In “Rogues’ Revenge,” Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins have given us an exploration of Flash’s Rogues Gallery at one of its weakest moments. The center has not held for the gang, and they must face the consequences. The death of a speedster has not gone — will not go — unpunished, and if they haven’t paid a moral price for Bart Allen’s demise already, then they will pay a physical price soon enough, once Barry Allen finds out what they’ve done. Johns has emphasized the turmoil of the Rogues, as they’ve been forced to confront their greatest past mistakes and come to terms with who they are and how they ended up in the position they’re in.
At least, that’s what seems to be the concern here, as the three issues of the series have largely focused on the history of Captain Cold and the Weather Wizard. Not their joint history as supervillains, but their individual histories as bad men who have been forced to make hard choices. Their problems seem emblematic of the problems of the entire Rogues Gallery, and one of he virtues of this series is that it’s short and not-so-sweet. It’s blunt and effective at three issues, and a longer series, exploring the past lives of more Rogues would do little to increase the thematic impact. It would only slow down the pace, and even though this isn’t labeled as a “Flash” comic, it’s a Flash comic through and through. The very idea of the Flash informs everything that happens here, as Johns builds upon character work and plot points from his last “Flash” run from years ago.
In this final issue of “Rogues’ Revenge,” the “Final Crisis” connection becomes more explicit, as Libra shows up to enlist the Rogues. Johns provides quite a few twists in the climax of this series, and their reaction to Libra’s offer is a surprise and yet perfectly in character for this gang of misfit villains. And Libra’s arrival coincides with the return of Zoom and the newly-christened Kid Zoom, whose fate may or may not balance the scales of justice.
Johns has become a master of the tightly-paced, character-rich superhero event, and “Rogues’ Revenge” is a worthy successor to his best “Flash” stories of yesteryear. The only downside here is Scott Kolins art, which does a nice job capturing the energy of the story but looks sloppy in individual panels. As he’s shifted away from his clear line style toward more crosshatching and thicker line weights in the past year or two, Kolins has actually ruined what made his work so interesting. All his new style does is emphasize his awkward sense of anatomy and adds a stiffness to his characters that wasn’t as problematic when the texture was left to the colorist. Kolins can still compose thrilling pages, though, even if the single panels don’t quite work as drawings.
This issue, and this brief series, ends with a direct lead in to “Flash: Rebirth,” scheduled to hit the shelves next year. In that sense, this is a prequel to that event, but it’s also a bridge from the past to the present, making sense out of some relatively inconsistent characterizations in recent years, and setting things up for the future. I don’t know that this series works outside of that context, but as part of Johns’s larger “Flash” narrative, it’s an effective piece of storytelling. It’s also the kind of classic, no-apologies superhero story that I happen to enjoy. Except, in this case, there’s not a whole lot of heroics — at least not in the traditional sense.