Read This Book- ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ from Image Comics

No one hates Star Wars as much as a Star Wars fan.

When I was in high school I was, brace for a shock, a pretty big nerd. I had many nerdy obsessions, everything from Aliens to X-Men, and quite a bit in-between. Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, The Mask, the list goes on and on.

And it was a different time back then. There wasn’t any Wikipedia or much online media at all back then. Reprints were fairly hard to come by, DVDs were expensive, and for a broke high school student turned broke college student, if I wanted to have any kind of investment in something I had to put actual labor into learning about it.

This means a lot of hours in some pretty shady comic shops and cons, countless hours at the library, and more than a little of my paycheck going out the window before I had even earned it.

The result of this is that I felt deeply invested in all of the things I geeked out over, and felt not only an attachment, but an ownership of that media. This lead me down some pretty dark paths, verbal altercations with people over ridiculous minutia like power scaling and canon, online arguments with total strangers where I attempted to gatekeep the hell out of anyone that couldn’t pass my litmus test, and even a few “almost” physical altercations with people on the proverbial playground.

And it makes sense why I was like that. When entertainment media is all you have, when you so invest yourself in a character or a brand, and you make that your entire identity, it is hard to accept that other people have an equal right to interpret that media in any way they find fitting.

When you live and breathe a brand, anything that threatens that brand threatens you, and people respond accordingly.

Now, I am happy to say that as I got older and wiser I left a lot of those gatekeeping tendencies behind me, and now live happily on the side of the line where comics and other media are for everyone, even if everyone doesn’t like something. I believe creators and talent have the right to interpret media in whatever way they find fitting, and feel that the marketplace of ideas should be the determining factor in whether or not certain media and changes survive or fall. I’ve lived long enough to see every character I love get interpreted and reinterpreted a dozen or more times, and no matter what they change, the core of the character stays the same. I might hate one author or creator’s vision, but I accept that they have the right to put it forward, and know that in 10 years there will be another, completely unique vision to compete with it.

Like, I love The Flash, and when the CW show came out I was really on board with it. I also was hyped for Supergirl and then, well, both shows started to make choices that I didn’t like. I could have taken to the internet or LCS to scream and rage, but instead I just stopped watching. I’d check in from time to time, but I had other things in my life at that point, and so getting worked up about a TV show or movie just didn’t seem worth the time anymore.

But, and it’s a big but, what if I didn’t change my ways? What if I fell hard to the dark side, so to speak, and went down a different path? What if I grew less accepting with age, and became more entrenched in my vision of what a character should be? What if I joined online campaigns and lead online crusades against any who dared attempt to change my beloved characters? I mean, I am not a huge fan of a lot of the DCEU, and I have still had my moments of fan rage over choices made. What if I gave into those and just lost my whole identity to hatred?

What if I had nothing else in my life of meaning and value to pull me back?

The answer might very well be found in today’s book: Rogues’ Gallery #1 from Image Comics. It’s a story about a group of ultra fans who hatch a revenge plot against an actor who they blame for everything wrong with their favourite character. It’s also a deeply cautionary tale for anyone who, like me, is headed down a dark fandom path.

So let’s crack in to today’s book, and see why this might just be one of the most important books you read this year!

Here’s the blurb:

Writer HANNAH ROSE MAY makes her comic debut with rising-star artist JUSTIN MASON for an all-new series with DECLAN SHALVEY.

The Purge meets Scream in a home invasion thriller that follows disenfranchised TV superhero actress Maisie Wade as she is terrorized by an unhinged group of intruders cosplaying her day job’s archvillains. If Maisie is going to survive the night, she’ll need to be the hero she has come to despise.

Now, before I get into the review proper, I do want to talk a bit about the author. Hannah Rose May has never written a comic book before, and that’s actually pretty surprising. The storytelling in this first issue is really quite good for a novice comic writer, and the dialogue get’s high marks from me for actually sounding like real people. I don’t know if May has been privy to a lot of these kinds of conversations before, but I have to tell you, I got a little chill reading some eerily accurate dialogue from my younger days!

So what’s Rogue’s Gallery all about? To put it simply, our story follows a group of outcasts who have bonded over their mutual love of a comic book character Red Rogue, a kick butt female warrior who is so popular that she is eventually giver her own, quite long running TV series.

More HBO Max than CW

In the first issue we see the friends, each trapped in their own miserable individual lives, tearing apart the latest episode in a scene that has become all to familiar in today’s world. Little side note: I loved Obi-Wan Kenobi and thoroughly enjoyed each episode. Yet each week I’d log in and see reviewers that I loved and respected ripping the show apart piece by piece. No celebration of the return of Ewan, no thrill that we get to see Vader in fighting form, just brutal deconstruction of every single point in a way that let no room for wonder and joy.

The same thing is happening in Rogues’ Gallery. No matter what happens in the show, no matter how much some characters will argue about how great it is to finally see some of their favourite characters on the screen, it’s never good enough. The rage and rail against it, and all of their hatred goes straight for the main actress, a woman named Maisie Wade.

These conversations, as I said, hurt my heart. I have been a part of those conversations. I have railed against actors and producers. I have cursed “fake” fans and lamented a total lack of comic accuracy, while at the same time being blinded to how great it was that characters I loved were finally popular enough to make it to the screen and be loved and appreciated by a whole new generation. Hannah Rose May has tapped into a reality here with this book that holds a pretty harsh mirror up to a lot of the darker elements in fandom, and honestly, it’s a mirror a lot of people need to look into.

Now, I do want to be clear: This book does hold up that mirror, but it also is very careful about how judgmental it gets. All of these characters, to varying degrees, have pretty empty lives outside of their love for Red Rogue, with economic depression, terrible home lives, and general social isolation affection the majority of them. It’s understandable why they would fixate so much on this character and why they would be so happy to lose their identity in this fandom. There are a lot of bigger issues at work in the lives of these people (trust me, I know) and so I am curious to see how this will all play out. I don’t know how redeemable these characters will end up being seen as in the end, but I feel like there is a lot more depth to many of them than we have seen so far.

From there the story goes off on several twists and turns I don’t want to spoil, but does culminate in a revenge plan that is as ridiculous as it is insane and, as I said, I cannot wait to see where this story goes. Rogues’ Gallery is a great read, and an important one at that. It might be the start of an important conversation, or it might at least make a few people look at themselves in the mirror a bit more than they have before.

Alright, I’ve rambled on enough. If you read this far, thank you, and feel free to give me a follow over on Twitter @UncleMacsreview.

Until next time, stay safe, and remember that comics are for everyone!

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