Throwback Comic Review: “The Rogues – New Year’s Evil” (DC Comics, Jolly Jinglings Special)

Welcome back to Jolly Jinglings, The Splintering’s celebration of forgetting auld acquaintance.

Today, we’re going to take a look at The Rogues: New Year’s Evil, published by DC Comics in 1998 (or late 1997, depending on how you’re counting). 

Featuring the creative talents of Brian Augustyn (writer), Ron Wagner (penciller), Bill Reinhold (inker) and Noelle Giddings (colors), The Rogues: New Year’s Evil is a one-shot adventure starring a cluster of villains taken from the Flash’s rogues gallery, including Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang. 

The book does take place within the larger DC continuity of the time, so it’s a bit odd to just pick up and read in isolation, but you eventually get caught up well enough. If you were to try to get your bearings before reading, you’ll find that this issue builds off of events from both The Flash ongoing series and 1995’s Underworld Unleashed crossover event. 

No one will ever spot The Trickster when he’s wearing those pants.

Like other New Year’s Evil books, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the New Year’s holiday, either. It’s just a clever pun exploited to sell one-shots featuring villains.

Everything picks up with the aforementioned “Rogues”, the five supervillains who typically find themselves at odds with the Flash. They’re in the land of Zhutan searching for a powerful sun disk of Meshta (the creator god of the Saravistraism- DC’s version of Zoroastrianism) to make their souls eternally free from Neron (DC’s version of Satan).

But this isn’t a simple snatch and grab. Zhutan has been taken over by a vicious warlord named Khurda, and he occupies the temple that houses for the sun disk. While each one of these five have gone toe to toe with the fastest man alive on several occasions, they oddly find themselves captured by Khurda’s men – who are basically mercs with guns – without putting up much of a fight.

Mahkalli’s greatest weapon is his boot

Fortunately for the Rogues, everything is well under control by the Trickster, a Flash arch villain and master of trickery. The Rogues have all been reduced to pawns of the Trickster, who is setting them up as part of a plan to rescue a young boy believed to be some kind of reincarnated prophet called the “Majee.” 

Assisted by yet another Flash supervillain named the Pied Piper, the Trickster reveals the true nature of Khurda’s power- a race of lizard people (of course) led by an evil god named Ahrnyu. What started as a caper turns into a true showdown of good and evil supernatural forces, with the crux of the story turning multiple times on who is really pulling everyone’s strings: The Trickster, the god Meshta, Ahrnyu, or perhaps another powerful enemy…

Holy crap! That’s the craziest erection I’ve ever seen!
Oh wait, he’s just turning into a lizard person.

The story also hinges on whether the five Rogues will abandon their efforts or choose to do something right for a change. As luck would have it, Heat Wave is the villain who has the true turn of heart, and he manages to convince his cohorts to assist the Trickster with his rescue operation, and with defeating the powerful evil(s) at hand. Predictably, good -erm, “less evil” triumphs in the end, and the Trickster has a family revelation waiting for him before all is said and done.

Honestly, you don’t see much of the five “Rogues” featured on the book’s cover. I’d call this more of a Trickster book than anything else. Not too surprising, as DC was trying to elevate his profile during Underworld Unleashed

On the art side, I’d say that the illustrations don’t hit their stride until the super-powered and supernatural fighting gets underway at the climax. Even there, you’ll find some panels that look rushed. Compare the Rogues group shot on page 2 to the one on page 17 – definitely a downgrade. Otherwise, there are multiple cluttered panels and pages that wedge in more exposition than is optimal. The lettering isn’t consistent, either, as several panels have cramped dialogue balloons, too, mostly to wedge in that aforementioned exposition during the closing denouement. 

Despite its flaws, I found myself mildly enjoying revisiting this era of DC Comics – the late 90s, post-Final Night, and certainly pre-New 52 era (the numerous PlayStation and SEGA Saturn video game ads help scratch that nostalgic itch, too). Aside from my own rose-tinted affinity, though, there’s not much reason to specifically seek out The Rogues: New Year’s Evil unless you are a big fan of the Trickster as an anti-hero. The other Rogues simply don’t have much to do for most of the book, and it doesn’t make sense that they surrender so readily to a small contingent of guards when they regularly go up against the Flash. The artwork isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t call it much of a consistent selling point, either. 

A “holiday classic” it isn’t, nor is it a classic in any stretch of the word. However, if you happen to find The Rogues: New Year’s Evil in a discount bin somewhere, it’s a decent read for Flash fans, and I doubt I would have been disappointed to pay the $1.95 cover price in 1998. Or 1997. Either way, it’s nearly four bucks now, thanks to inflation. Bah! Go and have yourself a merry little New Year, now, ya’ hear?

There’s only one page left to finish the story! What do we do? CRAM, SIR!

Thanks for reading!

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