The Flash #69 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Luis Guerrero, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Happiness Has To Be Earned
Ray: This Trickster storyline, essentially an epilogue to the Force Quest storyline as Trickster uses the Sage Force to mind-control Central City, started out promisingly but hasn’t delivered on the potential. Corrina called out the horrific implications of Trickster’s game last issue, and they’re barely explored beyond the superhero stuff. The last issue saw Central City in flames as the Rogues ran wild, as Barry woke up to discover his legs seemingly cut off. It doesn’t take much to figure out that it’s a Sage Force illusion, but the segments with a seemingly helpless Flash alone with a mind-controlled Commander Cold are the creepiest of Flash #69. The bigger problem is that Trickster’s goal really doesn’t seem to be all that clear. At one point he’s unleashing his fellow Rogues for a heist, another point he’s play-acting as if his parents loved him. It feels like a hodgepodge of motivations from other villains who pulled off gambits like this from better storylines.
But then, that was kind of always Trickster’s gimmick, wasn’t it? He’s a less-deadly Joker crossed with a less-smart Riddler. That type of villain breaking bad can be interesting, but they generally work better as semi-honorable rogues. Here, Trickster does a lot of genuinely monstrous things but they don’t seem very likely to stick. After he’s defeated, a lot of things are dealt with in fast-forward. Warden Wolfe, a long-time thorn in Flash’s side, is arrested and sent out of the title in a hurry. Kristen’s trauma over being forced to be Trickster’s “girlfriend” is glossed over with a non-specific single line, and Barry gets his job back. The ending of the issue just seems to be a way to set us up for the three-month Flash: Year One story, and promises a shocking secret from Barry’s past that he forgot. That’s a way to make it more relevant, but it really feels like this title has been spinning its wheels for too long. I’m hoping it comes back from the flashback story with more purpose.
Corrina: The problem I saw with Kristen being mind-controlled by the Trickster to be his girlfriend and, thus, a victim of sexual assault wasn’t that you can’t do that story–it was that the story would never be about her and, sure enough, we have ONE panel in this issue with her apologizing for not knowing who her boyfriend was.
Williamson has had a long and interesting run on the Flash that’s introduced a number of new concepts, like the various forces, and new villains like Godspeed, but his arcs tend to not stick the landing. The Force Quest ultimately seemed pointless, as Barry didn’t seem to grow from it. I like Barry’s speech in this issue about happiness having to be earned, rather than imposed from without, and there’s a hopeful tone that justice might prevail over all. But it’s too fast and it glosses over many of the horrific implications of the problems a whole city being mind-controlled would cause.
But I very much doubt we’ll see Kristen deal with her trauma at any point in the future. This feels like everything is being tied up, fairly neatly, to clear the decks for what comes after. I wonder if we’ll see Cold deal with any of it?
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.