When it comes to Flash villains, one towers above the rest. Gorilla Grodd. I haven’t read any of the New 52 Flash comics since the first trade, but when I saw Grodd on the cover of this volume, I figured I better check it out.
And, you know. It is fine. As I’ve said many times in previous reviews, I just don’t find Barry Allen to be that compelling a character. When I read him as the Flash, I’m much more interested in the costume than in anything else. Taking away his relationship with Iris sort of distracts me even further. Patty Spivot doesn’t have the same attitude and spark that motivates me to read about her.
I’m also not a huge fan of the way Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul handle the rogues. They are clearly going for some of the old Mark Waid/Geoff Johns feelings, but it just doesn’t work yet. Those older Flash stories established that the rogues were bad guys but they would do the right thing when they had to, and that they exhibited their own sense of honor. The rogues (led by Golden Glider?) do help out Keystone City against Grodd’s gorilla army, but I never quite understood exactly why they were doing it. And the new 52 costumes don’t help. Captain Cold is close enough to what he should be, but the new Heatwave looks boring.
Grodd is pretty horrific. His scenes boast some of the nicest art in the collection. The physical, brutal combat between him and Barry look fantastic. I’m not keen on the idea that Grodd is powered by the Speed Force (especially that he boosts that power by biting yellow energy capsules?). Grodd is enough of a threat on his own that adding in super-speed is a bit distracting. I prefer to leave the speed force stories to the villains that need it!
The second half of the collection has Barry helping the Trickster deal with an unfounded murder rap. I enjoyed this arc a bit more, because it helped flesh out the current supporting cast. I have absolutely no idea who those folks trapped in the speed force are, but Buccellato and Manapul do a nice job making the newly powered bozos interesting enough that I’d like to see more. I’d also kill for some caption boxes or some sort of recap. I’m not sure that the supporting cast’s identity is clearly established very often in these issues.
The art is the high point of this title. Manapul’s skill at graphic design makes for striking and innovative page layouts. He uses panel composition, sound effects, and a sense of motion to make the pages pop at crucial parts in the story. This was the greatest strength of Manapul’s run with Geoff Johns too.
So there is some potential here, but my lack of interest in Barry Allen combined with the new 52 continuity keeps this as an AVERAGE book with EXCELLENT art.