The Flash: Rogue War


By Geoff Johns, Steve Cummings, Peter Snejbjerg, Justiniano, Howard Porter & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0924-7

The innovative fledgling company that became DC published the first comicbook super-speedster and over the decades has constantly added more to its pantheon of stars. Created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, Jay Garrick debuted as the very first Scarlet Speedster in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). “The Fastest Man Alive” wowed readers for over a decade before changing tastes benched him in 1951. Other early Fast Furies there included Johnny Quick and Snurtle McTurtle, the Terrific Whatzit

The concept of speedsters and the superhero genre in general was revived in 1956 by Julie Schwartz in Showcase #4 when police scientist Barry Allen became the second hero to run with the concept.

The Silver Age Flash, whose creation ushered in a new and seemingly unstoppable era of costumed crusaders, died heroically during Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986) and was promptly succeeded by his sidekick Kid Flash. Of course Allen later returned from the dead – but doesn’t everyone?

Initially Wally West struggled to fill the boots of his predecessor, both in sheer ability and, more tellingly, in confidence. Feeling a fraud, he nonetheless persevered and eventually overcame, becoming the greatest to carry the name. In recent history he and other hurtling hyper-heroes have congregated in and around the conjoined metropolis of Keystone and Central Cities.

Wally lived there with his true love Linda Park, his Aunt Iris West-Allen and semi-retired pioneering human rocket Jay Garrick, whilst his juvenile nephew from the Future Bart “Impulse” Allen and tutor/keeper Max Mercury, the Zen Master of hyper-velocity, resided only an eye-blink away. Bart eventually succeeded to the vacant role of Kid Flash…

This volume, entirely scripted by the departing Geoff Johns, collects issues #212, 218, 220-225 and the Wizard Comics premium special #½ of Wally’s long-gone-and-much-missed monthly comicbook; featuring the staggering finale of a years-long saga as much about the unique band of villains associated with the Twin Cities as the ever-imperilled Fastest Men Alive…

This closing compendium opens in the aftermath of many blockbusting battles which tore the Keystone/Central City and the extended Flash Family apart. During that period the hero and his nearest and dearest were targeted by time-bending sociopath Hunter Zoloman who patterned himself on the greatest Flash-villain of all. “Zoom” wanted to make Wally a better hero through the white-hot crucible of personal tragedy…

To that end he targeted Linda and killed the unborn twins she was carrying. Within days the Scarlet Speedster had disappeared and – thanks to the intervention of nigh-omnipotent spirit The Spectre – everyone who knew Wally was the Flash forgot the secret.

The supernatural intervention was meant as a stopgap measure and means to restore the shield of anonymity to the Scarlet Speedster’s loved ones and prepare the harried couple for what was to come…

This end begins with ‘Mirror, Mirror on the Wall’ illustrated by Steve Cummings & Wayne Faucher, offering insights into the troubled history of the second Mirror Master and revealing how a troubled Scottish orphan found his true calling in life. Evan McCulloch notched up his first kill at age eight, efficiently removing an abusive older boy from the orphanage he brutally dominated.

A generally trouble-free period, where he fruitlessly searched for the parents who abandoned him, nevertheless drew him into petty crime, drugs and eventually the life of a hitman – and a superlative one at that.

When his gifts inevitably led him to the greatest mistake of his life, he was preparing to end it all when he was arrested and “renditioned” by a maverick wing of the FBI, who needed an anonymous, untraceable assassin they could use to kill high-profile annoyances – like whistleblowers and uncontrollable superheroes…

They equipped Evan with technology taken from the original Mirror Master’s corpse, but completely underestimated McCulloch’s dislike of authority figures and abiding, self-destructive love of crime and mischief…

By comparison, #218’s ‘Rogue Profile: Heat Wave’ (with art from Peter Snejbjerg) detailed how obsessive pyromaniac Mick Rory had battled every day to quell the need to see things blaze – a struggle that had begun after he burned his family to death.

His troubled path had taken him from circus performer to super-villain and founding member of  Flash’s Rogues Gallery, but now he was reformed and working with the FBI to bring in his former associates.

He still fought every moment against the urge to light things up, though…

‘Rogue Wars Prologue: Tricksters’ by Justiniano, Walden Wong & John Livesay, from Wizard Comics Flash Special #½, then finished the graphic history lessons and build-up to the final conflagration as the fully restored Vizier of Velocity discovered that Mirror Master McCulloch was liberating Rogues as fast as the Flash could catch them…

FBI Special Agent James Jesse – the original Trickster – was a poacher-turned-gamekeeper who had gathered a taskforce of similarly reformed Rogues to capture his former criminal comrades. However with the bad-guys making his operatives Heat Wave, Pied Piper and magnetic mutant Magenta look like idiots, Jesse decided to at last get back into the field and take personal charge…

The villains, already reeling from revelations that their heroic enemies had been systematically indulging in illegal brain-wiping and behaviour modification of criminals in their custody (see Flash: the Secret of Barry Allen and Identity Crisis), had united in a furious, vengeful alliance and were determined to exact retribution. Their prolonged assaults had devastated the Cities but the dire situation was further worsened after the psionic ghost of Roscoe Dillon came back from the grave.

The Top had been “adjusted” by Barry Allen and Zatanna, becoming a driven man compelled to Do Good. He had used his abilities to forcibly save a number of Rogues but now, possessing a stolen body and his old inclinations, Dillon was resolved to punish the dynasty of Flashes by undoing all his previous good deeds…

And now, immune to the Spectre’s spell, Zoom reappeared to stalk Linda once more…

The cataclysmic, epic 6-chapter Rogue War – illustrated by Howard Porter & John Livesay – then begins in earnest when Captain Cold leads the senior Rogues in a spree of theft and destruction, culminating in a futile attempt to recover the body of deceased colleague Captain Boomerang from FBI custody.

Later whilst Jay Garrick is ambushed by Zoom, the exultant criminal cohort are attacked by Jesse’s squad even as, in a secret location, the maniac’s wife Ashley Zolomon is reluctantly participating in an FBI experiment to temporarily resurrect Boomerang and probe his mind for the secrets of the Rogues…

The blockbusting battle between the Rogue factions is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the utterly out-of-control Top. By the time Flash arrives, his beloved Twin Cities are a shattered war-zone…

With events already spinning into total chaos, the Top deploys the kill-crazy upstart new Rogues Plunder, Double-Down, Tarpit, Girder and Murmur to increase the anarchic carnage and the tumult is only thwarted by the most unlikely of saviours who ends Dillon’s rampages forever…

When a splinter faction of the crime combine track down Ashley, however, they incur the wrath of Zoom and open the floodgates for an incredible last act…

With Wally in overdrive to defeat the army of old foes, Kid Flash rockets to his rescue in time to counter the attacks of elemental mage Dr. Alchemy and super-gorilla Grodd, only to fall in his turn to the raging, unchecked power of Zoom who has finally decided to clear the field of all Rogues and heroic distractions in order to enact his own ultimate master-plan…

This involves snatching the original Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, out of the time stream moments before he was killed by Barry Allen and letting him loose on the despised friends and heirs of the Flash…

In a climax that involves the entire dynasty of Scarlet Speedsters, the most reprehensible villains in all creation and the rewriting of time itself, Johns signed off on his magnificent opus by pulling out all the stops, burning all his bridges and spectacularly pulling off the happiest ending of the series’ decades-long history…

Fast, furious and fabulous, the numerous Scarlet Speedsters have always epitomised the very best in costumed comic thrills and the astounding tenure of Johns resulted in some of the best Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction of modern times.

For more than seven decades, the adventures of the Flash have been the very acme of superhero storytelling, with successive generations of inventive creators producing the very best of high-speed action and superlative drama. This is one of the greatest of those supremely readable classics and a show that you’d be crazy to ignore
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