Flash does the hard work so you don’t have to
If you’ve read my other reviews of The Flash New 52 Graphic Novels (and chances are that you haven’t…I have Google Analytics). Then you know that I thought that Rebirth and Flashpoint were absolutely stellar. Whilst Move Forward was good, if not a slight drop in quality, it set up some minor things that I think will be exciting down the line if executed properly. Sadly, it just failed to deliver in comparison to the prior two stories and has left a sour taste in my mouth since reading it.
Diving into The Flash Rogues Revolution, I’m excited…and anxious. This book really will be the one that sets the level for things going forward and for me it decides whether I pick up the graphic novels after this omnibus. So…let’s get started
Best served cold
The book throws you in at the deep end with a lot to take on board. Captain cold now has ice superpowers, Barry is ‘official’ with Patty and The Flash must monitor his speed to stop the speed force from ripping things in and out of time. The book gets you ‘up to speed’ quite quickly and never feels overwhelming due to the artwork and brilliant flashbacks and forwards.
I really can’t emphasise enough how outstanding Francis Manapul is with the pencil. His layouts, character composition, and dynamism are near perfect and they really help to deliver a complex story in a manageable and creative way. He uses panels as text, effortlessly interacts elements and completely knocks it out the park from the off. This is what superhero vs supervillain fights should look like!
Cold as ice
Captain Cold really provides an interesting and memorable villain. Whereas Move Forward had quite a generic antagonist, Cold adds a certain ‘icy heart’ to the story. His sister is dying of cancer and the doctors are unable to operate because Flash’s EMP from the previous book has knocked out the hospital’s power. Fed up with how the Flash has stopped him at every turn in the past, ruining his life, he decides to go ‘rogue.’
The fact that Barry has to keep his speed lower than 80% in order to counteract the speed force, whilst also being fast enough to stop Cold really adds tension to the battle. You’re with Barry in the thick of it, wanting him to save people but knowing that it’s a risk that could come at a high cost.
When Barry starts nearing the 70% mark it becomes Truly gripping and as the percentage escalates, so does the tension.
Mid-battle Barry saves Patty (passing 80%) and in doing so creates a wormhole that sucks Iris into it.
Talk about a love triangle.
There is really no right or wrong answer on this front. Either way, he loses. The stakes have never been higher. I don’t want to call the speed force a cock block…but…
Into the light
Whilst this is a relatively short arc, only lasting two issues, it still packs a great punch, has emotional depth and leaves you wanting more.
I love how Patty meets with Captain Singh and they comment on how Flash is no help to the police. He too is a rogue that has very little disregard for how his actions will affect the officials and those trying to hold the city together. It’s brilliant to once again see a hero that tangles with the law and isn’t always on the right side of it. I’ve yearned for something like this in every character’s background since reading Year One. It adds such a dynamic to the story and shows that our heroes often have the power but lack the responsibility.
The Speed Force
Upon entering the Speed Force Barry is accosted by Turbine. A World War Two pilot who has been trapped in the dimension for over 70 years. He explains to Barry that he is not his enemy and acts as exposition to describe exactly how the Speed Force works.
Instantly I was hit by Manapul’s art. Once again it stands head and shoulders above most comics in it’s layout. Instead of straightforward panels, Manapul is able to take the reader on a dynamic journey that adds subtext to what is going on around the characters. If we are in the topsy turvy world of the Speedforce then we are shown this in the panels. Juxtaposing this, the reality is straightforward and more of an orthodox design.
It all seems extremely well thought out and adds a high standard to the books that seldom comics share.
In the real world we are shown glimpses of Barry’s funeral and once again get a closer look at policemen’s perspectives on the vigilante. It remains a fascinating aspect that I’ve never really seen in the Flash till this arc.
Humans have always feared what they don’t understand and I get the feeling that this is the main motive behind the Police Force’s dislike for the scarlet speedster.
They believe that The Flash acts without responsibility. In contrast, in the Speed Force we learn that if The Flash does not run then there is nowhere for the Speed energy to vent. This causes anomalies that allows objects to disappear, explaining Turbines pulling from time.
It adds a weight and drive to Barry’s powers that were never really there before this arc. If he does not run, if he is not The Flash, then the world is in peril. He has been a hero all along, completely unbeknownst to his true purpose.
I’m spinning around, move out of my way
We learn Turbine’s true motives when he explains that he has tried to get home several times but failed. Every time there has been an anomaly thus far it has been due to him.
Barry is, of course, angry at this fact but it’s hard not to sympathise with the ex-world war two pilot. He has been trapped in the Speed Force for so long, everyone he has ever known is dead and he just wants to get home.
This has always been the beauty of Flash’s villains. They are all human and have reason behind their motives.
Well…I say all human…
In anger Barry drags Turbine into the Speed Force and lands directly in the middle of a battle to the death between Gorilla Grodd and his Father. Gorilla City is now under his command and with Barry being struck with amnesia the stakes could not be higher.
The civilisation’s introduction to the New 52 could not be better crafted. We see both the wisdom and cruelty here that really adds depth to the species. Whilst it has glimmers of Planet Of The Apes I have always viewed Gorilla City as a shade of our own culture. There is brutality juxtaposed with kindness here and the city show a balance that reflects our own humanity.
Whilst the elders view Flash as the chosen one, foretold in prophecy, Grodd believes it to be a lie. He takes his rage out on Barry, causing the speedster to remember who he once was. Their battle is epic, if a little short. It does sew the seeds for further conflicts but I wish that it had’ve felt more developed here as it was Gorilla Grodd’s introduction.
Flash frees the city, as we get a hint towards The Weather Wizard in what has been a great continuation of the run.
The Weather Wizard
The book opens on the murder of the Weather Wizard’s Brother and it’s this that drives the plot in the opening chapters. From here we visit the Flash, recapping most of what has gone on since the inception of The New 52 as he battles with the Wizard.
It’s a lot to catch up on and I found it strange that there have been some omissions in the overall storyline that are mentioned here. These revolve around Patty Spivot, Flash’s current girlfriend, who has now apparently been kidnapped by the super villain.
It made the plot feel slightly disjointed but was brushed over quick enough that I didn’t mind and this recap was enough to fill in the blanks whilst also creating a launch pad for the rest of the plot.
There are the usual twists and turns early on. What fascinated me most was The Flash refusing to confirm that he was Barry Allen to Patty. Sparing her of the grief that she is currently dealing with due to Barry’s apparent ‘Death.’
It is selfless however, with Barry realising that he needed to remain ‘dead’ In order for her to move on and regain happiness in her life. Something he could not provide. Barry moves to a more ‘quiet’ part of Keystone City. Somewhere he will not be noticed and begins to blend in with the locals.
He soon gets a job at a tavern, a bar that is a hot spot for Captain Cold and several other supervillains. This allows Barry to gain key intel all whilst passing unnoticed and you can tell that the creators have once again put thought into making Barry different from the typical ‘God’ like superheroes that DC basks in.
After numerous defeats the rogues realise that they cannot defeat Flash on their own and with the lead of Lisa Snart, aka Glider, team up to take the speedster down once and for all.
Juxtaposing his previous appearances, Dr Elias now publicly bashes The Flash and adds more pressure on the hero’s shoulders. Public perception is changed quickly and the city soon rally’s against our hero, the flames fanned even more by the now sinister Doctor. At a press conference Glider performs an assassination attempt on Elias, in the process framing Flash, and causes mayhem in downtown Keystone city.
Manapul once again allows the stakes to be raised and does it with expert pacing that will make your arms refuse to put this book down.
In the final chapter, we see The Flash teaming up with the shunned Captain Cold in order to stop the New Rogues from causing further damage. Manapul expertly weaves the creation of the Rogues now new superpowers with the sinister side of Dr Elias and the motives of all the villains become that much more relatable.
Of course Cold is duplicitous so he betrays Barry. Just as he is about to finish the Scarlett Speedster once and for all, the Gorilla Army shows up….ending on the perfect cliffhanger
The Flash Rogue’ Revolution feels like a huge upwards swing and cements The Flash as one of the most interesting characters within the New 52. Rarely a dull moment the book feels deliberate from start to finish due to its expert pacing and creativity. I have had a brilliant time reading this epic chapter in The Flash’s history and recommend this to anyone looking to get into the character’s comic stories.
Due to it’s brilliance, Rogue’s Revolution gets a…