Forever Evil #7 – Comics Review

The conclusion to DC comics event, Forever Evil, finally arrives, and delivers a story about power, family, humans, and monsters.

What Forever Evil #7 offers:

  • The story of villain changing through his experiences: valuing families, and seeing himself clearly.
  • Themes of power, and a theme of humans vs. monsters
  • Comic book artwork that shows lightning strikes, and shadows.
  • Mature themes and violence mean this comic suits older readers: high school students and college students can look at this comic for comments about power, monsters, and character development.

Light plays across the panels: towards the end of the story, more light from the sun arrives. Massive Lightning bolts strike, and Cyborg strides into the watchtower, carrying the recently deceased Grid.

Massive lightning bolts casts both deep shadow, and bright lights across panel. In most panels, one point of light fills the empty rooms. This source casts long shadows.

One point in the art could have received more attention. Cyborg makes a dramatic entrance. He drops the lifeless shell of The Grid onto the floor. It’s difficult to image Cyborg would carry the Grid’s broken frame all the way back into the watchtower after their battle. It serves for a dramatic entrance. It’s not completely plausible, however.

A true criminal from Earth 3, a villain the Crime Syndicate tried to contain, breaks away, and clashes with Lex Luthor, who is experiencing change and character development

Since this story began, Lex Luthor has told narrated events as the viewpoint character. Later, a large threat emmerges. How the real enemy behind the Crime Syndicate operates is fascinating. For readers wondering what would happen if super powers and abilities were mixed and gathered together by one individual, the character of Alexander Luthor – a true criminal from Earth 3 – has a lot to offer.

He has the ability to absorb and retain the abilities of his super powered victims.

When Lex Luthor meets this twisted copy of himself from another universe, real character development starts to happen.

I look into his eyes…and I see mine

In this true villain – uncompromising and dark – Lex Luthor sees all his negative traits magnified; he sees his greed; he sees his power-hungry nature; he sees his cruelty, unchecked.

This is one of several character development moments for Lex Luthor. The flat, bald villain known for his relentless and failure-ridden attacks on Superman changes. He is human. Not a punching bag. He can be called human because characters in comics and stories who live through an experience – an arc – and are changed by it are no longer two dimensional. They progress, and show they audience what the have learned.

The type of change Luthor shows in Forever Evil #7 is satisfying for readers looking for interesting stories in comic books.

A human vs monster theme appears in the comic, in addition to a themes of power. Through Luthor’s story arc, value is placed on family connections.

Alexander Luthor asks Captain Cold and Black Manta if they are human or not. Later, Lex Luthor says that Bizarro is his monster. There is an clash between humans and monsters here. Sinestro is not human, but behaves like one – calling Black Adam his friend. Bizarro is not human either. Yet he tries imitate what he sees. In a scene where he witnesses Batman and Nightwing hug, he tries to hug Lex Luthor. He understands emotion.

Luthor notices their embrace. He reflects on his relationship with his sister. Clearly, the importance of family stands out to him. Meeting Bizarro, meeting The Batman, and meeting himself has brought about this value recognition.

There is also a great, short, comment about the necessity of failure. Luthor attempts to pull some of the stigma away from mistakes. Making mistakes on the path to a goal is necessary. That’s the place that Luthor has arrived at. The questions remain: what is his goal? and is his redemption authentic?

 

Forever Evil #7 is published by DC Comics. $4.99 USD. Geoff Johns (W.) David Finch (P.) Richard Friend (I.) Sonia Oback (C.) Rob Leigh (L.)  David Finch, Richard Friend, and Sonia Oback (Cover Artists)

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Justice League #28 – Comic Review

What Justice League #28 offers

The DC universe is currently under attack by villains calling themselves the Crime Syndicate, and Cyborg needs help to stop one of these villains in particular: “The Grid”. The Grid happens to be malicious, artificial intelligence that hacked its way into Cyborgs’ cybernetic body, stole it, and left him for dead.  Cyborg was rescued by Batman, and received a new body.

It’s an interesting little saga. I think Cyborg’s clear desire to take down the AI that stole his body and almost killed him off makes for strong  motivation.

Nested inside Justice League #28, however, is a story about a scientist, and his shiny, new creations: The Metal Men.

Who are the Metal Men? A team of androids built largely out of specific metal parts such as Gold, Platinum, Tin, and Mercury. They can shape shift, and are know for their over-the-top personalities.

What Justice league #28 offers:

  • Strong Artificial Intelligence themes
  • A narrative that values selflessness
  • Flowing, detailed, and moving artwork
  •  suitable for college or high school classes handling science fiction themes – some edutainment, as the properties of metals are described.
  • A collected edition of Justice League comics, including issues following #28, will provide a complete story arc.

Flowing and highly detailed visuals compliment this science fiction story. Shining metal surfaces and bright colours define this  comic book’s art.

The flowing detail of the artwork in this comic book is ideal for telling a science fiction, Artificial Intelligence story. In the same way that this art style worked for the fluid, water settings seen in Aquaman comic books, the shapes shifting metal depicted in this comic book benefits similarly.

There is a marked transition in light between the stories. The present day settings, where Cyborg talks about The Grid, are darker than the flashback scenes, where the Metal Men are introduced.

Extra-large pages are spectacular. The heroes save a crowded street from the clutches of a giant villain.

The Metal Men, and one Metal Woman, show off over-the-top personalities and selflessness, while Doctor Magnus becomes a bigger person

Undoubtedly, the stars of this comic book are the Metal men. Doctor Will Magnus, their creator, moves through some significant character development, however. Cold and unfeeling at the beginning, Magnus learns through his brief experience with the Metal Men that not all people are bad, or out to use what they can from you, and move on. Magnus has experienced several betrayals like these in his life.

Magnus plays the cynic well. His interest in robotics stems from a strong dislike of humans – a bit cliche, but to his credit, Will Magnus accepts change in his life, and handles complex emotion. He deals with grief, frustration, anger, and hope for the future all at once. He becomes a bigger person because of his experiences. A great character.

The Metal Mean themselves  – one of whom is not a man, which calls the title into question – are bombastic, and have over-the-top personalities. Platinum – the only woman – stands out. Platinum is optimistic, and speaks with a rational voice compared to the bitter and tetchy Mercury, and the suave but obnoxious Gold.

Quickly, the Metal Men transition from robot designed for rescue missions  into Artificial Intelligence. They are finally acknowledged as people.

Strong artificial intelligence themes appear, And value is placed on selflessness.

It is the Metal Men’s concern for others – their selflessness – that defines them as unique and human according to Doctor Magnus. Following their sacrifice, Magnus laments them as failures. Cyborg, however, states their “hearts and minds are still here[inside CPU core’s Magnus salvaged]”.

What this says about Artificial Intelligence is that developing self awareness, and then selflessness, is what allows androids to transition into humans. It’s a strong science fiction story, and shows great Artificial Intelligence themes.

There is an interesting parallel between characters. Just as The Metal Men were called to be selfless, to sacrifice their brief lives to safeguard the people in danger, Will Magnus himself is also called. His sacrifice differs slightly. He is asked to risk losing his newly founded friends in a battle with The Grid.

Considering the loss and betrayal Magnus experienced from his parents, The Doctor’s decision is a huge step forward.

Popular Culture References: The Matrix, The Terminator, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

The interacctions between Platinum and Doctor Magnus resemble scenes from the Doctor Who Season 6 Episode The Doctor’s Wife.

Justice League #28 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Ivan Reis (Layouts) Joe Prado and Scott Hanna (Finishes) Rod Reis (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.

Justice League #26 – Comics Review

What Justice League #26 Offers

Several origin stories tie into DC Comics Forever Evil event. The theme the comic explores is the origin of evil. Crime and criminal behaviour is evil, according to this comic, and origin stories of the several key villains explore a question: whether evil emmerges from within us, or from outside us, in the social environment. There is a high standard of art throughout.

Cast

The new, electronic villain called The Grid narrates the story. The Grid’s role in the narrative is straightforward. Machine’s don’t feel emotion. This artificial intelligence examines the origins of each Crime Syndicate member. It’s goal is to feel an emotion by reacting to the violent content.

Power Ring, Johnny Quick, and Atomica receive the most attention in this issue, however. They receive the most pages out of the entire comic; Power Ring – 8 pages, Johnny Quick and Atomica – 6 pages. What results is that their short stories within the larger narrative receive the most attention, and therefore the most development. It’s in their stories that the themes of the comic emerge. Power Ring also includes some science fiction horror.

Cyborg has some key moments, and Deathstorm is revealed as a scientist who threw away ethics to complete his research.

Art

Close-up images of characters drive the narrative forward, and show case strong artwork in this issue. Close to the conclusion of the comics, a character gives a a look of fierce defiance in their eyes. The sequence of panels leading up to this moment capture a set of emotions with the character body language. Despair and grief is suddenly supplanted by the defiance in the face of hurdles.

In another close-up, the artwork references the Hitchcock film Psycho. It’s a fleeting but powerful popular culture reference.

In contrast to the cool colours that surround the Justice League are bright and powerful. Apart from a wave of black ink, the colours surrounding the Crime Syndicate are anaemic and washed out. Green Lantern’s emerald green is replaced by Power Ring’s lime green. Johnny Quick has pale orange in place of The Flash’s traditional, fire engine reds.

Themes, Ethics, Values

Earlier issues of DC Comics Forever Evil event was about evil – Where foes evil come from? From outside us, or from within? Justice League #26 explores these questions through Atomica, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring’s origin stories.

A pop-culture comparison could be the musical Wicked, which also asks the question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Just like the popular musical, this issue of Justice League #26 also has green light throughout the story.

Power Ring and his other colleagues in the Crime Syndicate led a variety of lives before they began to wear a costumes and commit crime with it. Power Ring was filled with anxiety, and liked to spy on people – a voyeur. Atomica and Johnny Quick were violent criminals who targeted police officers.

Power Ring is described as “Weak-willed”, and is a character who is too anxious to achieve his goals. When unlimited power in the form of a ring is offered to him, he takes it, and disregards any consequences. This short story, within the larger narrative of the comic, makes a statement that evil – defined as crime – comes from the combination of bad circumstances, low willpower, and complete disregard for consequences. Evil is opportunity, bad decisions, and certain personality traits: low willpower, no assertiveness.

Contrast this with Johnny Quick and Atomica; first, their costumes are opposing colours compared to Power Ring – bright reds clash with bright greens. Second, compared to Power Ring’s bad circumstances, Johnny and Atomica state that crime and murder are “What we [Quick and Atomica] are born to do”. They are sociopaths, with a lack of any connection to social norms.

They fit into the category of “Fantasy sociopaths” (Kotsko, 2012). Kotsko states that these sociopaths, who appear in pop-culture, have a social disconnection seen in real life sociopaths, but organised lives, with the ability to plan and achieve long term goals (2012).

These characters where born with a trait that led to them becoming criminals.

Compared to Power Ring, their evil – defined as criminal acts here – came from within.

I found, after comparing these stories, that I tended to sympathise with Power Ring far more than the unlikeable and violent Johnny Quick and Atomica – despite his questionable behaviour, seeing the results of bad circumstances makes him more slightly more sympathetic. The character development in this issue adds some momentum to the Forever Evil story arc.

Justice League #26 is Published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Ivan Reis (P.) Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, Rob Hunter, and Andy Lanning (I.) Rod Reis, Tomeu Morey and Tony Avina (C.) Nick J. Napolitano (L.). Cover image from Insidepulse.com

Works Consulted:

Kotso, Adam. (2012). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television. Zero Books: Hants, United Kingdom.

Justice League of America #8 – Comics Review

Justice League of America #8: Paradise Lost

(This review includes spoilers for Issue #8 of Justice League of America)

Forever Evil continues across the DC universe, and it appears that balance might soon return to the DC universe – the Justice League of America could be about to rise from whatever fate they met at the hands of the Crime Syndicate.  Essential character developments are tied into the major plot point of this issue – the reveal about what happened to the Justice League at the end of Trinity war.

Cover art for Justice League of America #7 by Dough Mahnke

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Villains Month – Comics Review

Villains Month

DC comic’s villains month, spreading across all of titles published in September, has continued the new tradition of an event in September, and introduced new and old villains to readers worldwide.

After reading through several villains month comics, I found that the comic stories fell into a similar pattern. In a first person narration, the Villain either guides the reader through an early point in their lives that defined them, or they guide the reader through a segment of their current plans after the events of Trinity War and Forever Evil.

Something about this pattern created, I thought, a lighter story. As a result, combining three villains month comics might yield a bit more content to write about. What follows are profiles of three villains month comics starring The Outsider, The Riddler, and First Born – a trio of villains who are very close to the Crime Syndicate, only loosely associated with them, and completely separate from them respectively.

The Crime Syndicate. Artwork by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Eber Ferreira and Rod Reis.

 

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Forever Evil #1 – Comics Review

Forever Evil #1: Nightfall

Lights in major cities turn black, and the Earth’s moon orbits faster, blocking out the sun. Darkness spreads, and DC comic’s villains rise under the command of the Crime Syndicate in the wake of the heroe’s disappearance. Readers might be reminded of Marvel comic’s Dark Reign story arc, where super villains from all the corners of Marvel comic’s universe seized control of S.H.E.I.L.D, including the peace keeping organisation’s documents and files. The Crime Syndicate has access to all the information of the Justice League thanks to a polite artificial intelligence calling itself “The Grid”. Now, they want an army. After that, control of the Earth’s wealth.

(This review includes some spoilers for Issue #1 of DC Comics’ Forever Evil)

Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (Variant Cover Artists.)

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