First Impressions – FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1

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There are many rogue elements in the DCU, and many rogues galleries. But there is only one group called The Rogues. And when evil comes to power, will they tow the party line? Or will The Rogues…go rogue? FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1 begins a new six issue miniseries, telling the domination of the world by vile forces from the perspective of The Flash’s greatest enemies.

This next one requires extensive explanation. The Justice League books just had their massive, eleven-part storyline Trinity War. To make that long story short, it ends with the New 52 versions of the Crime Syndicate (of America) busting into Earth Prime from Earth 3 and apparently killing the Justice League. All of them. This leads into DC’s next big event comic, Forever Evil, where the evil alternate universe versions of the Justice League decide to take over the world.

Forever Evil came out last month at the time of this writing, which also happened to be Villains Month, one of DC’s yearly specials to mark the anniversary of the New 52 starting. In this month, the various ongoing series were put on hold to give its villains their spotlight, usually with origin stories or one-offs. And since some ongoing series ended recently and certain ongoings were valued more than others, some franchises received more individual Villain issues than others. In the case of The Flash, three issues were put out. The first covered the New 52 version of the Reverse Flash, which tied directly into the ongoing plotline in the Flash’s series. But the other two are more immediately pressing.

The first was for Grodd, the gorilla mastermind with a taste for brains and a superiority complex. In his villain issue, he returned to Central City after escaping the Speed Force, and he immediately took to retaking the place now that the Flash is gone. He even forces both the citizens of Central City and his former subjects kneel before him, complete with the phrase “Kneel before Grodd!”

Yes, Grodd does a better job being Zod than Zod did in Man Of Steel.

That issue ended with Grodd in complete control, having made examples of dissenting humans and gorillas. At which point he leaves the city entirely, for the sole purpose of being bored.

The last Flash villain issue is devoted to The Rogues, the group of villains with a tight-knit mentality and a focus directed only at The Score. Getting mad bank, yo. None of that revenge or dominance crap, they just like a dishonest day’s pay. To that end, they attempt to rob a bank, only to break off the attempt due to the unnecessary loss of innocent life that could result from executing the plan. It’s at this point that their leader, Golden Glider, decides to use her astral projection powers to get teammate and boyfriend Mirror Master out of the mirror world he’s trapped in.

She succeeds, but the strain of doing so aggravated her brain tumor, forcing her into a deeper coma she may never get out of. Assuming command with a heavy heart, her brother and former Rogues leader Captain Cold assumes command again and set them on their next objective: breaking erstwhile Rogue The Trickster out of prison already. A stupid punk kid he may be, but he’s still a Rogue, and the Rogue’s have each others’ backs.

They’re like a family in that way. More on that later.

In the process of getting Trickster out, the Rogues spot a mysterious speedster running through the facility, leaving medallions of the Secret Society behind. The speedster was Johnny Quick, the Flash’s evil Earth 3 counterpart, and member of the Crime Syndicate. And they’re holding a meeting, with all the villains invited.

FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1 begins at that meeting, where Crime Syndicate leader Ultraman lays down the business: the Justice League is dead, and evil is taking over. Oh, and he follows up the meeting by moving the moon in front of the sun, because he’s a vampire or something. I don’t know.

Unsure of the proper response to such a change in the status quo, the Rogues return to Central City to debate their next move. Only to find it wrecked by Grodd. It’s here that the Rogues are presented with a quandry. The only prudent choice they have is to side with the Crime Syndicate and rule. But Central City is their home. If the Rogues are anything like the eponymous Pirates of Penzance, it’s that for all their faults, they love their city.

The Crime Syndicate doesn’t like their city, and would make an example of it in front of the rest of the world. And they’ll send as many C-list villains as they can to see it and everyone in it reduced to rubble. Because they love their city (and because two of them love Gold Glider, who remains comatose in the city), they really can’t let that happen. The rebellion is afoot.

I don’t think any other group of villains in the DCU could fill this roll as well as the Rogues. Bad people yes, with many shortcomings, but with a personal code of, if not honor, then conduct. They aren’t like the psychopaths of Gotham, motivated by madness and a personal animosity (or twisted fixation) with their heroic counterpart. They are career criminals who just happen to have superpowers or tools, and display familiar emotions. The past year or so of Flash comics have brought readers close to this eclectic collective, and I’m personally happy to see them shine. And in a fashion that paints them as being to the gem cities (Central and Keystone) a kind of heroes of last resort; what the two towns must rely on for salvation when their scarlet protector is not to be found.

Writing duties come to us from Flash co-writer Brian Buccellato, who brings his knowledge of the characters to this title. The personalities and disfunctions of our characters are somewhat present, though I find only Heatwave and Trickster strongly display them. Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, and Mirror Master come off more general, though their emotional attachments, especially concerning their fallen female crew member, come across well.

I just realized that it was Golden Glider that got adversely affected by this plot development, all to motivate the males around her. Women in Fridges much?

Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn handle art duties, and it’s solid work. The shadows fall deeper in this book, which complements the atmosphere of dread hanging over everyone. Speaking of everyone, character faces are very expressive; much needed in a book fueled by uncertainty, sadness, and fear. Unlike the main series, page designs are far less experimental and far more block standard. Not that sticking to conventional layouts harms the product. If anything, the biggest double-edged sword in the Flash’s ongoing is its art, thoroughly impressive and creative, yet hard to follow. This book takes no chances, and suffers none for it.

Like the main series, FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1 is colorful, both in variety used and saturation. Too often in modern comics a work will attempt to move towards desaturated color palettes, under the theory that washed out hues grant realism. To make it less “comic booky”; a sentiment so absurd I could just cry. The fun and advantage of comics is to implement them strong and frequently. This work does this, while being as dark in shadows as the tone.

In spite of myself, I predict FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION will occupy my pull list for the next six months. It’s hard to find a DC comic I really like anymore, and the Flash team shows an understanding of what makes comics good that others tend to lack.

Except decompressed storytelling. Not such a big fan of stretching a single plot out to five or six issues, which Manapul and Buccellato do. But I can forgive them because they succeed so well in other areas.

Anyway, one might need to read the first issue of the main Forever Evil title, but ROGUES REBELLION #1 establishes enough of it and the Rogue’s characters to introduce them to new readers.

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