"The Flash" #9 has something going for it that most other comics on the racks this week don't: gorillas. This issue has the post-relaunch introduction of Grodd and Gorilla City with none of the Silver Age whimsy from the original's debut.
Alone and amnesiac in the midst of talking gorillas, the Flash is fighting to remember who he is while the gorillas fight one another to determine what to do with him. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato fill this story with secrets from the gorillas' past, connections to the Speed Force and plenty of fighting between Grodd and Flash. The main confrontation between Flash and Grodd is mirrored by a flashback sequence featuring a gorilla taking down a Thomson's gazelle as seen through the eyes of young Barry Allen.
Amazingly, and by issue #9, this really shouldn't surprise me, the artistically inclined duo writes a very enjoyable story. Granted, Flash having issues with his memory is a pretty big cypher for most of the issue, but the story around Flash -- the gorillas fear of the prophecy and Grodd's alleged misunderstanding of it -- is compelling and makes for an entertaining read. Buccellato and Manapul also provide just enough of a peek into the lives of Flash's supporting cast in the form of single-page vignettes to keep those characters moving and developing.
The vignette pages balance the intense action out nicely. Those quieter moments are more thoughtfully paced and composed in contrast to the Gorilla City tale that is all wild angles and rapid action. Two double-paged spreads deliver the cave painting prophecies and a full dose of Grodd's rage, which leads to some revelations on Flash's part and three more single pages of unbridled battle between Grodd and Flash. The art is stunning, jaw-dropping and beautiful. The fact that Manapul can confidently draw gorillas, let alone make them look like gorillas and imbue them with personality is cause for purchase in itself.
In the end, Manapul and Buccellato concoct a great story that introduces new readers to the Flash and Flash readers to the new Gorilla City. Personally, I'm trade-waiting this series moreso than not, but I could not bypass this issue. The cover and the gorillas got me in. The story and the art made me happy. I'm not the world's biggest Barry Allen fan, but Buccellato and Manapul have made me a pretty big fan of "The Flash."