Rogues #1 is a damn fine crime comic by Joshua Williamson, Leomacs, Mat Lopes, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. It follows Leonard Snart, or the artist formerly known as Captain Cold, ten years after his last big score as he struggles to put his life back together in a rapidly gentrifying Central City. Yes, Rogues has timely commentary on the American healthcare system, city life, and capitalism through the lens of aging B-list supervillains. Also, Leomacs and Lopes’ visuals hit that nice sweet spot between super detailed art and cartooning while using silent montages and shifts in color to shift the mood of the story. For example, Snart’s windows turn blue when he gets back to work on his cold gun.
Rogues is definitely structured like an old school heist movie beginning with an extended flashback sequence set during the good ol’ days that foreshadows the job to separate introductory sequences for each crew member complete with nicknames and different art styles. Even if you’re not familiar with Leonard Snart, Lisa Snart (Golden Glider), James Jesse (Trickster), Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger), Frankie Kane (Magenta), Mick Rory (Heatwave), and the surprise seventh crew member, Williamson and Leomacs have their personalities on lock before their first mini-heist. Probably the most effective is Mick’s intro. Unlike the other Rogues, he hasn’t even tried to be respectable and is introduced wreathed in flames burning down a building for insurance money. On the other hand, Magenta is introduced in a pharmacy where she can’t afford the pills to help suppress her magnetic abilities, and Leomacs uses a loose line plus swatches of color from Mat Lopes to show her losing control. The shittiness of health insurance/pharmaceutical companies is as good enough a villain origin as any.
But before setting up the crew, Joshua Williamson and Leomacs spend a decent chunk of Rogues #1 digging into what Leonard Snart’s post-Captain Cold days are like, and it isn’t a pretty sight. Later, in the story, Snart is super manipulative and let’s say definitely gets into “Black Label” territory instead of the usual Rogues’ code of honor so showing him get jerked around by probation officer and the suits at the warehouse he works at help him score major sympathy points. Williamson and Leomacs nail the tedium and pain of modern existence as Snart gets a promotion at work, but finds out it’s because his bosses know that he’ll do whatever they want because he’s an ex-con. Then, he and Leomacs cut to the overcrowded train (Hey, at least, Central City has public transit unlike some American cities.), his old neighborhood getting torn down, and finally, his disorderly apartment. No wonder, he rages out and returns to a life of crime. Lopes’ palette shift from brown to red and finally blue is a story in and of itself, and Leomacs brings out the goggles and blue jacket to show this change when Snart begins to recruit his crew.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is a very underrated part of Rogues #1 from the opening scene where the ridges on the end of his balloons and the little bubbles show that the Ape (Of Angel and the Ape fame) is washed out and just wants to pick a fight at the supervillain bar because his girlfriend is dating Detective Chimp. Later, on in the story, Otsmane-Elhaou uses crooked curlicues when Leonard Snart speaks with his supervisors and waits for the other shoe to drop to symbolize him carefully picking his words so he doesn’t end up on his ass. Finally, to match the bustling city streets that Leomacs draws and Joshua Williamson’s dialogue, the lettering is all over the page when Snart begs and pleads for his sister to help him out on his last job even though she’s found fulfilling work as a social worker. Unlike the all-in Mick Rory or the desperate Magenta, it takes some cajoling for Lisa Snart to even have a conversation with her brother, and Leomacs’ body language for her shows that she doesn’t want any more from this interaction. As I mentioned earlier, each Rogue’s reintroduction is a mini-masterclass in different storytelling techniques culminating in a super tense set piece that isn’t the actual heist just yet.
Rogues #1 is proof of an adage that I like to trot out for Marvel/DC/corporate IP characters that in the right hands that any of these action figures can be compelling. Joshua Williamson, Leomacs, Mat Lopes, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou connect B-list villains to economic insecurity in a fast-paced, character driven act one of a heist story. Before jumping into the action, Williamson and Leomacs provides insight into each crew member’s personality and motivation and make the stakes Mount Everest high. Like seriously, I have no idea how the Rogues are going to pull off this last job even with Leonard Snart in “give no fucks” mode. With one exception, the team is really endearing in their desperation though, and going after one of the richest beings of the world gives the comic a blue collar Robin Hood vibe.
All in all, Rogues #1 is a reminder that superhero and crime stories complement each other nicely, especially with such gorgeous layouts and color palettes from Leomacs and Lopes.
Story: Joshua Williamson Art: Leomacs
Colors: Mat Lopes Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics/Black Label provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review