The Flash #66 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Luis Guerrero, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: James Jesse Rides Again
Ray: One of the highlights of the popular Johns/Kolins run on The Flash in the early 2000s was the Rogue Spotlight issues. These done-in-one stories reinvented the origins of Flash’s most iconic villains and gave the gimmick-crooks some added psychological depth. Now, in The Flash #66, Josh Williamson is picking up on that tradition and focusing on the forgotten Rogue – James Jesse, the first Trickster. Trickster died way back in Countdown to Final Crisis and was always an odd fit for the Rogues – he went straight for a while after taking down Neron. But now, Williamson is bringing him back from the dead and recasting him as the Flash’s new arch-nemesis. To pull that off, the character’s going to have to change a lot. So does it work? It’s a mixed bag, because while I found this issue rather compelling I’m still not sure I buy James Jesse as a massive threat. Despite the attempt to build him up and give him some real menace again, this backstory just made me more sympathetic to him.
The addition of abusive parents to any character’s backstory, good or evil, will make people relate to them. Williamson gives this trope a clever twist, though, with Jesse’s circus acrobat/conman parents. Sure, they’re actively cruel to him, but an end-of-issue twist casts doubt on just how much of that is real and how much is an act they’re all in on. At the very least, they seem to see him as just another partner in their con, rather than their son. Combining that with a harsh stay in Iron Heights were Warden Wolfe seems determined to break him, it’s not surprised that Jesse is out for revenge – he’s someone the world has always sought to erase in one way or another. The villain profile we get here reminds me a little of a cross between the Joker and the Riddler – he’s certainly crazy, yes, and obsessed with gimmicks, but also brilliant and determined to prove it. I’m not sure this sold me entirely on Trickster 1.0 as a serious villain, especially as I grew up with the more sympathetic version. But I’m along for the ride.
Corrina: Trickster was the villain in one of my first Flash stories, way back in the 1970s. He’s certainly a product of that time period, with the garish, multi-colored costume and that gimmick. (And those jet shoes!) James Jesse’s Trickster is also one of the spotlight villains in the classic Justice League animated series episode spotlight the Flash. (Though that was the Wally West Flash.)
For both those reasons, I was glad to see him back. Is his reinvention interesting enough that resurrecting him was a good idea? I think so, as it’s a fine story of a con man who sometimes cons himself into believing he’s more than who he is. But it’s also a story of a man who is, perhaps, unfairly punished by the justice system, and he’s definitely subject to cruel and unusual punishment: solitary confinement. That makes him more than a little off-balance and determined to prove himself again.
And, likely, a good foe for the Flash.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.