Rogues #1 is published by DC Comics as part of its Black Label imprint and is written by Joshua Williamson, art by Leomacs, colours by Matheus Lopes, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Set ten years in the future, the Rogues have fizzled out and gone their separate ways. Many of them are out of the game, on parole, and trying to live a reformed life. One of those is Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold. But getting angry at how bad his new life is, he turns back to the old one. He seeks to bring the old gang back together for one last score.
The setup of this comic is fascinating and beautifully executed. After a brief and depressing cold open, Williamson fast forwards to a bleak future that hinges on a realistic tone. The superheroes have fizzled out and the team has disbanded. Much of this first issue is a build-up, giving a great awareness of the world and then the planning of the heist. The pace is slow but there is a massive amount of content. Rogues #1 is a bumper-sized comic, actually referred to as “Book One” Instead of an issue. And it has a book feeling to the structure. The tone of the comic is dark and gloomy, perhaps overly negative at times but that is what has been chosen by the writer. The target for the heist may have been unpredictable at first glance, but a re-read reveals an ingenious piece of foreshadowing, masked superbly.
The core of this comic comes from the characters, and it is where the tragedy is truly found. The Rogues have one of the most defining traits in comics; they are a family. But they have unfairly also been labeled as forgettable and “b-list.” What Williamson does is highlight how brilliant they can be. It is so fascinating to see what their lives are like after a certain amount of time out of the game. Some are desperately sad whilst others may generate a smirk. It is not just core members of the Rogues that are featured, as outsiders such as Bronze Tiger and Magenta are included. It is their alternate lives that are among the most impactful.
Snart is beautifully written and expertly explored. He is actually presented as older than everyone else, and this gives him an air of frailty. His frustration and anger at being downtrodden, humiliated, and forgotten is extremely powerful. But there is a beautiful recurring comment that Snart is a dangerous man to follow, with an obsession that gets people killed. Some references made by other characters hint at a very traumatic past between the events of the first scene and what followed. The dialogue is tinged with emotion and engaging at every turn, but can often be darkly funny.
The art adds to the negative emotions felt whilst reading this comic. Leomacs presents a sad world that matches the way many of the characters appear. Seeing how these characters look 10 years later is both interesting and disheartening. Many of them are aged and weaker visually. A side-effect of this tactic is it creates questions about the ages of various characters, including how old they are in the modern-day characters. Some of the action is remarkable and full of energy, showing the capability of a selection of impressive fight scenes. There is a dramatic event at the end of this issue that offers a glimmer of what happens when these villains reclaim their powers and gadgets. The opening also has numerous cameos in it that will be delightful for aficionados to scan through.
Leomacs’ facial expressions are stunning and can bring a tear to the eye. A creepy smile, a sudden pang of fear, an eruption of anger are brilliant constructed that denotes the subtlest of feelings.
The colors of the comic are crucial to the storytelling inside Rogues #1. There is an insipid, yellow hue to Captain Cold’s introduction. What makes him seem even more out of place is the lack of blue, which is like a homely color for him. When Snart turns enraged the tones become incredibly intense, a blur of orange and red. This can impact how easily what’s happening in the panel can be seen but it is also very effective.
The lettering for the word balloons is distinctive and clever. The SFX is often displayed in the background of the panels, behind all of the action and massive in its composition. And yet there is a lot of silence in this comic, which can be just as powerful as a conversation.
Rogues #1 is a brilliant yet bleak glimpse at the future. It is clear that Williamson loves these characters and wants to pursue where they could end up if they continue down their current path. The exploration of this large cast is beautifully written and I found many moments where I felt genuinely upset. It could be considered to be similar in tone to Old Man Logan, in which it is very negative and dark, but isn’t quite as brazenly brutal. There is subtly and intelligence in the writing, and the art can be both painful and poignant.
Rogues #1 is available where comics are sold.
Rogues #1 is a brilliant yet bleak glimpse at the future. It is clear that Williamson loves these characters and wants to pursue where they could end up if they continue down their current path.
William is a screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”