So take the fastest man alive and put him into a Philip K. Dick style adventure, complete with time travel and mindgames, then have one of DC’s most popular writers Geoff Johns write it, throw in the stylized artwork of Francis Manapul, and you have a graphic novel worth buying. Extra incentive: it’s 8 issues for $20.
The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues is a graphic novel collecting issues 1-7 and a bonus spin-off issue from Flash’s most recent incarnation with Johns calling the shots. Even before Flashpoint and the relaunch, Flash has been relaunched quite a few times. Originally, The Flash was Jay Garrick, the first-generation Golden Age Scarlet Speedster who thankfully wasn’t killed off, and remains as a kind father-figure to all of the superhero community. Then there was Barry Allen, who tapped into the “speed force,” had tons of adventures, then died saving the universe in The Crisis on Infinite Earths. After Barry came Wally West, a younger character who carried the series through the 90s until Final Crisis saw Barry Allen return. So The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues, is about Wally West’s return to the land of the living, and catching up with the people he left behind. On one side, there’s his wife Iris, and on the other, The Rogues.
The name The Rogues is itself a kind of pun. Every major superhero has a supporting cast of recurring villains, and these are referred to as ‘the rogues gallery,’ except Flash’s enemies have the forthrightness just to call themselves The Rogues. What I like about The Rogues is that they’re all kitschy, gimmicky characters, and yet they appear all the time. Other comics in the new century have downplayed the gimmick characters, for instance, when was the last time you saw Mr. Freeze or Mr. Mxylpltk? The Rogues just won’t stay down.
Unfortunately, this graphic novel features the return of my least favorite character in the entire DCU: Captain Boomerang. First, he has the dorkiest name (and has even been mocked by Conan O’Brien). Second, he crossed a line supervillains shouldn’t cross, and that is, killing off a major non-superhero character. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no coming back from that. If a villain kills a superhero, at least you know that’s the life that superheroes lead, and plus, the superhero will probably come back to life somehow. When regular die, that’s not the case. They usually stay dead. Captain Boomerang a few years ago killed Tim Drake’s (the 3rd Robin) semi-invalided dad. A big part of the Robin series revolved around the boy’s difficult relationship with his father, and then, all of a sudden, his dad’s abruptly killed off by the lamest villain, Captain Boomerang (to see how this happens, read the Identity Crisis graphic novel).
Geoff Johns has been bringing all sorts of characters back to life in his tenure at DC. He oversaw the return of Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Conner Kent (Superboy), Bart Allen (Kid Flash), and recently brought back J’onn J’onzz (The Martian Manhunter, something I’m happy about), Jade, Swamp Thing, and a few other characters. But why Captain Boomerang? There was already Captain Boomerang Jr.
That’s my only demerit for this graphic novel. Otherwise, it’s a fun, exciting read, that’s full of innovative art by Manapul. The story starts out with Barry Allen reintegrating into the police force (it’s not really explained where they think he’s been all these years) but before he can get settled in, a group of lawman from the 25th century appear in Central City to arrest Barry for murder–but not someone he has killed, rather, they arrest him for the death of someone he is going to murder (think Minority Report). As an added twist, the lawmen each resemble The Rogues of this era. It’s a story full of twists that come together nicely. I got through it pretty quickly, but it was solid entertainment. Definitely worth getting from the library, and if you can’t find it there, it’s worth buying. One more perk: there’s a cover gallery at the end featuring the work of Tony Harris, Ryan Sook, and Darwyn Cooke.
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