THE FLASH #68 doesn’t quite reach the highs of the prior issue. However, that doesn’t mean you should sleep on it. Joshua Williamson’s characterization of James Jesse is incredibly fun. Plus, Scott Kolins’ art is top notch.
94 %
Still Solid

THE FLASH #68 continues the original Trickster James Jesse’s comeback. In this issue, The Flash infiltrates Trickster’s base of operations in Iron Heights. There, he meets up with Commander Cold and comes face to face with both Jesse and the new Trickster, Axel Walker. While this issue doesn’t quite reach the heights of the last issue, it’s still pretty solid on its own. It veers a tad towards formulaic, but, even so, much of the issue piqued my interest, and I’m intrigued to find out what happens next.

I do really enjoy Joshua Williamson’s characterization of Jesse. He’s different enough from Axel that he really stands apart. He almost reminds me of a milder version of The Joker, which seems pretty in line with his whole shtick. Of course, Scott Kolins’ art is, as always, a beauty to look at.

A Trick and a Fight in THE FLASH #68

In the last issue, The Flash returned to Central City to find that every resident has changed. Every single person he interacted with and saw in the city acted abnormally cheerful. Even the normally irritated Warden Wolfe was all smiles. It turns out that the perpetrator of this bizarre act was none other than James Jesse, the original Trickster. He’s been trapped in Iron Heights for so long that nearly everyone’s forgotten about him. THE FLASH #68 begins with Jesse talking to the imprisoned Commander Cold. He muses that he must be remembered as an impressive figure in the 25th Century. Axel Walker interrupts and reports that Jesse’s significant other, Barry Allen’s CSI partner Kristen, rounded up some non-happy residents. One of these stragglers is none other than Barry himself.

They walk past a bunch of Rogues who are now under Jesse’s thrall, including Mirror Master and Golden Glider. Barry is forced to walk through a machine that uses the Sage Force to forcibly make him contented. After stepping through, Barry smiles and claims that he’s so happy. After Kristen and the rest walk away, he quickly changes into his Flash costume. It turns out he vibrated himself at a frequency that blocks the machine’s rays. Commander Cold’s communicator starts working, which leads Flash to Cold’s location. He finds Cold tied up, but before he can free Cold, Axel attacks Flash. He claims that he sought out Jesse after finding out about his big trick. After making short work of Axel, The Flash frees Cold. However, he then is ambushed by Jesse himself.

THE FLASH #68 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Why did Jesse want to make everyone happy? What’s his master plan? How did he gain access to the Sage Force? Read THE FLASH #68 to find out!

It’s Tricky in THE FLASH #68

There are some cool bits throughout THE FLASH #68, including the Flash’s “trick” to get out of the Sage Force machine. It’s a clever explanation as to why and how Barry gets out of a tricky situation. I like that the Sage Force inclusion connects this arc with the overarching story of the whole series. However, much of the issue didn’t really feel as fun as the prior issue. Once we get down to the bottom of the mystery, it feels a bit less interesting. The whole “eerily joyful city” thing sort of takes a back seat to The Flash’s investigation and the Sage Force connection. I would have liked to see more of the creepy city folk. However, one thing we do get a lot of is James Jesse, the issue’s saving grace.

Williamson clearly enjoys writing Jesse. He characterizes Jesse as an obsessively vain, madcap villain. He’s controlling and manipulative since he seems to only be using Kristen to get revenge on Warden Wolfe. Plus, he forces Axel to make knock-knock jokes whenever he returns to the lair. He’s almost like a watered-down version of the Joker. He’s not as crazed, nor is he all too sadistic. That fits, not only because Mark Hamill plays him on THE FLASH, but also because Jesse seems like the type that would think he’s akin to The Joker, when, in reality, he’ll be nothing but a wannabe.

I love how Jesse is unapologetically nasty. Every now and then, it’s nice to have a villain who you can easily hate. His irredeemable qualities vastly outweigh any sympathy he may gain from his tragic backstory.

Kolins Is at It Again

Much like in the last issue, Scott Kolins nails the off-putting look of the newly-happy citizens and Rogues. There’s a page in THE FLASH #68 where various Rogues and other villains “have fun” by being forced to slide past a flaming ring and push giant balls. They all are smiling, but something just seems off. Tar Pit is way too happy for someone who’s just holding a plant. Copperhead whipping Mirror Master catches my attention the most. The whip looks painful since Mirror Master lost control of the ball and is flinching. However, he still keeps his joyful smile. I think the fact that everyone looks like they’re normally smiling, rather than an exaggerated smile, makes everything feel creepier. Kolins is at the top of his game.

THE FLASH #68 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Final Thoughts: THE FLASH #68

THE FLASH #68, while not quite as fun as the last issue, is still quite solid. The story arc is shaping up to be one of the best in the series. If you are looking for a solid series to consistently read, THE FLASH #68 is the one to pick up!

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