The Flash #66
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Scott Kolins and Luis Guerrero
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
From his pinstripes to his cape to his jester-like shoes, there’s a lot going on with the Trickster — and perhaps it’s not surprising that his origin is similarly cacophonous, with just a few extra elements too many contributing one discordant whole. Still, writer Joshua Williamson channels Geoff Johns’ Rogue profiles with aplomb, even teaming up with Johns’ signature Flash collaborator Scott Kolins for the ride. While this done-in-one issue skirts the line of suspension of disbelief at times, fans of the Scarlet Speedster’s early 2000s heyday will find a lot to love about this trip down memory lane.
While comic book continuity often makes even the most straightforward characters’ story seem convoluted (looking at you, Batman), James Jesse as a concept feels like all the goofiness and disharmony of the Silver Age wrapped into one multicolored mess. He’s a diligent reader named after a cowboy, whose parents are abusive con artist carnie folk — he’s got a fear of heights, an aching desire to impress people, and also wants to pull off the biggest scores in Central City to get one over on the Flash. He’s been a private investigator, an FBI profiler, a hero, a Rogue, dead, replaced, reborn again. Did I also mention he has boots that let him walk on air?
Even for the Flash, that’s a lot of disparate threads for one Rogue to encapsulate — and it’s to Joshua Williamson’s credit that he even makes the attempt, rather than trying to streamline the character into something a little less garish and bizarre. That said, unlike the aforementioned Johns, who always focused in on one central metaphor, Williamson is less about walking the high wire and more about performing a complicated juggling act, furiously checking off all these tangents to incorporate them into one weird protagonist.
Ironically, the Flash himself actually feels more like a cameo in this issue, since he doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with the Trickster’s development — instead, the dual authority figures of Jesse’s parents and Iron Heights’ Warden Wolfe serve as the emotional core underneath all that exposition. That said, it almost feels like Williamson himself is trying to pull off a trick — he seems to be trying to wind up readers with big moments of life-threatening peril, even if the actual logic behind these twists doesn’t really add up. Would James’ parents committing to an abusive schtick really help them score more cash? Would Warden Wolfe really play directly into James’ scheme, doing the one thing that would make his future pursuits infinitely easier?
But while Williamson is working overtime to keep the Trickster’s story in check, seeing Scott Kolins tackle the character again is an undeniable thrill, and ultimately one of the best parts about The Flash #66. Kolins’ spiky linework feels especially apropos for a character as bizarre as the Trickster — yet Kolins also never skimps out on the expressiveness on the character, particularly with an especially dramatic page of James thinking about his escape in the depths of an Iron Heights cell, or a fun strobe effect as we watch James jump and flip across a high wire.
Colorist Luis Guerrero also does some really cool stuff with the colors, both establishing a sense of mood and placement among the criss-crossing timelines — in particular, though, the way Kolins and Guerrero utilize negative space to accommodate for Williamson’s script is a very neat trick.
Letterer Steve Wands also deserves a lot of credit making the flow of the story seem effortless — while I’m less in love with DC’s new lettering trend of strange burst balloons for emphasis, he’s still working overtime.
Given the jumbled nature of his central high concept, there’s a reason why the Trickster probably isn’t anyone’s favorite Flash villain — but that doesn’t mean Joshua Williamson and Scott Kolins aren’t working hard to give the character an emotional core underneath all those weird accoutrements. While streamlining the character further might have resulted in a more straightforward and engaging read, Williamson is also leaving a lot of different avenues for himself to pick up later on by refusing to shy away from the inconsistencies in James Jesse’s life. And given that he’s teaming up with a seminal Flash artist, there are worse ways for this creative team to taken a crack at the trickiest of Barry Allen’s bad guys.