Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1


Brian Buccellato Writer
Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn Artists
Nick Filardi Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

The cover is by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, and I don't like it one bit. It's just so boring. Everybody's standing around and almost as an afterthought, a gigantic red target is placed over Captain Cold's head, presumably from the Crime Syndicate. Plus, I'm not a big fan of Shalvey's style. So I guess it's a good thing he didn't do any inside pages. But what I'm really sad about is a cover like this doesn't do the Rogues justice, and I bet it turned away a lot of potential readers by being so boring and generic.

Our story begins at the remains of the Justice League Watchtower in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. All the major villains are there, including the Rogues, to hear the Crime Syndicate announce the death of the Justice League. The Rogues have conflicted feelings about this. On one hand, life without the Flash would be pretty nice; but on the other hand, the Rogues never wanted to become involved in world domination. So they return home to Central City only to find it in a bit of a mess.

The Rogues survey the damage, noting the power is out, the sun has been blocked, and Girder is dead. They then come across the Flash statue, and realize all the destruction has been caused by a familiar simian foe.

Trickster is worried Grodd might come back (he did rip off his arm, after all), and he suggests the Rogues join the Crime Syndicate. Captain Cold adamantly refuses this, and only wants to go check on his sister. But on their way, Heatwave notices a handful of cops chained to some trees, including Captain Darryl Frye, Director David Singh and Patty Spivot.

Frye explains that Grodd destroyed the city in less than an hour, got bored and left. The other gorillas followed him, saying more villains would be back to finish the job. Frye assumes the gorillas were referring to the Rogues, but Captain Cold proves him wrong by freeing the cops. Singh, however, doesn't trust them, and he pulls a gun on Heatwave. After a brief, yet tense standoff, Singh relents and lets the Rogues leave.

They then arrive at the hospital and find that Lisa Snart is alive, but still in a coma. The Rogues are then soon met by a handful of Firestorm's villains — Typhoon, Multiplex, Black Bison, Hyena and Plastique. Black Bison explains that they are on the Syndicate's order to make an example of Central City, starting with the hospital. The Rogues naturally disagree with this, and a big fight erupts.

Heatwave easily handles Plastique, Weather Wizard neutralizes Typhoon, Trickster has a little trouble with Hyena, and Captain Cold quickly takes down Black Bison before being outnumbered by Multiplex. Mirror Master then saves him by pulling Multiplex's clones into the Mirror World, but Cold is angry with him for leaving Lisa exposed. But their fighting is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Deathstorm and Power Ring.

The Good:

Lovable Rogues. The Rogues #1 proved that this dysfunctional family of villains can carry a story by themselves, and this issue proved that they a more than deserving of this six-issue mini-series. Not only are they full of humor and heart, but they can pack a punch. Yes, the villains they fought are C-list villains at best, but it was still pretty nice to see the Rogues kick somebody's butt who wasn't the Flash.

The Bad:

Drastic art change. I'm not the biggest fan of Patrick Zircher, but I do admit that his gritty style works perfectly with this Forever Evil story. But halfway through this issue, the art suddenly switched to Scott Hepburn, who is nothing like Zircher. It was a jarring shift that pulled me out of the story. And to make matters worse, Hepburn's style is very different from Zircher's, and lower in quality. I don't like Hepburn's art one bit — it's just too loose and cartoony for me, especially for a story this serious and harsh. I think I would like Hepburn better in a comic with a lighter tone, but pairing him with Zircher is a mistake, in my opinion.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Justice League of America #8

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Flash #23.1/Grodd #1

"The Light"

Brian Buccellato Writer
Christ Batista Penciller
Tom Nguyen Inker
Wes Dzioba Colorist
Wes Abbott Letterer
Kyle Andrukiewicz Assistant Editor
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Matt Idelson Group Editor

The cover is by Francis Manapul with color by Brian Buccellato. This was the first Flash 3-D cover, yet ironically the last in my chronological order. With this issue, I was able to compare the 3-D with the 2-D side by side, and I just couldn't stand the look and feel of the 3-D version. So I chose the cheaper, yet still very nice, 2-D cover. However, I must confess that this is a rather boring cover. Sure, Grodd looks great, and the skulls are a nice touch. But why, exactly is he upside down? Heck, how is he upside down? He probably weighs more than 700 pounds — how is that little branch supporting him? I guess I shouldn't complain; this is, after all, the last cover drawn by Francis Manapul that I will review. And everything else pales in comparison to Manapul's work.

Our story begins before the fall of the Justice League, with the gorillas trying to make amends for Grodd's invasion. Led by Solovar and Prince Nnamdi, the gorillas are rebuilding the Gem Cities, planting trees in Central City Park, and, most importantly, donating a statue of the Flash.

But the unveiling ceremony is interrupted by a solar eclipse and the sudden arrival of Grodd. He announces that the Flash has been killed by the same beings who freed him from the Speed Force. He also demonstrates that the Speed Force not only gave him super speed, but telepathy and telekinesis, as well. He attacks a helicopter carrying several diplomats, and the Pied Piper charges at him, but is immediately struck down.

Chroma, Girder and Tar Pit, recently released from Iron Heights by Johnny Quick, try to join Grodd's party. But Grodd wants nothing to do with them, and beats Girder to a pulp. He then tries to unite the gorillas under his rule, but Solovar opposes him. So Grodd battles all the apes and humans in the vicinity, and easily defeats them. He then announces his plan to build Grodd City on top of the Gem Cities, and he demands that everyone kneel before him.

The cities quickly fall under Grodd's control, and most of the gorillas side with their former king. Those who don't are either killed or chained to the Flash statue. Even the super villains face the wrath of Grodd, as Chroma is decapitated and Tar Pit and the Folded Man evacuate the area. But Grodd soon realizes that he has everything he wants and no one can stop him. Facing a lack of a real challenge, the bored Grodd decides to leave.

The Good:

Gotta love Grodd. Grodd has been one of my favorite villains in the New 52. I love his savagery and viscousness, which makes him the perfect contrast to the lovable Rogues. I also knew he'd eventually get out of the Speed Force and gain psychic powers, but I didn't expect that to happen so soon. But the prospect of a near-invincible Grodd unleashed on a world without the Flash is a pretty frightening, exciting idea. The "Kneel before Grodd" line is a ripoff from Superman II, but it was fitting in this context and kinda fun. But mostly, I am excited to see what Grodd is going to do next and how he's going to be stopped this time.

The Bad:

A couple of minor complaints. Once again, I don't have any major issues with this story, just a couple of little things here and there that add up to make me slightly disappointed. The first is the Pied Piper. Can't he do anything? I'm not saying he should have defeated Grodd, but it would have been nice to see him come up with a better idea than charging at the giant gorilla, yelling, "Grodd!" I've recently been reading Mark Waid's run on the Flash, and he did some interesting things with the Pied Piper. So I know the character has a lot of potential, and I feel Buccellato kind of wasted it here. Hopefully someone will come along soon to give him the attention he deserves.

My second minor quibble was how reminiscent the ending of this issue was to Flashpoint: Grodd of War #1. In that story, which should still be pretty fresh in Flash fans' minds, Grodd conquers all of Africa, but is incredibly bored. He goes around trying to stir up trouble for himself, then ultimately decides to join the Aquaman-Wonder Woman war just for something to do. While it is very much in line with Grodd's personality to crave a good fight and a challenge, I would have liked to see this issue end slightly differently. If the goal is to get Grodd out of Central City before the Rogues arrive, then maybe they could have had an excited Grodd eagerly seek to rapidly expand his new empire by moving on to other cities to conquer. Just don't make him leave because he's bored.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1