Even though the heroes are traditionally the center of many superhero comics, sometimes it’s the villains that end up stealing the show. Many writers enjoy demonstrating that villains, no matter how seemingly wicked or unfeeling, are more than just fodder for the heroes to pound on and then throw in jail; villains, even if they aren’t exactly human, can be people too. Writer Geoff Johns demonstrates this in the collection The Flash Vol. 2: Rogues. John’s work on the Flash, the fastest man alive, made him one of the top writers in comics and this collection shows him transforming villains who wear ridiculous costumes into people one would hate to meet in a dark alley. Though the Flash is the star, this collection takes a look at his rogues (a group of villains that return time and again to plague a particular hero). The book boasts some stellar storytelling as Flash deals with villains who have motivations both complex and full of pathos. One example is a story where Flash faces Peek-A-Boo, a rogue who uses her newly discovered power of teleportation to steal for reasons not entirely selfish. Fallout, a walking nuclear reactor, was locked away for accidentally killing his family and Flash must bring this misunderstood being back to jail on Christmas Eve. The villains in these two stories are just as deeply developed as the hero and Johns expertly shows the Flash’s soul searching as he is morally obligated to apprehend them. Ironically, the best story in this collection has the Flash only in flashbacks. Under Johns’ writing, Captain Cold has gone from being a man in a laughable parka and sunglasses to a rogue with a Wild West gunslinger’s moral code and outsider status. Readers will actually cheer for Captain Cold as he goes on a mission of revenge/justice against the man who murdered his sister. Not only does the reader see the development of the Flash’s most popular villain, but they also get to see how cold the Captain can truly be. Scott Kolins’ artwork in the series gives it a distinct look and breathes action into the pages. Though some may call the artwork gritty, it gives Flash’s Keystone City a distinct, blue-collar look that separates it from the futuristic Metropolis or shadowy Gotham City. Readers will especially see the artist’s flair for detail as he shows the destruction caused by Gorilla Grodd after he escapes and rampages through town. Kolins’ artistic style makes the book truly unique among DC’s other superhero titles. The major drawback to this collection lies in the fact that it’s a trade paperback; the stories collected within are not necessarily connected and the storytelling quality is sometimes uneven. The story of a living black hole, despite the cool premise, is subpar to Johns’s usual character-driven work and a group of Jokerized villains invading a superhuman prison will leave casual readers wondering what made these guys look and act like poor imitations of the famous Batman villain. While not a self-contained story arc, the book does offer some storytelling gems and action-packed artwork that shows the Flash and his Rogues are more than just second-string superfolk.
Flash Vol. 2: Rogues
by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins
DC Comics, 2003