Warning: SPOILERS for The Flash #54
The most recent issue of The Flash has witnessed a classic member of the Rogues' Gallery returning from the dead. While sudden resurrections are not unusual in the world of superhero comics, this surprising revelation is noteworthy for how it relates to the villain's apparent death. This Lazarus act may also tie-in to the increasingly unstable nature of the physical laws of the DC Universe, as magic seems to be dying out while strange new Strength and Sage forces are unleashed across the cosmos.
The difficulties began in DC Universe Rebirth #1, which revealed that Wally West (the first Kid Flash and successor to Barry Allen's Flash) had been trapped outside of reality by some unseen intelligence that was rewriting the history of the DC Comics multiverse. This same intelligence was also responsible for killing Eobard Thawne, The Reverse Flash and setting into motion a chain of events that have led to the reawakening of various primal forces of creation.
Among these are an inertia-based Still Force, opposite of the Speed Force that empowers The Flash and an invisible emotional spectrum to rival the Green Lanterns.
The latest issue of The Flash sees Barry Allen and Axel "Trickster" Walker channeling one of these new energy fields - a Strength Force that offers physical power on-par with the hyper-velocities granted by The Speed Force. By the issue's end, The Flash manages to purge himself and Walker of the strange energy before they can be killed by the corrupt warden of Iron Heights Penitentiary. Walker had been scheduled to testify against the warden and was in protective custody, before being abducted by metahuman mercenaries and accidentally being infected by The Strength Force.
The issue concludes with Walker coming face to face with the man who had hired the mercenaries and the Rogue whose name and gear he had stolen - James Jesse, the original Trickster!
First appearing in The Flash #113 in 1960, James Jesse was unusual in that he became a super-villain purely for the purpose of making The Flash look silly. Like most of the members of The Rogues Gallery, Jesse forswore killing while committing his crimes and quite often gave away his ill-gotten gains, just like Jesse James - the Old West robber who inspired his nom de plume. For the original Trickster, it was more about the thrill of the chase and the kicks than making a profit.
Unsurprisingly, Jesse was one of the many Flash Rogues who tried to reform, becoming a cinematic special effects designer and an eventual ally of the Wally West incarnation of The Flash. James even unexpectedly saved the whole world during the Underworld Unleashed saga, when he cheated the demon prince Neron out of his due and kicked off a new career as a con-man for the forces of good. Sadly, Jesse's efforts at redemption were cut short after his sudden assassination at the hands of Deadshot in Countdown to Final Crisis #22 in 2007.
The odd thing about James Jesse's appearance in the latest issue of The Flash is that until now he has not been depicted in any comics set after the DC Universe was rebooted with The New 52 in 2011. Indeed, there had been no sign that James Jesse even existed in the reality of DC Rebirth and no references to any Trickster besides Axel Walker. The answer behind Jesse's resurrection may lie in the same circumstances involving the warping of time that saw the recent return of Zoom. However it happened, cheating death is James Jesse's greatest trick ever!
The Flash #54 is now available from DC Comics.