It’s good to have the Rogues back. They’ve been absent from the comics for a while now, and the gang of supervillains is a rare area in which The CW’s The Flash TV show has always fallen short. After a teasing cliffhanger appearance at the end of last issue, however, the Rogues have been reloaded to run rings around the Fastest Man Alive once again.
This outing begins with a sequence that harks back to the good old days of the Silver Age, with the Rogues crashing a museum to steal some gimmick-related item (a golden statue of Mercury, the god of thieves). In the opening few pages, writer Joshua Williamson does a quick-fire but efficient job at re-introducing the team – the cool leadership skills of Leonard Snart, the Bonnie and Clyde romance of Mirror Master and Golden Glider, Heatwave and his freaky adoration for fire etc.
The nostalgic storytelling continues as the Flash arrives just in time to foil the Rogues in their scheme. The villains even come at him one by one and reel off gimmicky puns (Snart: “Is now the time to test how cold-blooded I can be?”). But then comes the killer twist that pushes aside the cosy callbacks and nicely ramps up the threat and the excitement. It turns out that this was just an elaborate trap for the Flash, and the Rogues he has been fighting are just mirror constructs of Mirror Master.
Whether the following issues will give the rest of the team a moment to shine, I don’t know, but it made a lot of sense here to face the Flash against the Mirror Master. No offense to Captain Cold and the rest of his un-merry men, but Sam Scudder’s skillset is definitely the most narratively and visually interesting. Williamson mines the villain for all he’s worth and uses him to throw obstacle after obstacle at poor Barry Allen – including a legion of evil mirror Flashes which then coalesce into one giant Mirror Monster. Not to mention the fact that he’s sucking the museum customers into his mirror dimension.
The only niggle with this twist is that it makes Mirror Master a lot more powerful than he usually is, though this is waved away by Scudder saying “[this] is the biggest mirror illusion I’ve ever created.” Because why let continuity get in the way of a cool idea, right?
Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico and colorist Ivan Placencia do a great job with such a vibrant issue. In effect, it’s simply a series of one-on-one battles between the Flash and a line of enemies, which allows Di Giandomenico to let rip with the hero shot of Barry running with his all-encompassing lightning surrounding him. Thankfully, it’s an iconic image that never gets old. Placencia also gives each fight its own visual flavour – for instance, Barry’s yellow lightning against Weather Wizard’s blue bolts or Flash’s bright red against the icy white of the Mirror Monster.
The Flash #15 is a thrilling all-out actioner of an issue that offers a big step-up from last time’s first installment of ‘The Rogues Reloaded’ arc. Williamson’s strong yet simple storytelling cleverly sets you up for a nostalgic adventure and then pulls the rug from under your feet, as it turns out those old-fashioned touches were all a big con. You probably shouldn’t be on the villains’ side when the issue ends with the Flash realizing he’s been outsmarted and beaten, but – sorry Barry – we kind of were.
The Rogues return in a fast-paced, throwback issue of The Flash that will make you side with the villains.