‘Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess’
So sang the late, great British comedian Ken Dodd. It’s not a sentiment Barry Allen agrees with when old foe The Trickster pulls off his latest trick – using a machine connected to the mysterious Sage Force to make most everyone in Central City feel like it’s Christmas, their birthday and payday rolled into one.
Barry is forced through James Jesse’s Happy Machine and the conversion therapy seems to work.
The Flash, though, is a modern Mercury, a god of speed, and like the Greek deity is a bit of a trickster himself. He sounds like the Ugly Sisters in Into the Woods, but it’s a feint – he used his ability to vibrate at super speed to bypass the mind control.
Soon, he’s fighting back, with the aid of future cop Commander Cold.
Then the Trickster shows our hero just how big a problem he’s facing.
That is one wonderful panel from illustrator Scott Kolins and colourist Luis Guererro. The level of detail is hugely impressive, and I love the silliness among the chaos, with participants including a chef in his whites and a parasol-brandishing circus performer. And what, I wonder, can a wheelchair from Star Labs do? Probably blow up a small city. The cute touches may come from the sharp mind of Kolins but could equally have been suggested by writer Josh Williamson; whatever the case, Kolins and Guerrero do a splendid job of conjuring a special kind of urban madness. And at Iron Heights, there’s a real sense of carnival as the Trickster’s sound and light show explodes through the prison that’s become his lair, his fellow rogues either henchmen or prisoners.
Kolins just gets better with every passing year, while semi-regular colourist Guerrero, a newcomer by comparison, is proving a more than capable partner. A small detail that works well is the lack of black panel borders, while the sound effects on the art are pretty delightful.
I think said onomatopoeia is down to Kolins, though it could be the work of seriously skilled letterer Steve Wands, who lays down Williamson’s script with his typical talent.
As for Williamson, I’ve really liked the last couple of fortnightly instalments; my enjoyment of recent issues has been slightly lessened by them being so tied to the tedious new ‘forces’ released into the DC Universe by the Justice League. The Speed Force is long established but sudden sister forces Sage, Strength and Still are so nebulous as to be not so much thrilling new ingredients as horrendous hobblers. I’ve got to the point of sticking my fingers in my ears whenever they come up and thinking ‘mmm, stuff’. I’m just enjoying the struggle between the Flash and the Trickster, who’s back to being a bad guy for reasons that make no sense to me. I like this issue despite the fact Barry is being played as less competent than he is traditionally – the ‘can anticipate a thousand outcomes to any situation’ Flash of the early New 52 is long gone. This issue, especially, he takes a back seat to Commander Cold in the smarts and competence department, but I fully expect Barry to save the day come the conclusion… well, once he gets past the cliffhanger… I’m stumped as to how our hero will proceed.
Meanwhile, we have here a very readable comic, full of colourful characters and gorgeous visuals, one I can heartily recommend to lovers of solidly stylist superhero sagas.