It's the end of the world! Doom has empowered DC's villains to untold heights. King Cold vows to hold onto his reign over Central City even as, unbeknownst to him, the rest of the Rogues are working with Flash and his allies to topple his throne...
Flash and Golden Glider have a nice, human moment, even as Barry actively reminds her that "once this is over, I'll have to arrest you..."
But even with the speedsters' control over their powers somewhat back in check, they still have a dangerous mission ahead of them: to topple Mirror Master, who on top of being completely onboard with King Cold's regime, is also the secret power fueling him!
The Flash easily has one of the best rogues’ galleries on comics. Behind Batman and Spider-Man, his assortment of villains is strong because of their presentation not as psychopaths or criminal masterminds but rather because of their refreshingly lowbrow ambitions. The Rogues are all blue-collar guys generally trying to make their way in the world the only way they know how: by subverting the law and playing by their own rules. They’re a notch above petty criminals, but this perspective lends them a humanity not often seen in comic book villains – because readers can ultimately identify on some level with their motivations.
The interesting concept behind “Rogues’ Reign” addresses what happens when those blue-collar guys are suddenly gifted a shot at the big time, at real power. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of them bristle at it once they’ve had a taste, epitomized by Golden Glider stating “This isn’t who we are” and working to sabotage her brother King Cold’s regime. This means forming uncomfortable alliances with the Flash and his crew, which also subverts the usual dynamic between these characters in new and fascinating ways. Flash learns that he has more in common with the Rogues on a human level than he might have ever suspected. The scene he shares with Golden Glider is genuinely heartfelt – in one fell swoop, he understands and even empathizes with his one-time foe in a way completely unanticipated by either of them.
As a piece of fiction, “Rogues’ Reign” has some fraying around its edges, though. Central City is divided into subsections ruled by each individual Rogue, but what does that actually look like? Are the trains running on time? Are people still going to and from their work? What about individual civil servants like firefighters, are they allowed to still do their job? Or is every piece of the city just a sort of No Man’s Land where people are simply surviving? And if that’s the case, what’s really the point of ruling over it? Writer Josh Williamson doesn’t really answer these questions, instead leaving them up to the reader’s imagination. To be fair, though, this isn’t a long, over-arching mega-story designed to address such things; instead, it’s a written-for-the-trade six-parter with a beginning, middle, and end before it’s off to the races for the next arc. That doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination; just limited in what it can do in the pages allotted.
Ultimately, though, “Rogues’ Reign” – and this issue specifically – works because of the way it subverts the usual dynamics between Flash, the Rogues, and their power sets. The Flash typically grossly overpowers his foes; in truth the Rogues only present a challenge because of their cunning and creative thinking. But here, with the Speed Force disrupted – coupled with the Rogues’ major power-up – everything is inverted, and no one involved is quite sure what that looks like or what their roles are. Having the Rogues help the speedsters regain mastery over their abilities may seem like a bit of a stretch – after all, when this is over they’ll presumably go back to being nemeses – but it’s a fun change-up from business as usual.
Christian Duce and Luis Guerrero do a fine job on the art, segueing styles from Rafa Sandoval pretty seamlessly. Duce’s iteration of the Flash is a little bulky for my tastes, but not to the point of ludicrousness. Some artists can’t seem to grasp the concept that Flash, as a runner, should have a lean build and instead bulk him up like Superman. Thankfully Duce doesn’t lean too much into that, presenting instead a Flash who, while muscular, still looks like he could run a marathon. Guerrero’s coloring is strong as well, contrasting lights and darks in ways that vibrantly pop off the page without being distracting. In all, this is the best The Flash has been in awhile, and definitely worth your time to check out.
"Rogues' Reign" part four sees the usual dynamics between the Flash and the Rogues flipped on its head, leading to some unexpected characterization and growth for all parties concerned. If you haven't been reading Flash lately, now is a really great time to check it out!
The Flash #85: Going Rogue
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 7.5/107.5/10
- Color - 7.5/107.5/10
- Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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