Review: Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

With Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded, Joshua Williamson finally breaks the Rebirth Flash title out of its funk, with stories that are intelligent, suspenseful, and feel relevant to Barry Allen's ongoing story. Though story and art occasionally have trouble working together, the contributions of three main artists are solid throughout, and the writing is the best it's been so far. Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico especially land a particularly emotional moment for this title that demonstrates it trending up.

[Review contains spoilers]

A good handle on the Rogues is key for a Flash writer; especially after Geoff Johns's sharp Rogues work. Williamson's Captain Cold came off a tad loose in his cameo appearance last volume, but here I felt I could hear Wentworth Miller in all Cold's dialogue, an important benchmark indeed. Williamson also offers a smart take on the Rogues as family, giving the Rogues a clever plan and a logical, heartbreaking reason why that plan fails in the end. Barry also does a fun bit of sleuthing to track down the Rogues, something we haven't seen as much of in this title as I might have liked. Top Rebirth Flash artist Di Giandomenico offers gorgeous scenes of the Flash hurtling through explosions or standing amidst the rubble. Things get occasionally chaotic in the action sequences where it's not quite clear what the characters are reacting to, but overall the four-part "Rogues Reloaded" storyline is about the best the Flash title has been so far.

The two-part "Sins of the Father" works equally well. Williamson, writer of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, believably injects Flash and Kid Flash into a Suicide Squad-esque scenario. Though the device Williamson uses to de-power the Flash here is far-fetched, he succeeds in making Captain Boomerang seem formidable; this is a good Captain Boomerang story, of which modern lore doesn't have many. Even Williamson's Kid Flash Wally West comes off less whiny than usual, and the final scene where Barry is compelled to reveal his identity to Wally -- with Di Giandomenico stepping back in for this important moment -- is heady and emotional. That Wally does ultimately act irrationally childish again did bother me, but another part of me thinks maybe Williamson does get it right in that instance.

Williamson's final issue focuses on Iris West with art by Neil Googe. Googe's wide-eyed, more animated style works well for the one-off, and in all the art pleases in this book both because of the tonal appropriateness of artist to story and also because the title switches artists between stories instead of in the middle of them. Williamson's Iris is charming and capable, and Williamson has plenty of smart bits here too, playing on the issues of Barry's secret identity and Iris mistakenly believing Barry might be a mole for the Black Hole group. My guess is Meena Dhawan, revealed as alive at the end of this story, is being manipulated or mind controlled or such, and has not been a rogue agent since her earliest appearances, but Williamson's on-point with a good surprise and I'm eager to see where this goes.

Indeed I can't overstate how much better I feel about this volume of Flash than I have about any of the volumes up to this point. Williamson does still has a tendency to over-narrate; the first issue specifically tells the reader way more about the Flash and his old and new Rogues than it needs to without trusting the art or dialogue to do the work. Thankfully we do avoid some of the absurdly "sad Barry" we've had in previous volumes, though Williamson is also still tending to lean too far into the drama; Barry has faced far worse than this from the Rogues -- or Wally West the elder has, at least -- and yet Williamson still has Barry characterizing it as the Rogues pushing him "nearly ... to my breaking point" and inexplicably "like [he] lost" even though he successfully put the Rogues away.

In all, however, Joshua Williamson's got three good stories in Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded, each of which ends with a kicker that promises more interesting stories to come. And the fact that the stories work allows one to better appreciate Williamson's range this time from dark superhero thrillers to lighter fare and offering up the spotlight to the Flash's supporting cast; Williamson equally tried this multi-story structure in Flash Vol. 2: Speed of Darkness, but with less success. Still, in these days of six-issues-or-bust epics, the tendency throughout Rebirth to buck that trend and let stories be only as long as they need to be is heartening. Next up from Williamson is his part of the Button Batman crossover, which I'm really looking forward to; hopefully this book represents the start of an upswing for the Rebirth Flash.

[Includes original and variant covers; character sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
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  1. I did enjoy the rogues story. It was loads of fun and it was great seeing Barry act like a forensic scientist for once. The last chapter was ok, but it would have been nice if some of got away. Still, I am interested to see where they go from here.

    Also, I really hope the Williamson writes a grodd story, because grodd feels really underuntilsed right now and I want a great grodd story.

    1. Grodd is such a high bar though. It's hard to beat Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins's two-page spread of Grodd's trail of destruction.

  2. I have confidence that Williamson will come close, and deliver a solid Grodd story. That said, I will admit, Geoff and SCott did a great job making Grodd Scary in just ONE issue of their Flash run.