Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion 4, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: While Batman and Spider-Man’s rogues are most likely considered to be the deadliest of them all, I’ve long found The Rogues to be the most interesting of the various superhero rogues galleries. As far as I know, they are the only villainous group who follow a code of honor. They are all about the take, and they go out of their way to refrain from hurting anyone unless they absolutely have to. Their code of honor is why this very miniseries exists. In a world run by villains, The Rogues don’t really look so bad, and they are now suffering for that fact. The intent behind this series seems to be to explore what makes The Rogues so different from all of the other villains of the world. In issue 4, Brian Buccellato continues his examination of The Rogues in a serviceable, if not entirely mind-blowing fashion.
The Rogues are still on the run from the Crime Syndicate for not laying waste to Central City. Now trapped in Gotham, The Rogues (minus a Mirror World-trapped Captain Cold) must now attempt to escape from Mister Freeze, Clayface, and the Black Mask, who all want to collect on what I assume must be a sizable bounty. Fighting ensues, but Trickster rolls up in an old GCPD paddy wagon, which allows The Rogues to escape. After The Rogues ridiculously jump a destroyed Gotham bridge, they are confronted by yet another threat in the form of the Royal Flush Gang.
The story being presented in Rogues Rebellion is a very simple one: The Rogues are trying desperately to get back to the Central City hospital where their leader, Glider, is trapped in a coma. This is complicated, of course, by the fact that the Syndicate and a horde of villains are hot on their trail. This simplicity doesn’t hurt this book, in fact, quite the opposite is true. However, while this is a very viable story, the execution has it feeling a little paint-by-numbers.
The best thing about this series is that Buccellato is using it to explore The Rogues and their relationship to each other and the rest of the world now that it has been engulfed by the clutches of the Crime Syndicate. We have already seen The Rogues play hero in The Flash, co-written by Buccellato, when they fought back the forces of Grodd. Now that the heroes of the world are “dead,” heroism seems to mean standing against the Syndicate. The Rogues simply told the Syndicate “no,” and now they are fighting for their lives. One of the strengths of this book is that it works well in illustrating the “Evil is Relative” tagline espoused by the main Forever Evil book.
Buccellato clearly has an interest in exploring the relationships between The Rogues. Captain Cold has been a big focus in the past, but now that he is out of the picture temporarily, Buccellato is free to explore other members. In issue 3, the leadership-vacuum was filled by Mirror Master, and he’s done a decent job so far considering the circumstances. In the current issue, Heatwave’s loyalty and honor was tested, and he’s passed with flying colors. Heatwave was held captive by Clayface, but Mirror Master gave himself up in order to help his teammate. Heatwave asks why Mirror Master gave himself up and received the following response:
Heatwave may still not trust Captain Cold, but he proves his loyalty to The Rogues, and shows that he may have just learned something from Mirror Master’s leadership. This is the thing I find most interesting about The Rogues. They may be criminals, but they aren’t villains. They may be a bit rough around the edges, but they aren’t evil. They have loyalty and respect for one another and those values extend to Central City as well, even if they do knock over a bank or two every now and then.
Even if I’m not completely blown away by this series, Buccellato has me convinced that this team of, well, rogues is one worth following. I’m on their side, and I want to see them triumph over the forces of “relative” evil. Patrick, what are your feelings on this book? Is the exploration of The Rogues enough to keep you hooked, or are you looking for some more intricate storytelling?
Patrick: I’m not necessarily looking for more intricate storytelling — in fact, I totally dig the straightforward adventuring at play here — but I would like to see the Rogues exhibit a little more agency. As far as ‘rebellions’ go, this one’s pretty limp. Basically, they defied an order and have since spent the last three issues running for their lives. These are not the guys that are going to be able to pull out an 11th-hour revolution, they’ve never been that organized or that ambitious. So maybe the title is just a weird relic from an earlier version of the story, or maybe editorial wanted the characters to sound more active, or maybe — and most likely — no one can say no an alliterative title.
You know who’s not just rolling over, though? Fuckin’ Trickster. After getting unceremoniously stomped down in every single New 52 appearance, he comes out as the unquestioned hero of this issue. The best part is that he does it all by exhibiting traits that we’ve seen him exhibit before: there’s nothing fundamentally “different” about Trickster. He’s allowed to be successful by virtue of the fact that he is the character he is. Perfect example, he recognizes Zsazz’s scars from photos he’s seen on Tumblr. Quick, name me another Rogue that’s on Tumblr. There isn’t one. It may not have ever been addressed on the page, but it’s a choice that immediately resonates with me. The gadget-based techno-punk is totally going to be savvy with social media. His utility extends to his active rescue of his teammates. Again, name me another Rogue that’s a big enough gear-head to get an old truck running again. It’s the same kind of resourcefulness we usual reserve for our heroes… and, usually only for heroes like Batman. Hey, I’ll say it: Trickster is the Batman of Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion.
Shockingly, art duties are split on this issue between Scott Hepburn and Andre Coelho. While Hepburn’s square-jawed style has characterized most of this series, Coelho actually logs more pages in this issue (the split is 13 Coelho, 7 Hepburn). The art is amazingly cohesive, and both artists seem to embrace this kind of sliding scale of how much detail is appropriate. Sometimes, we get a lot of detail in the character’s faces, but they’re both astute enough to keep the panels simple when the craziest stuff is going on. There are so many fun, clear and dynamic panels of Mirror Master and Heatwave fighting Mr. Freeze and Clayface – it’s like a fever dream of some kid playing with the oddest collection of his older brother’s toys, but with a little visual finesse, it totally makes sense.
And with the introduction of the Royal Flush Gang, those toys are only getting more obscure. That’s not a slight — I think Buccellato’s writing is strongest when he’s voicing underdogs. That’s the appeal of his Rogue’s in the first place, right? They are practical bunch, a team of blue-collar supervillains, and they get overwhelmed just like the rest of us. There’s a moment in the middle of this issue where Black Mask’s gang shows up, and while everyone else is posturing and threatening generally engaging in highfalutin Bond villain nonsense, our guys are allowed to be a little cheeky.
That’s the real difference that Buccellato highlights in this series. It’s not just that the Rogues have a sense of honor, they’ve all got personality. When you’re sifting through an event as sterile and mechanical as Forever Evil, that personality is a charming change of pace.
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