Saturday, August 18, 2012

Geoff Johns Introduces The Rogues In A Fractured Collection With Minimal Cohesion.

The Good: Puts many of the best Flash villains into play, Decent artwork
The Bad: Each chapter does something different (for the most part), Very little room for character development
The Basics: The Flash: Rogues has the Flash fighting against Gorilla Grodd, Peek-a-Boo, Captain Cold, existence when a singularity opens up, and the radioactive Fallout with minimal serialization.

I’m finding I generally enjoy the works of writer Geoff Johns. He is a clever writer who has a good voice and I have found his work on The Flash and Green Lantern over the last few years to be very enjoyable. It seems like he is at his best, though, when he is working to re-invent the well-worn wheels. He takes the familiar characters with well-established histories and makes them his own with a distinct voice, decent conflicts and making villains that have depth to them. But, it appears that when Johns was coming up with The Flash, he had times when he was still finding his footing. The Flash: Rogues is one of those volumes.

Unfortunately, The Flash: Rogues is a fragmented work, a set-up for other books that see the lingering, hinted-at conflicts in this book through. I’m not wild about that, mostly because I would much rather read a single longer book that has the whole story an author wants to tell, as opposed to many, many little works that eventually add up to a complete story. Readers of The Flash: Rogues do not have the luxury of knowing that the story gets paid off and that the elements that are only hinted at in the book, like Plunder and what is really going on in Iron Heights, are not paid off for some time.

The Flash: Rogues also has the unfortunate inclusion of what appears to be a crossover story with Batman that completely steals the thunder from what little momentum this book has on its own. Apparently, at some point, The Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum and creates a virus that makes other superheroes and supervillains into Jokers. The Joker’s mutated forces teleport into Keystone City and have to be put down by the Flash. The Flash: Rogues reads like exactly what it is; a collection of comic books. Most trade paperback anthologies collect individual comic books that share a single story and build to a full volume, as opposed to feeling like vastly different stories thrown together. The Flash: Rogues, while it has a few minorly serialized elements, feels much more like the latter idea.

Wally West and Linda Park, married now, are figuring out their lives together. Linda has begun Medical School and the Flash continues to solve crimes in Keystone City. When the Flash’s friend, Chunk, is shot and it creates a quantum singularity (a little black hole), he is fast to respond. In saving Keystone City (and the world) from his friend’s inadvertent destruction, Wally West discovers that the attack was very deliberate and that his friend was targeted.

The Flash’s friends are systematically taken out throughout The Flash: Rogues, leaving Wally West increasingly exposed. Hartley Rathaway, the reformed Pied Piper, is arrested for killing his own parents after an attack by Gorilla Grodd on Keystone City. Rathaway has no defense for his actions and his incarceration puts him around several villains when the Joker Virus is brought to Keystone. While Iris Allen takes custody of the Weather Wizard’s son, a teleporting villain, Peek-a-Boo appears to cause mayhem. And West’s suspicion that Iron Heights was being powered by a radioactive man puts him on a collision course with Fallout. The Flash: Rogues ends with a detailed retrospective on Leonard Snart, Captain Cold.

The Flash: Rogues seems like an exercise to have Geoff Johns try his hand at writing some of the best villains in the DC Universe and, outside the retrospective on Captain Cold, he does it with very little panache. Grodd is lacking in any real sophistication or intrigue throughout his chapter. Peek-a-Boo enters the narrative in an interesting-enough way, but is hardly one of the most compelling villains in the Rogues Gallery of Flash villains.

The sporadic nature of the stories also does not net a whole lot of character development in The Flash: Rogues. In fact, more than any other Geoff Johns work that comes to mind, The Flash: Rogues stands out as lacking in genuine character development. Wally West is almost peripheral to the plots; he runs in and saves people, but does not truly grow, change, or discover throughout The Flash: Rogues.

The artwork in The Flash: Rogues is excellent. The panels are clearly drawn and the renditions of all the major and minor characters are well-depicted. The coloring in The Flash: Rogues is a bit simplistic compared to comic books and graphic novels now, but given that the book is a few years old, it is hard to fault it for that. While it might lack decent shading and color depth, the colors are consistent and vibrant enough to portray the characters in distinctive ways.

Ultimately, The Flash: Rogues is not bad, it is just not a good collection. The story is too fragmented – indeed it is not a single story, it is six comic books that pop up with different villains to present a broader sense of the players in the Flash universe and it does not, as a result, truly add up to more than that.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Human Race
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Full Throttle
Flash: Rebirth
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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