Justice League: Forever Heroes Review (Volume 5) By Deffinition
At the end of Justice League: Trinity War and The Grid, we were introduced to the Crime Syndicate. Lurking in the background they have waited for the perfect moment to strike and take over the world. But what’s lurking in their backgrounds? Who are the villainous team?
Forever Heroes answers that question.
Depicting the group’s origins we are given first-hand experience of the twisted past that created the supervillains that thwarted the Justice League in one fell swoop.
Having read bits and pieces of this in the past I’m excited to see how it all comes together. I love the Crime Syndicate so can’t wait to see their origins all fleshed out in full.
So with that out the way, let’s dive into Justice League: Forever Heroes.
Crisis on Krypton
We open on the destruction of Krypton, but something is slightly amiss. The population pile over each other, selfishly murdering their brothers and sisters in order to reach escape pods. It’s here that we learn exactly what’s going on. This isn’t Superman’s origin, it’s Ultraman’s.
Instantly Geoff Johns sets up (in slightly comedic fashion) just how twisted and evil the alternate universe is.
Kal-El is called pathetic, disappointing and worthless through speakers on repeat as he travels to Earth. His parents instilling in him that he must rule over the humans.
It really subverts the norm in an entertaining way that makes the Crime Syndicate fun to watch in ‘being this bad was never so good’ kind of way.
Its gripping to see Ultraman block out the Sun (Simpsons style) and then arrive at the Daily Planet. Desperate to find out if the Jimmy Olsen of this world is similar to the seedy one of his that takes sordid photos of Lois Lane, he just wants some normality in his life. It’s hilarious that finding an old perverted friend is all that he wanted to do and it speaks volumes to the new Man Of Steel’s moral compass.
Snorting Kryptonite like a drug fiend, he really feels like a gritty, ‘NEW 52’ take on the character and it’s hard not to love him.
Throughout the book each villain is a real hoot and it’s great to see the creative team use the hero archetypes to display how people with powers would probably act if they lived in our universe. The team are selfish, corrupted, morally bankrupt and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
Owl In The Cowl
Another brilliant plot point is the story of Thomas Wayne aka Owl Man. Subverted from Bruce’s origin story, Thomas actually murdered his parents in Crime Alley, inheriting their fortune.
Taking control of the crime families in Gotham his entrance is thrilling and a clear signifier of what Batman would be like if he were to ever break his one rule.
This introduction is balanced by his touching camaraderie with Dick Grayson. Dead in his universe, Owlman naturally gravitates to this world’s one and attempts to start a coup.
It’s great to see that the Crime Syndicate are that bad that they even want to double cross each other and as a reader you will be kept guessing throughout because of their duplicitous nature. These twists and turns are enthralling throughout and elevate the book above the run of the Mill ‘goodguys go bad’ storyline that so many comic teams fall victim to when using the ‘Evil Twin Brother’ type motif.
Through the mid section of the book we are placed firmly in the perspective of Grid. Removed from Cyborg and now his own entity, the machine is desperate to feel. In his quest to gain some humanity we see the origin stories for the rest of the Syndicate.
Power ring is Earth 3’s Hal Jordan, his ring powered by his cowardly persona. Deathstorm, an alternate Firestorm neither living nor dead and Superwoman, the super powered Lois Lane of her respective universe, all become the focus here.
Showing John’s understanding of his audience it’s a smart move to compact these storylines into The Grid. When we join Cyborg, the last surviving hero, his motivation to stop the machine alter ego can now be understood by all readers and it really invests you in the upcoming battle.
Siding with Cyborg
I was never really a fan of Cyborg, often finding him difficult to connect with on a human level. However, Johns has superseded that with his depiction of the character. Wrestling with his Father, he pleas to be rebuilt in order to go and save the world and it makes the character extremely endearing.
We finally get to see Cyborg and his father connect on an emotional level and as a son who often has difficulties with communicating with his Father, I found it an almost tear-jerking moment.
Watching the cybernetic man as Earth’s last defence made me really connect with him and after this read through he became one of my favourite leaguers, which is saying a lot, especially with how much I used to dislike him.
The Metal Men
Unfortunately the book isn’t perfect, seeing its first real dip in quality when we are introduced to the Metal Men. Enlisted by Cyborg in order to take down Grid they just seem out of place in this story. Overly goofy they are almost like a metallic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Now I LOVE the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but imagine that scene where April hides the Turtles from her boss, stretched out past the point of funny. To the point you want to smash your head in. That is pretty much how I would describe the Metal Men.
Luckily the book picks up and they tackle Grid as a team. Trapping the machine in his own digital world.
Justice League: Forever Heroes has moments of absolute brilliance, then full issues of bland and annoying padding. This makes it really difficult to rate. As a massive fan of the Crime Syndicate I absolutely adored it’s earlier chapters, however when the focus shifted from them, my interest did too.
This works as excellent supplemental material but many readers will be able to skip straight to Forever Evil, without giving this a second glance.
Because of that I have to give it a…