Spoilers ahead for this Week's The Flash #54.
One of the Flash’s classic Rogues is back from the dead (or at least back from "New 52" oblivion) in this week’s The Flash #54.
As the issue concluded, the Axel Walker version of the Trickster came face-to-face with his predecessor, James Jesse, the original Trickster.
James Jesse was introduced to DC comics as a Flash villain in 1960, although he sometimes played the part of hero alongside the Flash, as many of the character’s rogues have over the years.
But James Jesse has been dead since he was shot by Deadshot during 2008's Countdown to Final Crisis. Besides his appearance as a Black Lantern in 2010 (during Blackest Night,which temporarily resurrected several dead characters), the character hasn’t been seen since alive since his death at the hands of Deadshot.
When the "New 52" rebooted the DCU in 2011, Axel Walker was introduced as the Trickster without reference to any previous villain by that name.
In The Flash #54, the final page features James Jesse wearing a Trickster costume, stating that he’s been trying to reach Axel, even taking credit for the appearance of Para-Angels several issues earlier.
His appearance may be related to the series of forces that have been unleashed in recent issues of The Flash. Along with the Still Force featured in Justice League, Barry Allen has also been dealing with the strange new Sage Force and Strength Force, even asking other Flashes from across the Multiverse for advice.
Or the return of James Jesse could be connected to the post-"Rebirth" development that has memories from previous timelines still present in the minds of Flash characters. Specifically, Wally West, who spent time trapped outside of reality (because of Dr. Manhattan, it seems) remembers - according to previous issues - being married and having children, and Iris West remembers marrying Barry Allen.
In fact, in The Flash #54, after Barry defeats Axel Walker by figuring out that the Strength Force allows him to control gravity, he confronts Iris about the secret she’s hiding from him. And readers are shown her memory of the Barry-Iris wedding that never took place in the universe launched for the "New 52."
The argument with Iris about this secret (in The Flash #54) actually ends with Barry Allen walking away, his shadow depicted as a flame. Whether this is symbolic of the character’s anger or hints at yet another 'Force' remains to be seen.
As for Wally’s memories, that character is dealing with his turmoil over his lost children by checking in to Sanctuary, the mental health treatment center for superheroes. Later this month, the DC limited series Heroes in Crisis will kick off with a mass shooting at Sanctuary, and Wally West is one of the story’s possible victims.
The Flash #54 also left open a few important developments from “Flash War.”
Specifically, Commander Cold is still in the present, being unable to return to the 25th Century since the Force Barrier broke at the end of “Flash War.” And he’s not getting along with Barry Allen.
And Bart Allen is still in the present, having shown up at the end of “Flash War” in his Impulse costume, but there’s been no sign of him since the end of The Flash #50.
The story will continue September 26 with The Flash #56 and Heroes in Crisis #1.