Comics / Cult Favorite

Review: Rogues Gallery by Richard Knaak


By Philip Schweier
July 15, 2022 - 10:44

Depression-era Chicago: The city’s resident crime-fighter, the Legionary, is MIA. Masked villains are capitalizing on his absence, leading to brewing rivalries among the most dangerous criminals the city has to offer. Without the city’s protector to keep the criminals in check, Chicago becomes a battleground between an inadequate police force, law breakers seeking their own form of retribution, and psychopaths stoking the fires of anarchy.


Leading the forces of the law is Det. Frank Merrett, an African-American cop hamstrung by the prejudices of the times. He enters an uneasy alliance with the Plunderer, a playboy-turned-cat burglar who is on the city’s Most Wanted list. He’s not evil; he just prefers to steal whatever he covets. Without he Legionary to assist, the Plunderer is Merrett’s best hope for battling the growing crime wave.


Also on the side of chaotic good is Mirror, a woman seeking revenge against the city’s elite for the death of her lover. Armed with a mask that can induce fear and madness, she partners with the Plunderer in the hope of furthering her vendetta. Joining them is Dr. Arcanum, a master stage magician seeking actual magic.


But if the criminals are siding with the law, who’s terrorizing the city? That would be the Wolfpack, a group of freelance henchmen currently employed by Bloodwyrm and Lady Cain. They’re determined to hunt down the Legionary, even if they have to burn Chicago to the ground. Meanwhile, a master manipulator seems to be pulling the strings of a more daring agenda.


The novel (possibly the first in a series) is an entertaining experiment of heroes vs. villains, but without the heroes. Det. Merrett is about as good and honest a cop as Chicago has to offer, but he is hampered by corruption, indifference and bigotry. The more honest criminals have potentially heroic fiber, even if it doesn’t run terribly deep.


Author Richard A Knaak
Author Richard Knaak has written more than 50 novels, so clearly he knows what he’s doing. The challenge here is to capture the mood of a world from generations past, when even those who knew it first-hand may have but the dimmest recollection. Knaak fills in any blanks with generous scoops of nostalgia. Whether it’s accurate or not is unimportant; it’s a fun, other-worldly Chicago, perhaps inspired by the Gotham City of the animated Batman series. Airships, fedoras and Tommy guns are the order of the day, portrayed against an almost perpetual backdrop of midnight and neon.


As a big fan of both super-heroes and pulps, I loved this book, and look forward to further installments. Part of me is rather curious about the characters visual appearances. However, I’m reluctant to have my expectations wiped away. It’s like the Golden Age of radio, when the “theater of the mind” was in full bloom. So perhaps an accompanying comic book or other illustration is not for me.


I give Rogues Gallery 5 out of 5 stars.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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