Rogues’ Gallery #4
There’s an adage given to writers about how to craft a scene, which boils down to arriving at the latest moment while leaving at the earliest. This concept ensures that scenes don’t brag, and forces writers to ensure the mundane, unneeded beats are cut down. This not only streamlines a plot but contributes to a moving pace that doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life. A book like Rogues’ Gallery can’t help but bring that adage to mind, as the series lives and breathes it even as it reaches its final issue.
Rogues’ Gallery #4 – written by Hannah Rose May, based on a story by May and Declan Shalvey, with art from Jason Mason, colors from Triona Farrell, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – rockets to the conclusion of the deadly home invasion revealed in the last issue to be a sadistic LARP recreation of a Red Rogue comic. Maisie and Ben finish reading the comic in question and try to escape the cosplayers’ attempts at comic accuracy. In a struggle with Dodge, where Ben has the upper hand, Hayley appears and kills Ben. She sees it as an act to protect Dodge, but to him, it ruins his plans to recreate the comic’s plot. The strife is enough for Maisie to escape and regroup, while Kyle and Yuri go to disable the phone jammer, having realized this isn’t what they signed up for.
Both the duo and Maisie make preparations for the final fight, which is an explosive battle between Maisie garbed in her workout gear and Red Rogue escrima sticks, and the remaining rabid fans. Kyle jumps in and distracts Jackdaw, giving Maisie the chance to take him out, pushing him through a shattered window, and ending the terror. The book then gives an epilogue, including the internet’s reaction to the events of the book, speaking to both a breaking of the toxic cycle, while affirming nothing changed.
With issue #4, every element of the book crystallizes, locking into place a standard of quality that exceeds all expectations. This issue takes everything that the series has done well in its first three issues, including a script full of white-knuckle tension and emotional resonance, explosive art, and oppressive lettering created through social media and refines them to the finest level seen thus far. Each issue gave these elements their time to shine on an individual level, but by coming together in the specific way they do in this final issue, it’s clear that Rogues Gallery #4 is the pinnacle of the current creative collaboration on display.
May’s script is just as sharp as the previous entries, but this issue gives an additional dimension thanks to both the tragic events that occur and the cathartic release for Maisie in her last fight. In Poetics, a seminal work on dramatic theory, Aristotle equates the concept of catharsis as a purge of negative emotion for the viewer of a tragedy. Here, May’s script delivers on the promise of Maisie getting to take the fight to her abusers and hecklers, personified by the angry cosplayers. It’s a raw, unflinching sequence as Maisie fights her way through Jackdaw and Hayley, proving to them that she’s more than just an actress playing a random role. It’s an affirmation of all the work put into the character, including love, sweat, tears, and blood.
There’s no better example of this catharsis, for both Maisie and the reader than when Maisie, garbed in her Red Rogue wig, uses her escrima sticks and stunt training to take down Hayley. The invader is dressed as Red Rogue as well, and it’s a symbolic victory that May scripts masterfully, in which Maisie defeats that dark reflection of the character she’s attached to, and can affirm that her work is real. It’s not some stunt person, or man, or another person that Maisie takes accomplishments from, and she makes sure that the ‘fans’ violating her home know it. But in true tragic fashion, the victory over Hayley, and then Jackdaw, is a pyrrhic one. The cost of exercising these toxic people is the people closest to Maisie, Ben specifically. The final moments of the book reveal some key details that chart a path forward for Maisie, but it doesn’t undercut the excellent, but heart-wrenching, byproduct of the ‘fans’ plans.
That sense of both tragedy and catharsis is apparent at every level of the book but erupts from Mason’s art like a pulsing nerve. The series has been enriched thanks to Mason’s expressive, dynamic pencils, channeling a style of linework that is more common in manga than western comics. That’s true of issue #4 as well, with every page and panel charged with an energy that sells that tension as Maisie fights her way through the invaders. The emotions of the script feed into Mason’s linework, and the bouts of conflict, like Maisie throwing her escrima stick or Ben swinging his knife, feel more brutal as the characters lay their life on the line to fight back.
A second shift occurs after Maisie regroups and dons her wig and bits of the Red Rogue costume. Tracking from the previous manga reference, it’s like the book as a whole, but the art, in particular, has removed its training ankle weights and can just blur at full speeds. The moments in the last fight, like Maisie’s kicks, the spinning escrima stick, and the shattering of glass all carry that linework in overdrive, with Mason’s lines blurring across the page. Just as Maisie doesn’t let up in her attacks, neither does the linework, selling every point of contact. Even the panel composition in the fight reflects that gear shift, with Mason going for simple squares and rectangles, guiding the eye through every bit of necessary action for maximum clarity and impact.
Speaking of maximizing impact, the rightly sung hero of this series has been Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering both for the various SFX and the occurrences of social media. This is a series tackling the notions of being creative in a world with internet trolls, where anonymity offers a seemingly indestructible aegis to harass whoever, whenever. Maisie has been forced to grapple with those toxic attacks due to her role as Red Rogue. She just wanted to express joy in bringing her favorite character to life, but the internet refutes that at every turn. And that’s where the genius of Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering on those social media interludes occurs.
The vitriol spewed online is oppressive, and the lettering reflects that taking over the pages and panels, drawing the eye to it in the same way a reader may compulsively switch their tab to check Twitter or Facebook while reading this review, or the comic it’s discussing. Social media is ever-present in modern life, and the creative team is sure to remind everyone of it. What is so innovative about the lettering and social media in this issue, along with the previous points, is how it’s used to construct both an emotional montage and then a thematic epilogue.
As Maisie prepares for her final fight, the sequence is again reminiscent of a manga or anime, where flashbacks and interlaced scenes build an emotional peak to begin the fight. Here, Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering of the various social media interludes we’ve seen over and over become those interstices, and it gives the effect of allowing Maisie to reach an emotional peak. It’s a tunnel vision created by diving deep into the emotion induced by the constant checking of socials and when overlaid with Farrell’s haunting palettes of grays, greens, and reds, set against the white and blacks of the text.
The last few pages then crosscut between Buzzfeed headlines and Ben’s funeral, populating the page to the point where it’s given more real estate than reality. It’s a powerful indictment of the content journalism market overproducing, creating an endless cycle of clickbait titles that even after achieving catharsis, Maisie and the audience can’t escape. Each font Otsmane-Elhaou uses immediately calls to mind a specifical publication that leans into the regulated clickbait, and pairs them with the stylizing of common platforms to show the prison that Maisie will be trapped in for the rest of her life.
Rogues’ Gallery #4 is an issue that hits hard and fast, with ferocity from every aspect of the craft. The scripting is a powerful indictment of the modern landscape of fandom and delivers pure emotional catharsis at a level that would make Aristotle proud. That only is a testament to May’s skill, but to pair it with Mason’s expressive, bombastic linework gives the issue another boost, driving in that emotional resonance while offering a pulse-pounding action spectacle. The book doesn't let itself coast on those aspects of the craft and pushes its coloring and lettering from Farrell and Otsmane-Elhaou through the use and incorporation of striking colors and social media text to hammer that emotional and thematic core.
It’s clear that this series is a contender for one of the best comics of 2022, in a year where every other week is producing a book of that caliber. More than anything else, what sells this book from top to bottom is the level of care and thought that has gone into it, from the entire team of Hannah Rose May, Justin Mason, Triona Farrell, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Declan Shalvey, and editor Heather Antos. It’s no surprise the series is already being eyed to make the jump to TV. It would be a disservice to any comic fan to overlook Rogues’ Gallery, as it's the type of book that ignites a passion in its readers. If you’ve missed the book in the month-to-month release, then make plans to immediately pick up the trade set for a December 5 release. It’s a book worth every penny and is a vital read for the current era of fandom.
Rogues’ Gallery #4: @#$%& Up and Found Out
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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