After the chaos and multi-angled storylines of Final Crisis, it’s nice to return to a simpler Geoff Johns comic. While this trade is listed under the “Final Crisis” banner, it ties into that story only tangentially, with the issues focusing on Libra attempting to win over, and later manipulate, the Rogues. Although Libra extends a hand of friendship, the Rogues have been through far too much together to trust an outsider. After killing The Flash, they feel more secure sticking to themselves, and don’t shy away from telling Libra just that.
What comes next is a rather odd series of events that Johns manages to write with the perfect air of believability. Inertia, the mastermind behind Flash’s murder, is released from suspended animation, and taken under the wing of Zoom, who believes he can mold the young speedster to be the next Kid Flash. The Rogues find out that Inertia is free, and quickly hunt him down, planning on murdering him for causing them so much grief. In a quick and decisive battle, the Rogues succeed, and even leave a clear message for the newly returned Barry Allen:
Here the main story ends, with no real indication of what will become of the Rogues. The trade is rounded out with two issues of Flash that I’d previously read, each of which profiles Captain Cold and Zoom, respectively, and expands on their individual stories. While I like the main story itself in this trade, I have to say the characterization and writing is what really draws me in on this one.
I love the way Geoff Johns writes Captain Cold. He manages to craft a cold (pardon the pun), calculating criminal while still humanizing him. Cold is quick to assert that he only kills in certain instances, setting him apart from the psychos who run the streets killing for fun. Johns also spends much more time focusing on Cold’s past, specifically his brutal upbringing at the hands of his abusive father and his guilt over his sister’s death. Far too often the Rogues come across as somewhat one-dimensional, mere foils to the Flash with no real depth or substance. Johns doesn’t shy away from making Leonard Snart sympathetic, and therein lies the appeal. There’s always a risk when you humanize a villain; if you go too far, the reader might no longer enjoy seeing that character as a villain, and you’re forced to either re-work their story or deal with unhappy fans. Hold back too much though, and the villain is so flat and underdeveloped that they can hardly stand up next to such richly developed superheroes. Johns writes Captain Cold so incredibly well, finding the perfect balance between broken man and hardened criminal. Reading about Cold makes me both pity and fear him, creating a sensation much more akin to real life than if we were to believe that every villain is just another faceless killer.
I was actually relieved to find that this comic didn’t really tie into Final Crisis too directly, and instead serves to explain what the Rogues were up to while the events of Final Crisis were taking place. With Barry Allen’s triumphant and unexpected return, it makes sense that a Rogues mini-series would be needed. I like that Barry doesn’t make an appearance here though. Instead, the focus is solely on the Rogues and their own issues. I’m sure a confrontation between them and the Flash will be forthcoming; for now, I’m content to wait and see how they deal with that inevitabiliity.