The Flash #220 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Rogue War Chapter 1

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Howard Porter
Inked by: Livesay
Colored by: James Sinclair
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics

The Flash has been a bit sluggish lately since the residual effects of both Blitz! and Ignition have been fully explored. After that, the book wasn’t lacking exactly, it was merely missing that high octane content the longer arcs seem to have. Happily (for action fans everywhere), that breathing period is over with this issue. The factions of villains that have united and schemed over the past year or so have made their first overt actions. The results are truly vicious. There is a definite body count, most likely with more to come. And of course the Flash receives some rancorous news of his own. To make matters even worse, Zoom is alive, well, and he literally has plans for Wally. It seems our hero’s plate is bursting to over-fullness once again, and that’s good for Flash fans from Central to Keystone.

The “establishment” rogues have a simple mission: curtail their felonious counterparts. They don’t seem too concerned with how that will happen either; any group that calmly and methodically resorts to body snatching and extremely “mad” science just to gain information isn’t concerned with scruples. Their kidnapped interpreter will hopefully have more to do later in the arc; it’s a real shame that particular law enforcement operative hasn’t had anything to do since Ignition except look morbidly forlorn. A new reader might worry that the good guys in this villain-on-villain conflict don’t seem all that decent, let alone law-abiding, but the sheer joy of seeing them act with directed abandon probably outweighs that reservation.

The unrepentant rogues seem to be on the preemptive offensive, and that adds more action to the first chapter of this story. Unfortunately, it rings a bit false in terms of characterization. Flash’s repeat villains (those that eke out some sort of life in the twin cities) have always made it a point to NOT make extra waves and thereby bring unnecessary heat onto themselves. Captain Cold and his crew seem to be doing just the opposite this issue, and there seems to be no intelligent rationale for it. Breaking cover to destroy an imminent threat would only be a sound idea if the opposing rogues didn’t have government sanction. As it is, the badder rogues seem to be making a sticky situation stickier. If the events of this issue didn’t flesh out Owen Mercer’s connection to this band of ne’er-do-wells, a large part of this issue could’ve been wasted.

Close readers of Flash realize there are rogues in play that are members of a third group, unseen this issue, presumably led by the reenergized Top. That’s a lot of rival factions for any one story, series, or setting. The idea that these three teams are eventually going to clash simultaneously is daunting on its own. Hoping that literally dozens of characters act according to established motives is an even higher ideal, but it seems at least possible with Geoff Johns at the helm (see JSA: Black Reign). And even if the plot becomes a train wreck of sorts, it’ll certainly be an intriguing train wreck.

The art this issue excels in the way only big talent can. Porter’s pencils just render every object and character with such a high level of detail, that it’s hard not to be interested in everything, including the ugly new Trickster’s togs. Sinclair’s colors add mood and connect people and powers in some fun ways. Ashley Zolomon seems dogged by yellow whenever she appears in these pages, but this issue’s canary cravat is an inspired choice. The knot she has tied with Hunter “Zoom” Zolomon truly strangles her. The overall high quality of the visuals is marred only slightly by the odd artistic glitch. Morillo’s facial scar seems to be absent during this issue’s law and order interlude; this is more than made up for by the correct jersey colors shown during the Redwings/Combines hockey game.