Saturday, August 30, 2008

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #2 Review

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Scott Kolins

While I wasn't very impressed with the first issue of Rogues' Revenge, this issue is much more interesting. Part of why it is so strong is that the apparent original premise, of the rogues seeking revenge for Inertia having "forced" them to kill Bart Allen plays no real role in this issue. That is fortunate, as that premise is really absurd and makes the characters seem like buffoons. Instead, this issue focuses on Libra's attempts to compel the Rogues to join his new Society of Supervillains, in this case by kidnapping the father of the apparent leader of the Rogues, Captain Cold.

However, Captain Cold doesn't want to kill his father. You see, his father was an abusive monster, and Captain Cold has been looking for him for years to kill him. This is not one of Libra's shining moments. Libra had him kidnapped by a group of "replacement" Rogues, given the Rogues' powers but none of their experience. However, rather than simply thumb their noses at the new Rogues, the original Rogues decide to kill their replacements. They show up where they are holding Captain Cold's father, and murder all of them. The murders of the replacements are brutal, though nowhere near as brutal as the murder of Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis: Requiem. It is good to see that Johns takes murder seriously enough to make it a grisly business.

One of the best elements of this book is the Johns does not shy away from the way in which evil characters think, while at the same time making them seem human rather than as pure caricature. The Rogues are very angry about being "replaced", something which Libra had probably banked on when he recreated them. Their violent response is consistent with that offense, and they don't have a moment of pity for their victims. Moreoever, Libra, who at the end has kidnapped Weather Wizard's son, sees the threatening of family members of those he wants to recruit as par for the course. There is no sense that he feels anything like remorse for these kidnappings, and that such kidnappings are for him just standard fare. His ultimate plan is not to destroy the Rogues, but to recruit them. However, because everyone in this book is evil, recruitment does not need to be voluntary. Duress will do.

A secondary story in this book is that Zoom is training Inertia to be his own, new "Kid Flash". His mentorship is nothing what like what one would normally consider mentorship. He clearly despises Inertia, as he presumably despises anyone, and is only training him because Libra wants him to be so trained. Why has yet to be revealed, but somehow speedsters are important to Libra's plan because they have the power to undo the victory of evil that is somehow at the heart of Final Crisis. Despite this, he doesn't consider himself a disciple of Libra as, for example, the Human Flame does. He is constantly scheming, and somehow working for Libra is just another step in his own aggrandisement. This story shows the way in which evil warps even otherwise healty relationships, like mentor and pupil.

This story, then, fits very well into the overall Final Crisis theme in which evil has somehow been victorious in the war among the gods, and Johns, like Morrison, is doing a good job of developing stories in which evil is the main theme. It isn't as brutal as the evil presented in Final Crisis #3, but everything these characters do says more about villainy and how it affects people. A particularly interesting moment is when Captain Cold decides not to kill his father but have Heat Wave do it instead. Does he not do it because he still has some sort of residual concern for his father, or because he has so much contempt for him he will have someone else kill him? The answer is somewhere in the middle, and that confusion of goals is very much a part of what happens to people when they have lost their moral compass.

I am really enjoying the art in this book. The characters are not very well defined, and that realy works as often the sceenes seem almost surreal. However, what is going on with the raindrops? Kolins has to be the worst drawer of raindrops of any artist in comic history. When his characters are dripping, it makes them look like melting wax statues. On the other hand, he draws fire exceptionally well, and the scene in which Heat Wave murders Pyro is so well done, one can almost feel the heat. He is definitely the right choice for this book.

So, this is a very strong book, and I feel sorry that we will only have one more issue. The characterization of the Rogues is very good, and the way in which villains can clash with each other is an interesting theme. Next month, it will all be over, and I am genuinely interested in seeing whether or not Libra will be successful in his "recruiting" of the Rogues.


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