By: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (story and art)
The Story: For God’s sake, Barry, don’t do anything stupid like quote Planet of the Apes around here.
The Review: The Silver Age of comics might have superficially drawn upon an ever-growing understand of science to tell stories, but that did nothing to stem the tide of totally illogical and bizarre ideas and storylines upon which comics fed. The Flash (Barry Allen flavor), perhaps as a resulting byproduct of that era, thus comes attached with some seriously wacky history, probably epitomized by his completely random relationship with gorillas.
It’s always been hard to take DC’s gorilla villains seriously—and yes, I use the plural because DC actually has at least two reputable villains of simian persuasion. If you’ve watched Young Justice, you might know Monsieur Mallah, a hyper-intelligent gorilla who wears a beret, speaks French, and is a mutually reciprocated romance with an out-of-body brain. Gorilla Grodd thus seems plausible by comparison, a hyper-intelligent, telepathic ape who feeds on brains to increase his mental power, but he’s still just too goofy to be considered a legitimate threat.
Manapul-Buccellato don’t seem all that concerned Grodd’s silliness, as they make little effort to give the villain much in the way of outstanding motivation or personality. After consuming his father’s brains as part of a kingship ritual, he growls primitively, “…it’s not enough. I am now king and I hunger…for more.” He may later rationalize his base desire for greater power, knowledge, and conquest to save his people, but we see no evidence of any compassionate or benevolent background. In the end, he is what he is: a bloodthirsty ape.
The most value we get out of this sojourn to Gorilla City is the discovery that the Speed Force, for all of its physical nature, has a spiritual component as well. The elder gorillas state that over time, the Force has “reached out and touched others in an effort to find the one being worthy of its power.” To what end, no one knows, not even the current recipient of that power—guess who. Though Manapul-Buccellato have stated they want to clarify what the Speed Force is, at the moment, we can’t tell if it’s meant to be a type of energy, a place, or a sentient entity.
More grounded and therefore easier to process are the secondary plotlines. Lest you forget, Iris West is still trapped in a pretty discouraging situation, though she and her fellow lost passengers fortunately don’t have to fear death by starvation or thirst. Dr. Elias has apparently foregone his good-natured geekiness in favor of a strident, rabble-rousing shrillness: “Nobody is above the law! …So I say hello to hard work and accountability…and good riddance to the Flash!”.
Most interestingly, Singh and Hartley have major issues to work through in their relationship. Over in Batwoman, the titular star and others treat her sexual orientation nonchalantly, almost as a matter of course. It makes a lot of sense that when the same set of circumstances applies to guys, feelings get a little more anxious. Singh’s association with Hartley may be a bit gimmicky, but it’s also humanized him, showing how his usual aggressiveness falls silent when he’s facing his own personal demons. Hopefully, this storyline will pan out without too much melodrama.
Manapul’s art grows a bit stronger every issue, and “stronger” seems particularly apt an adjective here because Barry actually looks tougher and more solid. Whereas he started out with rather slight of frame, he looks like he’s developed a bit more grit and backbone now, as if the difficult choices of past issues have built him up somewhat. Manapul still lacks a wide range of emotional variation, however; his simple, sketchy lines can only manage a certain number of frowns, glares, and pensive glances.
Conclusion: Still chugging along fine, and definitely keeping you interested with a nice handful of storylines running at the same time.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Easily my least favorite part of the issue is Barry’s awkward, out-of-context musings on fear (to Grodd: “The only way to conquer fear is to look it in the eye and face it.”), which made me flash back to the worst moments of the Green Lantern movie.