Friday, April 08, 2005

THE FLASH #220

I might have to be gentle here because Geoff Johns is giving me the only view of the Detroit Red Wings I'll see all season. (And yes, the Rogues have had the Stanley Cup for a while. It's not like the NHL needs it.)

After a whole lot of set-up, we've finally gotten started on Rogue War. Perhaps because of all that set-up, none of this was very exciting or thrilling or novel. Everything that happened was completely organic in terms of what Johns has been doing for the last year and that's both boon and bane. For all of the build-up and talk that has surrounded this arc -- Johns has been talking about this for the last year -- I was expecting at least one "doh!" moment and there were none. Which isn't to say that this was a bad issue; it wasn't, not by a long shot. It was very good. It just didn't live up to the hype -- it felt like all of the non-Rogue War issues, which is a solid "good" and occasionally "really good" and nothing that merits headlines over at Newsarama and breathless announcements of reprints from DC.

What happened: the FBI, at least in the embodiment of Jesse James, is out to finally get the Rogues and the 'reformed' members (scare quotes because of the whole question of free will and mental reprogramming coming out of Identity Crisis and Barry and the Top) are willing to go to extreme lengths to do so. The Rogues are off trying to figure out where the feds took Digger Harkness's body. Meanwhile, Zoom is still on the loose and the Wests are trying to get on with their lives.

What bothered me: Re-animating Captain Boomerang to find out the Rogues' hideout (and kidnapping Ashley Zolomon to get the information) seems like overkill in the extreme, no pun intended. Keystone's not that big and all of this de facto task force used to be a Rogue at some point. That they don't have (living) connections seems far-fetched as is the notion that Digger would tell them anything -- what would he gain by doing so and why does Jesse James think his information is still accurate? Wouldn't one of Piper's rats be of more use? And, finally, what role will Wally have in a Rogue war -- the most expedient solution for both him and the Keystone Cops is to let the Rogues all have at it, arrest the survivors, and try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum.

What could be intriguing: Zoom is a terrifying villain, far more so than the Gothamized Rogues. Zoom is scary because he's not out for personal gain. He's an unstoppable stalker against whom no reasoning works, a perseverant psycho who thinks he's being benevolent -- teaching Wally through tough love. Zoom doesn't think that Wally has learned enough of a lesson by Linda miscarrying their twins and has let his eye fall upon Jay Garrick. Zoom was the focus of the riveting Blitz arc and is great when used effectively. If he hooks up with the Rogues... that would be explosive.

And about those Gothamized Rogues... I understand there has to be some toughening up -- whatever Mrs. Zolomon says, the resident Keystone baddies have been closer to nuisance level than true terrors. I don't dislike the end result, let me be clear. I just can't keep from laughing at Johns for dissing Gotham's bad guys as lightweights after he's rebooted his own set to be just like them. Personally, I'm more scared of the Joker than of Trickster and of Mr. Freeze than Captain Cold. Johns's dislike of the Big Three is showing again, methinks.

Johns has been building up the Keystone Rogues for a long time and with a lot of effort -- some of the lead-in Rogue Profiles were quite good and Captain Cold's group is much closer to the classic style of collaborative theft (think Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job, either versions) than they'd ever been and there's an air of proficiency that gives them weight. And, considering what they are doing and what Jesse James's group is doing, Captain Cold's Rogues could easily be the protagonists of a story without The Flash on the cover. Young Owen Harkness, who originated in Identity Crisis, is proving an interesting addition -- he's a natural, blessed with metahuman abilities and a mind that is unbalanced in productive ways. He's savage and controlled and Captain Cold looks at him and sees a bright future for the both of them. The new Captain Boomerang, with the right training, could be the best of all of them.

I've spent a lot of time griping here, but there's no major flaw to this issue. It's well-paced, it's a good jumping-on point for new Flash readers, and nobody is outrageously out of character. It's just... after all this build-up to the storyline, I expected a bang and not a whimper.

2 Comments:

Anonymous ussentinel said...

Very nice review! I agree with the main points you made. Ah, Wings fan too? Good deal!

Sat Apr 09, 09:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Woody! said...

I agree with the build-up comment. It seems like this Rogue's War has been "right around the corner" for a couple years now. While it feels like it's about time this finally got here, I really appreciate the organic feel of this title and JSA. On those books, Geoff Johns has done a nice job of introducing story elements and addressing them in a natural fashion instead of the chopped-up, chapterized, modern story-arc fashion.

Thu Apr 14, 05:26:00 PM EDT  

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