By: Sean Ryan (writer), Ig Guara (penciller), Ruy José (inker), Stefani Rennee (colorist)
The Story: When it comes to conquest, these gorillas don’t monkey around.
The Review: Violence, of course, has its place in fiction. It’s an undeniable part of reality, and stories have to reflect that in some way. But just like with anything else you write in fiction, it has to be put to some purpose, though when excessive it quickly loses its shock factor and gets simply nauseating. This is especially the case in comics, where too often writers use violence to inject the energy or drama their stories lack.
This seems the case here, as Ryan keeps Grodd’s purposes hopelessly simplistic. You can sort of appreciate Aquaman sinking half of Europe as a (presumably) unexpected casualty of a volatile weapon of war. Grodd slaughters half of Africa for apparently no reason other than for attention. He seems his most melancholy in the first page, when he laments no one knows his name despite his feats of massacre, and he later emphasizes his sole desire: “I want violence.”
Consequently Grodd comes off rather one-note throughout the whole issue, a wasted opportunity on Ryan’s part to develop the gorilla’s character. Despite Grodd’s fame as one of the DCU’s most notorious (and weirdest) villains, you still have no idea what makes him tick. His conquest for power and his hatred of humans are constants, but the former quality is one shared by almost every comic-book mastermind and the latter is too superficial to set him apart from the pack.
Ryan plays around with the idea that Grodd’s warlust actually stems from a self-destructive tendency, but instead of investigating this point more deeply, he simply substitutes with a scene of pointless bloodshed. Every fight he has is not only ridiculously graphic (often involving decapitation of some kind), they bear no weight or direction to the plot whatsoever. You’d think with a fairly wordy intro for Congorilla, he’d pose at least some kind of challenge to Grodd, but he goes down, much like everyone else, like a wet sack hit by a truck.
But the most despicable scene of all comes during Grodd’s telepathic coercion of an African child-soldier to shoot, point-blank, his fellow child-soldiers. It certainly succeeds in making Grodd out as a disgusting monster, but the flippant treatment of the scene (two pages) also demeans the truly horrific realities of soldier children actually in combat in Africa at this very moment. If you want to include that kind of thing in your story, you better give it the respect it deserves, and Ryan does not do this.
Guara’s cartoony art is completely incapable of delivering the dramatic weight needed to make you even consider taking this story seriously. There’s a very rounded, almost chunky quality to his lines that make his figures look a little innocent, even cute—which is totally inappropriate for the graphic nature of this issue.
Conclusion: A pointless exercise in gratuitous violence that does nothing to enlighten us about Grodd’s character or the Flashpoint world. Yet another debut that lands this series instantly in the Dropped List—no amount of inspiration in the next two issues can make up for this one.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I think all Secret Six fans will share my outrage at how lamely Catman goes down in this issue. A guy who got eaten by a river monster and came out with claws still swinging doesn’t get fall to a telepathic gorilla that easily, my friend.