Review: Searching For Something Heroic In `Rogue State’ #1

by Tom Smithyman

“There’s no heroes, Marlo. There’s just you and me and a bazillion not-super villains.”

That’s what a wall-scaling Clara Cruz tells a young apartment tenant near the beginning of the issue. With vigilante groups codified by the Supreme Court, these not-so-super villains rove the streets of America’s cities looking to dispense their own brand of justice.

We know this because of a lengthy paragraph at the top of the first page. It explains how a contested presidential election led to extreme violence, which eventually led to a paramilitary police state. Publisher Black Mask Studios would like you to believe this is “speculative fiction” or nearly ripped from the headlines. But it’s the kind of story that comic books have been telling for decades. And many have done a better job of it.

If writer Matteo Pizzolo wanted to grab our attention, he should have shown us, not told us. Instead of getting a political thriller or a story of rebellion in a time of brutal oppression, we’re forced to read an overlong story about Cruz trying to get out of jam involving a shotgun-toting landlord and a young kid. A good chunk of the premiere issue is dedicated to this unremarkable tale – and we never find out why Cruz is scaling the building in the first place. Then time shifts backwards to a street battle. Why? Good question.

At least the issue is nice to look at. Some nice artwork from Carlos Granda and purple hues from colorist Brad Simpson make the simple story come to life. And a few splash pages and double-page spreads break up the monotony of a young woman climbing a building.

We were promised politics and intrigue. Instead, we get some cleverish dialogue and uneven storytelling that doesn’t seem to pay off the premise. Perhaps the sin is not the creative team but rather the publisher struggling with how to market a book. At the end though, this first issue doesn’t do enough to make the reader yearn for more. It’s possible – probably even – that the creative team originally intended this as a graphic novel but was persuaded to turn it into an episodic story. If so, more work needed to be done to break it into appropriate story segments.

As it turns out, maybe a hero is exactly what the story needs.

Rogue State #1 is now available for purchase digitally and in print.


An uneven story that oddly highlights a building-scaling character’s argument mar this premiere issue. Some memorable artwork and colors salvage the book, which feels more like the first 30 or so pages of a graphic novel instead of an episodic series.

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