Sunday, March 10, 2013
The Flash #9
Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato
Letters Wes Abbott
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham
I said it last time, but I'll say it again: I really enjoy this trend of having a new villain on each cover. It's just pure, unadulterated fun. Especially when Manapul and Buccellato are doing the art.
And once again, the black-and-white is just as beautiful as the colored version. For some reason, I didn't notice that Grodd's sword was shaped like a lightning bolt until I saw the black-and-white. Just one of many neat details Manapul puts in his work.
The variant cover is by Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea with Tomeu Morey. Flash looks pretty cool here, but the action doesn't really fit with the story. It looks like while Flash is trying to "Escape from Gorilla City!", he's being chased by the gorillas who are throwing a bunch of spears at him. But nothing like that happens in the book. Plus, Daniel couldn't bother himself to draw even one gorilla. It's a proven fact: comics sell better when they have gorillas on the cover. Don't just write the word gorilla — draw one!
Our story begins in the past, when Barry was a boy on a safari experience with his mom. The trip became rather traumatic for young Barry when a rampaging gorilla knocked over the tour bus, attacked and began to eat a gazelle, then turned its attention to Barry. While this is happening, Barry's mom talks about fear being a good thing because it ignites the fight or flight response. But sometimes fear can paralyze you.
Back to the present, Turbine has slipped out of Flash's grip while in the wormhole, and the Flash alone falls out of it into Gorilla City, where Grodd is eating his father's brain.
Grodd says that taking his father's knowledge and memories isn't enough — he wants more. He turns around to see the Flash, who is very surprised to see the gorillas can talk. General Silverback wonders if Flash is the Messenger, but Grodd says he isn't because he can smell his fear. Instead, Grodd labels Flash as dessert. Flash tries to run away, but Grodd easily catches him. Luckily, the elders intercede, saying the Flash is indeed the Messenger because of the symbol on his chest. As Grodd holds Flash's head, he admits he can feel the power of the Light surging through the human. He asks Flash what his message is, but Flash's mind is blank — he can't even remember his own name.
Inside the Speed Force, Iris is fiddling with the Flash's earpiece, but is unable to do anything with it. The group of four introduce themselves to each other. There's Albert, the engineering major, Gomez the football player, and Marissa the fashion model. They all feel like they've been in the Speed Force for days, but none of them are hungry. Albert wonders if they're dead and don't know it like in that old TV show where they all got lost. Iris asks, "You mean 'Lost'?" Albert: "I don't know. I don't watch much TV—" But then he's interrupted by an ominous growling sound.
At the Central City Police Station, Hartely Rathaway is paying a personal visit to David Singh, who is not happy with him. Singh yells at Hartley for wanting to go out and play hero while the city is already holding public demonstrations denouncing one vigilante. Hartley says he wants to go back because of the demonstrations. With the Flash missing, the city needs the Pied Piper. But Singh says the city doesn't need another vigilante, and he doesn't need Hartley showing up where people can see them. Hartley realizes that Singh isn't so mad about the Pied Piper as he is worried that people will start talking. He says, "If you can't accept our relationship, how will anyone else?" They're briefly interrupted by Patty asking to take a leave of absence. Once she's gone, Hartley says, "Fine David ... keep your secrets ... but hiding everything isn't the answer."
In the Virunga Mountains of East Africa, the elder gorillas are discussing whether they should do away with the mental projections that mask their city, since it seems like Grodd will reveal their existence to the world soon. They also feel the Flash's arrival signals the end of their time, which explains why their connection to the Light has been fading and the new generation is more savage and devolved. They realize they need to save the Flash so he can fulfill his destiny of saving the world, but doing so would destroy their civilization. They agree to make that sacrifice and release Flash before Grodd destroys him and brings ruin to the world. Unknown to the elders, one of Grodd's soldiers had been spying on them the whole time.
Outside, the Flash is chained to a pillar and guarded by two gorillas. The guards explain to him the pillar is the lightning rod, the beacon that connects them to the Light, and they're surprised that Flash doesn't already know this. Two elders then sneak up from behind, knock out the guards, and lead the Flash into an underground cave. They show him ancient paintings that illustrate the history of the Light. They explain that their forefathers were hit by lightning, which sped up their minds, allowing them to see the past, present, and future. But with each passing generation, their connection to the Light has faded. They built their city as a giant lightning rod in an effort to reconnect with the Light, but now they realize they are not what was intended. Over time, the Light has reached out and touched others in an effort to find one being worthy of its power. The elder points out paintings of the Mayan civilization being destroyed, the gorilla civilization being created, Turbine being sucked into the Speed Force, and Barry Allen turning into the Flash. The elder tells Flash he is the Runner. The Light moves the world forward, and with every stride he takes, he keeps the world safe. His destiny is to run for us all.
Flash is amazed by this information, but asks why he doesn't remember any of it. He's answered by Grodd, who springs out from the shadows, shouting, "Because it's all lies!" He quickly kills one elder and pins the Flash against a wall, while his soldier kills the other elder. Grodd says he will not let his apes die like the Mayans — he will devour the Flash's brain to claim his powers of the Lights and use those powers to save his apes and lead his empire out of the shadows and conquer the world. He says he can smell Flash's fear, and it is delicious.
While Grodd is talking, Flash remembers the rampaging gorilla from his safari. After killing the gazelle, the gorilla ripped open the bus. Barry's mom threw a camera in its face and a ranger shot it with a tranquilizer dart. Barry's mom then told him that being afraid is not only normal, but necessary because there is no courage without fear. It's okay to be afraid, so long as you don't let it stop you. Barry then remembers who he is. He is the Flash. And he's the fastest man alive.
Flash escaped from Grodd as he lunged in for the killing blow. Undeterred, Grodd tells Flash he can't outrun fear. But Flash says he's running towards it. The only way to conquer fear is to look it in the eye and face it. As they fight, Grodd tries to hit the Flash a couple of times, but misses and takes out pillars supporting the cave. Flash and the gorilla soldier try to warn him to stop, but he doesn't listen, and eventually causes the whole place to collapse.
Later, Grodd remains buried under the rubble, but they believe he's still alive. An elder takes advantage of the king being unconscious to address the citizens of Gorilla City. He says although they've always followed the king in the past, now is the time for them to forge their own path and control their own destiny. He tells them that Grodd's plan will only bring destruction to the world and they need to let the Flash go to save the world. The apes, though, still seem worried about betraying Grodd.
We then cut to South America Air, flight 661. Nonstop from Central City to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Patty is on board, following up on the cold case she opened before the Captain Cold attack. She's still surprised Singh let her leave, but she thinks he may have allowed it so she won't end up in one of those crazy demonstrations. In any case, she is happy to not only attempt to right a wrong, but to just get away to catch her breath.
On a balcony in Guatemala, Marco Mardon and a woman are watching their crops be watered by a rainstorm. The woman says that Marco's late brother, Claudio, would be so proud. She boasts that every cartel from here to the United States will fall beneath the heel of the Mardon Family, for even the weather will bend at their command ...
Back in Central City, Barry Allen is happy to be home after being gone for a couple of months. He's glad to see Elias has put the energy cells to good use in restoring the city's power, and he wonders how he'll tell everyone he's back. He then runs into an anti-Flash demonstration, complete with a burning Flash billboard. Leading the protest is none other than Barry's once-trusted ally, Dr. Darwin Elias.
The art. So much fun stuff here. The gorillas, and Grodd especially, looked great. The cave paintings were cool, and we had nice flashbacks and scenes in the Speed Force to break things up. The really cool thing here, was the flashbacks are distinctly different from the Speed Force images, so there's no potential for confusion.
The story. This is the first time I've noticed Manapul and Buccellato give an issue a central theme. In Issue #1 and throughout the Mob Rule arc, they toyed with the "Move Forward" concept, but it didn't really stick. In this issue, the theme was fear, and it was prevalent in every part of the story. There was Flash's fear of gorillas, the elders' fear of the world being destroyed, Grodd's fear of losing his empire, Iris' fear of the unknown, and Singh's fear of his relationship being discovered. If you really want to get deep, you could argue that Elias and Patty are motivated by fear right now. I don't think that every issue needs a theme, but when one has one, and it works, then it's real nice.
Hartley's and Singh's relationship. A weaker storyteller would have been too heavy-handed with this and would have made it either preachy or offensive. But Manapul and Buccellato handled this side story with perfect tact and class. But most importantly to me was the added depth to these minor characters. I couldn't care less if they were or weren't gay. But I love to see them struggling through this real-life, personal problem that not only humanizes the characters but adds incredible richness to the story.
A third explanation for Flash's powers. We've had the scientist's view, then the first-hand experience, and now a more mystical, almost religious account that was passed from generation to generation. They all said very different things, but at the root of the matter, I think they are all correct to a certain degree. This is a really fun way to explain a superhero's powers. Instead of having one person give us all the facts, we're exposed to several different perspectives and then can decide for ourselves what we want to be true. Was Barry Allen preordained from a higher power to be the Flash, or did he acquire his powers completely through the lightning/chemical bath, or did he always have those powers in him that just needed to be triggered? The answer is yes. Depending on your perspective, that is your reality. Another example of this is Grodd's desire to eat Flash's brain. Did he really get his father's knowledge from eating his brain, or does he just believe that? Ultimately, it doesn't really matter because he's still going to try to eat the Flash's brain either way. Same with the Flash's power. It doesn't matter how it works or where it came from. He's the fastest man in the world and he's going to save everybody he can. It's that simple.
Good cliffhanger. Sweet little Patty Spivot is all on her own now, headed to Guatemala, where the Weather Wizard reigns (or rains) supreme! Plus, Barry not only has to revive himself from the dead, but now his one ally in Central City has turned against him and is convincing everyone else to do the same. I really didn't see this coming, but I really like it. It raises the intensity, the drama, and it adds more to the character of Elias. He now reminds me of Professor Emil Hamilton from Superman: The Animated Series (I never read the comics, so I don't know what he did there). I also find it ironically fitting that the Flash, who is so concerned with his public image, would have so much trouble maintaining it.
If I didn't already know what happened, I would say this Flash-Grodd fight was criminally short. But I do know we'll see Grodd again and I do know it'll be awesome, so I'm not going to penalize this issue for that. So, it looks like we've stumbled into another perfect issue!
Final score: 10 out of 10
Next time: It's going to take Barry a little while to figure out how to resume his life in Central City, so in the meantime, I think he can go on a quick adventure with Superman and the Justice League in Action Comics.