Comics are one of the best mediums to discover characters that come from a diverse background. There are plenty of ethnic superheroes to appreciate, just as there are compelling villains with complex motivations. A villain that deserves some spotlight is Cheshire. As a woman with Vietnamese heritage, Jade Nguyen grew up with nothing and transformed herself into one of the deadliest assassins in the DC Universe. An enemy of the Teen Titans, Cheshire’s murderous tendencies are contrasted with the love she has for her daughter Lian. Her complexity makes her more than a one-dimensional villain.
Having a killer instinct
Cheshire was born to a Vietnamese mother and American father, with her childhood being unhappy to say the least. She was sold into slavery from a young age, warping her outlook on the world. Jade eventually killed her master and was adopted by a Chinese freedom fighter called Weng Chan. Taking pity on the girl, Chan trained her in guerrilla fighting, teaching her how to defend herself. Cheshire continued to develop her skills, learning about toxins from an African assassin. She earned a reputation as a feared killer, which put her on several government watch lists.
The American government despatched Roy Harper to gain her confidence on an undercover mission. But the two of them fell in love, with Roy being unable to turn her in. After Roy left, Cheshire discovered she was pregnant. Deciding that she couldn’t put her daughter in danger, Jade left Lian with Roy.
Cheshire’s decision to leave her daughter with Roy says a lot about her mentality. Having been raised in a violent environment, Jade didn’t want her child to go through the same trauma. I think on some level she understood that Roy would make a better parent and that it would be safer for Lian to be raised by her father.
Cheshire continued her mercenary career, going on to save Deathstroke’s life so he could help her steal Russian nuclear weapons. She used the weapons as blackmail, even decimating the Middle Eastern nation of Qurac. Jade reasoned that because the country was a stronghold for Muslim terrorists that the West would be grateful.
Cheshire discovered that her father was a US senator called Robert Pullman and intended to kill him. Part of her motivation was based on Pullman raping her mother, then leaving her alone with a child. She also devised a plan to fake her death and take sole possession of Lian. This brought her into conflict with Lady Shiva, who she managed to defeat and intended to use her body in the plan to escape. The Birds of Prey were able to foil her murder attempt, though Cheshire was able to avoid custody.
Status as a mother
Cheshire’s complexity comes down to her identity as a mother. She’s shown her love for Lian on several occasions and became distraught upon discovering that Lian was killed during Justice League: Cry For Justice. Lian’s death brought her and Roy back together for a while. Losing a child is a powerful motivator, to the point that it causes parents to put aside their differences and mourn together.
Jade’s grief was so intense that she became obsessed with finding a way to bring Lian back. She and Roy joined Deathstroke’s Titans, with them finding out that Slade planned on building a device that could resurrect the dead. Deathstroke offered to let them use it, but Roy declined, saying that he’d stopped punishing himself for his daughter’s death and that she should rest in peace. An angry Cheshire told him she would never forgive him.
Jade’s need to be a parent manifested in a relationship with Catman. She had a son with him called Thomas, yet the boy was kidnapped. This was part of a plan carried out by a man whose family had been killed by Cheshire. When Catman found out the man had given Thomas away to a loving couple he told Jade their son was dead because he figured that Thomas was better off with the couple. Again, Cheshire demonstrated her rage at the loss of her son, showing that motherhood is a key aspect of the character. Cheshire has a lot of conflicting traits, making her a fascinating villain.