tells the story of the war between escaped Arkham patients and Bane, who wants to save Gotham from them by taking over the city.

Much like Forever Evil, Arkham War is a page-turner: unfortunately, for completely different reasons. The former draws the reader in with dynamic action and interesting characters. Arkham War has barely any plot. Most of it are splash pages filled with chaotic masses of villains fighting each other. However, this unstoppable action doesn’t evoke any emotions, since the reader doesn’t feel connected to any of the characters, who are indistinguishable from each other. It’s all the more surprising considering the fact that the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery are some of the most fascinating, diverse and recognizable characters in the DC universe. Unlike Geoff Johns, however, Tomasi  doesn’t show their diversity. Not even Scott Eaton’s very good artwork, similar to David Finch with its realistic style, can help.

Another difference which proves the superiority of Johns’ story over Arkham War is the way the main characters are depicted. Both Luthor and Bane are known in the DC universe as extremely intelligent strategists. Unlike Forever Evil, however, which cements the former’s reputation, Arkham War turns the latter into a caricature. His only attributes are muscles and aggression. In the worst scene in the entire comic Bane, in an act of desperation, comes to the conclusion that the only way to intimidate his enemies is to… dress up like the Dark Knight. It’s an embarrassing, grotesque image that ridicules the character who, in the classic storyline Knightfall, was patient, determined and confident, but most of all, he understood and respected Batman. It doesn’t help that the creators are desperately throwing around references to the most famous scene of that story, when Bane breaks the Dark Knight’s back, or showing him in a coat that Tom Hardy was wearing in The Dark Knight Rises (another much better interpretation of the character).

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The idea to tell a story focusing on villains has a lot of potential. Forever Evil and Arkham War show how different the final results can be. Even the most brutal and unstoppable action will not interest the readers if it’s not supported by interesting and diverse characters. To quote Lex Luthor, “I may not be as strong or as powerful as you… but I’m smarter.”

 

The author of this review is Jakub Michalik. MA in English philology at the Institute of English Studies, the University of Warsaw. The author of a thesis devoted to the features of Stephen King’s American Gothic fiction. Interests: classic works of literature (especially the American Renaissance, the Victorian period and modernism), sociology of popular culture, the superhero genre in comics and movies, literary translation, the history of film, film criticism. Batman fan.

 

We would like to thank Egmont for providing copies for the review.

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Forever Evil

Writer: Geoff Johns

Pencils: David Finch

Colors: Sonia Oback

Translated from English by: Krzysztof Uliszewski

Originally published by: DC Comics

Published in Poland by: Egmont Polska

Originally published in:  2014

Published in Poland on: November 2015

Format: hardcover

Dimensions: 17 cm x 26 cm

Paper: chalk

Print: color

Pages: 240

Price:  89,99 PLN

WiecznezloWojna

Forever Evil: Arkham War

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi

Pencils: Scot Eaton, Graham Nolan

Colors: Andrew Dalhouse, John Kalisz

Translated from English by: Tomasz Sidorkiewicz

Originally published by: DC Comics

Published in Poland by: Egmont Polska

Originally published in:  2014

Published in Poland on: February 2016

Format: hardcover

Dimensions: 17 cm x 26 cm

Paper: chalk

Print: color

Pages: 204

Price:  75 PLN

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