Monday, October 24, 2011

Tales From the Long Box - Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge

 Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge: 

In 2008 the Flash title was at a weird place. During the early days of the 21st century Geoff Johns (frequently aided by penciller Scott Kollins) had written a seminal run on The Flash. It served as a springboard for Johns, catapulting him to comics superstardom. It also made the Flash something of a marquee character for the first time since Mark Waid's run in the mid-90's.

Eventually Johns would depart from the title in the days immediately following DC's event, Infinite Crisis. Mark Waid came onboard as writer, gave Wally West (the Flash who picked up the mantel after the death of the previous Flash, Barry Allen) a family and the title a new Incredibles-inspired feel. Readers unwilling to go with the new changes fell off, and the book slumped into obscurity for a couple years. During this time Wally went into "retirement", and Barry Allens grandson from the future (yeah, it's a whole thing), Bart Allen came aboard as the new Flash.

Which brings us to 2008. DC had another Crisis event taking place, this one deemed the Final Crisis, written by Grant Morrison. That event would herald the resurrection of deceased Flash, Barry Allen.

One of the highlights of Geoff Johns run on the Flash title was his work with Flash's villains. Known as the Rogues, they comprise one of the strongest collection of villains in comics. A motley gathering of misfits, the Rogues boast bizarre power sets, and conceptually goofy costumes. Despite these seemingly negative qualities the rogues work, and during Johns work on the Flash title he only made them better. Devoting whole issues to the bad guys, while offering new aspects of their origins or creating new ones entirely, he helped to flesh out characters like Mirror Master, Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Weather Wizard.

Rogue's Revenge is a revenge tale with those same four characters serving as protoganists and though it bears the Final Crisis title, it has little to do with that event. This story really serves as a means for Geoff Johns to write some really bad guys doing some really bad things to some even worse people. The Flash never makes an appearance beyond the final page of the last issue.

As stated, this is a revenge tale. In the final story arc of the post-Infinite Crisis Flash series, the Rogues were tricked into murdering Wally West's replacement, Bart Allen. One of the things that seperates these guys from other villains is their "code". Namely, they don't kill unless they have to, and never women, children or superheroes. That last one isn't due to any moral reason but rather to the fact that to kill a superhero would bring other superheroes down on them. It's just bad for business.

After being tricked into murdering Bart Allen by a villain named Inertia the villains return to Keystone City, home of the Flash, to hunt down, and kill him. Meanwhile, Professor Zoom, the reverse Flash, helps Inertia escape from the Flash museum where he was being held in a state of suspended animation. Simultaneously the Rogues are being hunted by a society of supervillains headed by a villain named Libra, who want them to either join their numbers or die.

All of these plots interweave until we eventually have a throwdown in issue three between the Rogues and Intertia, as well as a standoff between the Rogues and Libra. Through it all the Rogues are constantly reaffirmed as some of the most interesting and just flat out cool characters in DC comics. Their unwillingness to go along with the society and their staunch resolve to kill inertia are countered by smaller subplots involving the accidental murder of Weather Wizards brother, and Len Snart's abusive father. All of these elements work together seamlessly.

I can't say enough about Geoff Johns work on this mini series. He continued to add depth to the characters and managed to write a straight-forward revenge story that still surprised with some of the twists it took. The interaction between the rogues is always fascinating and in three issues Johns reminded us of why he was born to write them.

On the art side of things, Scott Kollins handled the art chores on the Flash book for quite a while so to see his quirky style back on a series starring these characters seemed only natural. You have to realize when this book came out these two creators had been absent from the title for a few years. Opening this book was like coming home again to someone who adored their previous work as much as I did.

Out of the three issues of Rogues Revenge, Kollins excels on issue two. There are page layouts on that particular issue that are fantastic. His work always has an energy that few other artists can capture and that is one of the reasons he was perfectly suited to drawing a Flash book. Even though this series doesn't revolve around sequences of characters running really fast to solve problems Kollins brought a flair to this book that visually set it apart from all the other Final Crisis minis.

Three years after it's release I still read this title at least a couple times a year. The story, pacing, dialogue, and art all compliment each other perfectly. Read it.

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