Friday, January 31, 2014

The Flash #23.3/The Rogues #1

"All for One"

Writer Brian Buccellato
Artist Patrick Zircher
Colorist Nick Filardi
Letterer Taylor Esposito
Associate Editor Harvey Richards
Editor Wil Moss
Senior Editor Brian Cunningham

The cover is by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. It was the third and final Flash 3-D cover for the Villains Month event, and it is one of my favorite covers by Manapul and Buccellato. The Rogues all look great and the colors are vibrant. And I don't even care that the Flash is in the same pose from the Grodd and Reverse-Flash issues. I prefer the 2-D version, but by this point, I probably wouldn't have been able to get the 3-D version even if I wanted it. The demand for these covers had built into a kind of frenzy because DC had heightened the demand by keeping the supply low.

Anyway, our story begins at Iron Heights Penitentiary in Central City, where Captain Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard and Mirror Master are trying to break in to save the Trickster. Mirror Master is a bit uncertain about this, but Cold insists that the Rogues need to take care of each other, no matter what.

We then get an extended flashback, showing us what the Rogues have been up to since Grodd's invasion. Using an abandoned mine in Keystone City, they attempted to dig a tunnel under a bank to steal $10 million in cash. But when the tunnel became unstable, Captain Cold suggested they call off the job so they don't collapse the 12-story bank above them. Heatwave protested this, but Glider agreed with her brother, and reminded them that the Rogues aren't killers.

With the bank heist failed, the Rogues went to the Keystone Saloon to drown their sorrows. Glider, distraught her boyfriend was forever trapped in the Mirror World, decided to use her astral projection to pull Sam out. Captain Cold objected to this, calling Lisa selfish for wanting to take such a risk. But she threw that back in Len's face, reminding him of all the problems his selfishness caused the Rogues, including the Trickster.

Glider then went to her room in the Central Care Hospital, where her real body lies in a bed. Mirror Master was hesitant, but Glider put her hands through the mirror anyway, and actually succeeded in pulling Sam out of Mirror World. But this put an enormous strain on Glider, and her astral projection disappeared and her body began to experience heart failure.

Captain Cold was furious by this and decided to disband the Rogues. He then went out alone, got drunk, and reflected on his life. Leonard Snart originally formed the Rogues to unite criminal under a common cause. And things worked out pretty well until a certain scarlet speedster showed up.

Frustrated by constantly losing to the Flash, Captain Cold decided to accept an offer from Dr. Elias to give the Rogues superpowers. But that action has only brought misery to Len's team and family.

Cold then tried to rob a bank in his drunken stupor, and he was nearly captured by the police. Luckily, the rest of the Rogues showed up in time and convinced him that they needed to stick together and the Rogues need a Snart in charge. So Cold agreed to lead the team until Lisa recovered, and he suggested they go free the Trickster.

Returning to the present, the Rogues barely break through the first fence, when a red blur rushes by them, shouting, "It's cray-cray time!!!" They initially thought it was the Flash, but it turned out to be Johnny Quick of the Crime Syndicate. Quick freed all the Iron Heights inmates, and gave the Rogues a Secret Society coin. Once they reunite with Trickster, the Rogues travel to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. At the remains of the Justice League Watchtower, the Crime Syndicate announces the death of the Justice League. The Rogues initially seem pretty happy at the idea of life without the Flash, but when they return to the Gem Cities, they find only destruction.

The Good:

Gotta love the Rogues. Just because they're bad guys, doesn't mean they have to be BAD guys. They're DC's most lovable villains, acting more like a dysfunctional family than the rampaging group of homicidal maniacs we often see in Batman. The Rogues have plenty of emotional depth, personal history and variety of powers to sustain their own series, and this issue served as the perfect launch point for the Rogues Rebellion mini-series.

Character progression. This issue didn't merely retell the Rogues' origin story; it moved things forward and did some pretty unalterable things to the Rogues. We've already had a year and a half of the re-imagined Rogues, so it's OK to shake things up a bit. Mirror Master is now free, Glider is potentially de-powered, Captain Cold is the leader again and Trickster is back on the team. I really like what this issue did to this team, and I'm excited to see what's going to happen to them.

Gem Cities revealed. Way back in The Flash #3, Brian Cunningham wrote in an editor's note: " 'Gem Cities' is the nickname of neighboring Central City and Keystone City! Stay tuned for its origin in Flash #6!" Only that promised origin story didn't happen in Flash #6. Instead, (presumably at DC's insistence) the Flash fought Captain Cold in that issue. We then went through a fun run with all the Rogues, and Gorilla Warfare, and then Reverse-Flash. But none of those issues offered an opportunity to explain the Gem Cities nickname. Not that it mattered too much, but it was nice to know, anyway, so I was pretty happy when this issue finally addressed it. And now, it seems like Buccellato is using The Flash #27 to finally tell the story he originally wanted in #6.

The Bad:

A couple of minor things. I hate to nitpick, and I also hate to criticize an issue for what it doesn't contain, but these little things add up to be big enough to merit a formal complaint from me. The first one is Captain Cold's hair. In all the previous New 52 issues, his hair was white, which I thought was a really neat touch. It was almost as if his cold powers were so potent that even his hair was in a permanent frozen state. But suddenly in this issue, his hair was a normal brown. Was this Nick Filardi's doing or a DC editorial edict? Or did Captain Cold finally gain a better handle on his powers and figure out how to unfreeze his hair? Whatever the case, it bugged me.

My second minor quibble is the complete lack of any reference made to Turbine. This issue seemed like the perfect time to address what happened to someone who played a pretty big role earlier — I mean, he had a whole issue dedicated to him! We last saw Turbine during Gorilla Warfare when the Rogues offered him a spot on the team. Either he refused, or the Rogues changed their mind, but in either case, he obviously did not end up on their team. When the Reverse-Flash was targeting people connected to the Speed Force, Turbine seemed like an obvious target — but he wasn't even mentioned. So where is he? Is he still wandering around the Mirror World, looking for a way to get back to his family in 1945? Or did Manapul and Buccellato simply forget about him? There is still a very small chance Buccellato could bring him back in his few remaining Flash issues or Rogues Rebellion issues, but I'm losing more hope each month. How sad to completely lose such an intriguing character.

Lastly, I guess I would normally complain about an issue where the Flash only shows up in one panel in a flashback (within another flashback), but I thought that was OK this time. The whole point of Villains Month was to showcase the villains, so it was perfectly acceptable to relegate Flash to such a minor role. And that one panel was better than nothing.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next time: The Flash #23.1/Grodd #1

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