There’s something about the villain-as-protagonist tale that is infinitely compelling to me. Maybe it’s the fact that supervillains are often neglected, just one of an endless parade of villains thrown at our favorite heroes every month, overshadowed by their more maniacal, arch-enemy peers. Maybe it’s because the concept of superhero humanity is so often the core of modern superhero stories—Peter Parker’s rent woes and lingering grief or Superman’s hayseed roots grounding him despite his god-like powers—but the courtesy is so rarely extended to their opposite number.
Maybe I just like the idea of villains, like any blue-collar career-person, having a nice cold one at the bar after a long, exhausting day of doing crimes.
Joshua Williamson and Leomacs drop Rogues this week, and it’s exactly the type of book I long for. While the elevator pitch for the story might be the old familiar “one last score” formula, there’s something more substantial at its core.
For one, the book makes sure to illustrate the troubles of our central ‘protagonist’, longtime Flash villain Captain Cold, who is now years past his prime. It wants you to know his day-to-day struggle as an aging ex-convict—the constant intrusion of a parole officer, the slog of a mundane job (manufacturing, it seems, comic book boxes), and the long curse of garnished wages. The book wants us to understand the uphill struggle of a man who can never quite recover from the repercussions of his criminal lifestyle.
While the book isn’t exactly heavy-handed—it never goes so far as to examine the systemic domination of an ex-convict in America, say—it does illustrate the sort of repression that necessitates that ‘one last score’ mentality. Leonard Snart is a man pushed to the ends of his rope. This means, of course, that it’s time to build a team.
It’s the familiar Ocean’s Eleven sort of structure—Snart needs people with very specific skills to fill very specific roles of his heist—but it gives us even more peeks into the personal struggles of characters more often seen being beaten up by a super-fast man in red spandex.
This first issue of the miniseries promises the sort of off-the-rails ineptitude one might expect of a B- or C-List cast of characters trying to pull off a rather impressive heist, but it also offers up something more exciting: a tiny bit of context for bad guys who have never been truly evil so much as desperate. There’s every chance that this series will present definitive versions of these characters of the type relegated to Big Bads, stories more concerned with humanity than novelty.
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