On paper, you can break down the difference between heroes and rogues in black and white words. But is it really so simple as a checklist? It's not like a determined number of actions cancel out evil deeds. There's not an official table that says one person rescued makes up for committing a robbery and wrecking property. People have to decide whether others have changed by going with their guts and their hearts. It's something I considered as I read the first pages of THE FLASH VOL. 3: ROGUES RELOADED by writer Joshua Williamson and artists Carmine Di Giandomenico, Andy Owens, Jesús Merino, Neil Googe and Davide Gianfelice.
As this third collection begins, the Flash's Rogues have disappeared from Central City. The baddest and roughest super-villains saying good-bye to the town they've plagued with crime isn't what I would call sad news, but their absence has left a hole other villains are trying to fill—other villains that, as Barry noted, have much less cool names than the usual Rogues. And the other aspect is the Rogues leaving without a word is making the city quiet in that unnerving, too-quiet way. Barry can't relax and enjoy the break because he suspects the Rogues, including the likes of Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Golden Glider and Heat Wave, are up to something bigger.
Spoilers: He ends up being right.
Barry's not one hundred percent convinced the Rogues are off formulating dastardly plots though, because they've been helpful in recent hard times. As he says, "There are days when they almost seem like heroes."
The Rogues lent assistance when Gorilla Grodd came to Central City. They came to Barry's aid when the Riddler caused trouble. Maybe the Rogues jumped in to ensure they couldn't be out-villained. After all, it wouldn't look good for them to have another costumed foe come in and wreak more havoc. Or maybe, just maybe, they care a little about their home and want to keep the city safe from serious danger.
Are the team-ups with the Flash enough to take them out of the villains category on a permanent basis? Though my initial reaction was a vehement no, I'd actually say maybe. Their actions jump back and forth across the "good" line too much to be called heroes, but also too much to write them all off as forever evil. That unpredictable nature makes dealing with them…well, unpredictable and dangerous.
As mentioned earlier, Barry was right about the Rogues having a master plan. They never stopped being villains and left Central City for a reason: to come back and make a nefarious splash. They manipulated Barry into believing they were elsewhere in the world pulling off international heists. When he rushed to stop them, he left Central City vulnerable to multiple attacks from the Rogues. Their plan was a tad theatrical, but I wouldn't expect less.
I'm surprised Barry fell for their ruse, to be honest. But then again, they've had a long time to study how to best affect the Flash. They knew precisely what to do to draw Barry away. This is the kind of story that wouldn't have worked without the characters' long histories. If the Flash hadn't spent so much time facing Captain Cold, Heat Wave and the rest, we wouldn't believe they could fool him. Barry's not a dumb guy. Sure, his running speed outraces his thoughts sometimes, but he's smart. The group was only able to misdirect him because of their familiarity with him. They've experienced Barry’s strengths and weaknesses through numerous encounters. They're aware that Barry likely wants to believe the best of them and that Barry's first instinct is to lend a helping hand.
Maybe it's those qualities about Barry that puts him firmly on Team Hero. He comes from a selfless place, which is not a motivation the Rogues seem to understand. Though it’s clear they know how to exploit it. Until that changes, the line between heroes and rogues may continue to be a fine one, but it’ll remain clear on which side of it everyone belongs.