Tuesday, September 13, 2016

So Many Threads Mar The Flash: Gorilla Warfare!

The Good: Moments of character, Plot moves along, Some interesting panels and concepts
The Bad: Very erratic quality of the artwork, Very fractured plot flow.
The Basics: The Flash: Gorilla Warfare moves along the story of The Flash, but does so in a way that is not very compelling and requires a lot of prior knowledge to understand or care.

It was only yesterday, when my wife and I sat down and watched Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox that I realized that it has been a terrifically long time since I last read a The Flash graphic novel. For sure, we watch The Flash (season two is reviewed here!), but since my Flash Year, I've been pretty negligent on keeping up with the books. I decided it was time to rectify that situation and I decided to leap right back in where I left off with The New 52 graphic novel The Flash: Gorilla Warfare!

The Flash: Gorilla Warfare begins in the midst of a much longer arc, as evidenced by the fact that The Flash is not present in the first few pages of the book. Instead, Patty Spivot opens The Flash: Gorilla Warfare with a new character who claims to have knowledge of where Barry Allen is and that he is still alive. For those who have not read The Flash, Volume 2: Rogues Revolution (reviewed here!), picking up The Flash: Gorilla Warfare and leaping right in puts the reader at an immediate disadvantage. Given how many threads The Flash: Gorilla Warfare picks up on to weave its story, it is hard for a new reader to pick up this volume and not stay lost.

Patty Spivot brings Mr. Turbine to the Central City Police station because Turbine claims to have information that proves Barry Allen is alive and how to find him. Unfortunately, before he can reveal his information, Central City is attacked by Gorillas. On the streets, The Flash has been thwarted by the Rogues, but the sudden appearance of King Grodd and his super-powered gorillas forces the Rogues and The Flash to team up. The Flash is surprised given that the gorillas seem to be tapped into the Speed Force and able to fight him faster than ever before. Grodd wants The Flash's Speed Force and is convinced that possessing it is his birthright and so begins an epic fight to bring The Flash down and feed upon his brain.

While Dr. Elias is brought to the hospital, Iris's paroled brother searches the besieged Central City for Iris. The Gorilla Elder sets up on a football field and creates a psychic barrier that makes it appear to the outside world that Central City has been obliterated and is now a radioactive crater. To keep up the mental energy, the Elder needs more brains to siphon psychic energy from, so the Gorilla army begins rounding up humans for him to use. While Spivot and Turbine track down Solovar (Grodd's political enemy) in the Central City wildlife preserve, inside the Speed Force, Iris and her fellow refugees find themselves on the run from a Woolly Mammoth. Patty and Solovar rescue the near-death Flash, which leads Patty to the revelation that Barry Allen is the Flash. As The Flash fights for life, his mind melds with the Speed Force and he sees different potentials to solve the siege. Awakening, The Flash runs to Dr. Elias' Laboratory to sacrifice himself in order to thwart King Grodd, in the process rescuing Iris and the others from the Speed Force.

The Flash: Gorilla Warfare concludes with exploring the ramifications of the actual war, with The Flash working to rebuild Central City and his relationship with Patty Spivot. While on police suspension, Barry Allen works at a bar, where he encounters Axel Walker (The Trickster) who is recovering from his gorilla-inflicted wounds. Allen discovers that Keystone City is now the home to copycats who believe they can use the Speed Force, like Sprint and Turbo Charger. Taking down the Trickster is minor work, but leads Barry Allen to explore the idea that others who were stuck in the Speed Force may have come out with powers of their own. When the Outlanders claim Trickster and storm Iron Heights to rescue him, a suddenly powerless Barry Allen is caught in the middle!

The Flash: Gorilla Warfare is very much a final act for one story, even as it seeds the next major arc for The Flash. The graphic novel picks up with so many threads of unresolved plot issues - like the group lost in the Speed Force and The Flash being downed by the Rogues - that the reader who picks up The Flash: Gorilla Warfare is starting from a disadvantageous position. The book continues to become more and more complicated as it includes motivations for Barry Allen, Grodd, Patty Spivot and Turbine, The Rogues, and plot events featuring Iris West and the return of her brother rather abruptly for no clear (in volume) purpose.

While I like varied narrative techniques, the time jumps between "Now" on the street with The Flash and "Twenty Minutes Ago" at the police station with Patty are just distracting and kill the story's momentum in The Flash: Gorilla Warfare. The Flash: Gorilla Warfare poorly integrates the various storylines and characters, especially the appearance of Daniel West and his weird tie-in to the relationship between Barry and Iris from five years prior. Writer Frances Manapul does a fair job of moving the plot of The Flash: Gorilla Warfare along, without getting the reader to actually care about the characters involved.

On the plus side, The Flash: Gorilla Warfare features a good character analysis of Grodd by Barry. The idea of the Speed Force as a drug that could make the psychic gorilla a power trip of superhuman proportions is interesting. Similarly, Manapul manages to make the Trickster momentarily interesting by having Axel unwilling to leave Iron Heights when he is captured without his toys. The implicit sense of compulsion for the Trickster makes his character into something other than a joke.

Unfortunately, that's the bulk of the character depth in The Flash: Gorilla Warfare. Barry Allen does not significantly grow or develop in the volume; he employs new techniques suggested to him by others. The idea of the Speed Mind is actually pretty awesome and it is the best-rendered concept in The Flash: Gorilla Warfare.

The artwork in The Flash: Gorilla Warfare is not consistent. Even the coloring is faded and sketchy on some pages when it is vibrant on others. The characters range from immaculate studies with incredible detail to artwork which is little more than rough sketches of the characters depicted.

The result is a very average collection of comic books that feels far less satisfying than an act resolving many of the prior seeded events ought to. The Flash: Gorilla Warfare is too tough a sell to recommend.

For other The Flash volumes, please visit my reviews of:
The Flash, Volume 1: Move Along
The Flash: Season Zero


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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