Story: Hannah Rose May & Declan Shalvey
Writer: Hannah Rose May
Art: Justin Mason
Colors: Triona Farrell
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover A: Declan Shalvey
Cover B: Tula Lotay
Cover C: Justin Mason & Triona Farrell
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: July 20th, 2022
Has actress Maisie Wade destroyed the Red Rogue television show for good? Or is the writers’ fault for not paying enough attention to the comic book source material? With the future of the show hanging in the balance, there is only one group that can set things right and show professional creators how they should be doing things: Red Rogue’s passionate on-line fan community.
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Rogues’ Gallery #1 Review.
ROGUES’ GALLERY #1 is the latest in commentary on the proliferation of comic book based media, its creators, and its fans. The series isn’t focused on the comic book based television show Red Rogue or its lead actor Maisie Wade (though the two will be discussed in virtually every panel). ROGUES’ GALLERY #1 is about Kyle, Dodge, Yuri, and Hayley, four fans of the Red Rogue comic the show is based on who trash talk the show and lead actress at every opportunity beginning with an online discussion immediately after each new episode airs.
This probably sounds familiar to every comic book fan who’s spent more than five minutes on comic book related social media. And that is the biggest problem with the issue. Writer Hannah Rose May delivers four characters who read like one of the most toxic, most gatekeeping Twitter threads you’ll ever come across. They are not pleasant individuals to be around. The only one of the four whose life beyond Red Rogue we get a glimpse of is Kyle. He has a somewhat sympathetic backstory, and you want to feel for him immediately. But as the issue goes on that backstory, coupled with the way the other three treat him when he dares to challenge the onslaught of vitriol, feels nakedly manipulative because in the end it’s Kyle–the least likely to push the group’s plans over the top–to get them all to commit. The end of Kyle’s arc in this issue reads like May is trying to secure readers’ investment in characters she made intentionally unlikeable.
The final pages of ROGUES’ GALLERY #1 introduce an unexpected twist that in future issues could set the series in a new direction and rehabilitate these four characters. It doesn’t take too much imagination to be able to see that possibility. And to May’s credit, this is a twist that I wasn’t expecting and one that I’m not sure I have seen before.
Justin Mason and Triona Farrell turn in solid work in this issue and any sympathetic qualities the characters possess by the end of the issue are due almost entirely to them.
ROGUES’ GALLERY #1’s first pages are a bit of a fakeout, and the art on them is more extreme in the way you’d expect for generic comic book action. Once the issue moves past that and settles down in the real world with Kyle, Dodge, Yuri, and Hayley, the art changes from flashy to ordinary and it’s that ordinariness that highlights just how banal these characters and their attitudes are. The exception is Kyle who Mason gives a wider range of emotion to (fitting since he’s the only character May attempted to give a compelling backstory).
Farrell’s use of color is noteworthy in this issue–not so much for what he does here but what it opens the door for him to do in the future. The world of the Red Rogue TV show is visually distinct from the outside world. The colors are rich and layered and explode from the page, drawing your eye exactly where it needs to be as visual media often does. Farrell’s colors in the rest of the book are softer and she doesn’t use them to demand readers look in any particular place like she did in the first few pages. Given the twist at the end, it will be interesting to see if she sticks with that softer style going forward or maybe there’s a fusion to be had.
ROGUES’ GALLERY #1 only succeeds in one area: the art. I like Kyle–but not because May’s story wants me to. I like him because of how Mason draws him. I found myself more invested in panels that included Kyle than those that didn’t. For better or worse, Mason’s depictions of May’s characters’ attitudes are spot on. In the same way that I like Kyle more because of Mason, I also hate Dodge more. This is one of those comics where the writer and artist are completely in-sync on who the characters are and the result is much more than the sum of its parts.
The problem with ROGUES’ GALLERY #1 isn’t that it’s about toxic fandom. Rather, the problem is that May offers nothing to go along with that idea. I’ve read the dialogue in this comic book a million times before on Twitter, and because May gives none of her characters any depth beyond relentless, irrational anger I care as little about them as I do about Twitter users I block. And it’s not like May needs to both-sides the characters. She doesn’t need to invent something that justifies their bad behavior. But if we’re going to follow their adventure we need a reason to care if they succeed. And we have none save for Kyle whose backstory is manipulative, ugly, and cliché.
The twist at the end does pique curiosity, and May deserves credit for eliciting that response under the circumstances. To say that I’m not interested in knowing what happens next would be a lie, but unfortunately I have no intention of subjecting myself to these characters again to find out.