Sunday, May 19, 2024

JLApe: Gorilla Warfare (1999)

In Legends of the DC Universe #19 (August, 1999,) the arrogant and generally disagreeable "Gordon Matthews" infiltrated Manchester Junior High School in Alabama to act as a rival to Bart Allen. Meanwhile, Max Mercury investigated the theft of four gorillas from the Manchester Monkey Business School, which trains simians for show business. Max discovered three of the apes raising an international ruckus while wearing helmets that siphoned from the Speed Force. The fourth gorilla was in the custody of "Gordon Matthews," who revealed himself to Impulse as Gorbul Mammit, the son of Gorilla Grodd, looking to continue his legacy feud with the Flash Family. Having kidnapped Bart's young friend Carol Bucklen, he intended to transfer her mind into the "seductive body" of the fourth gorilla, to make her intelligent enough to serve as his bride, but Impulse foiled the scheme. Grodd was amused, but felt that the boy was thinking too small. A cute story by Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt, Pop Mhan, & Romeo Tanghal.

Elsewhere, relations between Gorilla City and the human world heated up and cooled down inside a week, with the assassination of Solovar and the rise of the Simian Scartlet that launched hostilities against the United Nations in JLA Annual #3. Then gorilla agents assailed Bludhaven and Atlantis in Batman Annual #23 & Aquaman Annual #5. As explained by Martian Manhunter in his second annual, "Led by simian sorceress Abu-Gita, apes invade the island nation of Themyscira." [Wonder Woman Annual #8]

"In Central City, the Flash, Max Mercury, and Impulse are enslaved by the long-time outlaw called Gorilla Grodd-- to charge his Speed Force reactor, providing the morphic resonator array with a power source to substitute for The Eye of Poseidon." J'Onn isn't usually a sexist, but he missed listing Jesse Quick. Walter West, an older version of Wally from a darker timeline, had lost his battle for self-control after being turned into "Flashorilla." Despite having four super-speedsters on the scene, none were fast enough to avoid getting turned into gorillas themselves. They were then put on treadmills to power another attempt to further spread the ape-conversion process. "Chimpulse" actually started to figure out that he'd been duped into Grodd's service, but then got distracted by unlimited access to bananas. More typically, Chimpulse got distracted from the distraction, and needing stimulus beyond running in place, returned to philosophy. His questioning of Grodd's plan played poorly with the pleebs, but won over the speed-apes. Further, while evading capture, Impulse vibrated through a wall and reverted to human. It was deduced that the Speed Force assists in reforming speedsters under this type of circumstance, and reset their matrix to its default. The speedsters then dismantled Grodd's apparatus, but the super-gorilla himself evaded capture. "The Apes of Wrath" was by by Brian Augustyn, Doug Braithwaite, and Robin Riggs. The Flash Annual #2 (October, 1999) was a cute story that the artists did their best to play for laughs, but their basic style is still too seriously inclined for the material. It just creates a Roger Rabbit effect of mashing cartoons against real world humans that don't quite match up.

Martian Manhunter continued, "In Washington, the smuggled components of the gorilla-built war machine dubbed 'Grogamesh' are assembled. Piloted by Ulgo, Grogamesh kidnaps Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, and is defeated by Superman." Despite being played for villainy in early episodes, Ulgo had a legitimate urge to avenge his slain uncle, which was exploited by Abu-Gita, who concealed the more sordid aspects of her magical incantations. In Metropolis, the Monk of Steel was failing to control his feral inclinations, but was swayed by encountering his wife. Her first suggestion to find the scientist Emil Hamilton didn't pan out, as he had gone full ape, so Supermonkey decided to "kill or cure" by flying near to the sun. There was a fake-out when he appeared to grow to Titano proportions, but he had in fact reverted to Kryptonian, and the giant was the fur-covered Grogamesh. In battle, that was burned away, revealing the metal bohemoth beneath the facade. In fact, those pelts were key to resolving said battle, as they were made from the skins of a thousand sacrificed apes, as part of Abu-Gita's plot to more literally invoke the heroic legend of Grogamesh. As a modern moderate, Ulgo was disgusted by this betrayal of his principles, and began to understand that he had been misled. Oh, and Young Justice turned up too late with a giant exploding banana, just in case. Against the odds, Superman Annual #11 (October, 1999) managed to immediately recycle the pun title "The Apes of Wrath," this time by Abnett & Lanning, and Joe Phillips with Faber & Stull. Phillips already trends toward a cartoonish art style, so here he simply had to lean into it. It helps land a few good bits, like a variation on the "it's a plane" dialogue, exclusively in grunts.

The Gorilla incarnation of Kyle Rayner was unable to restore himself to humanity on his own, so he was assisted by J'Onn J'Onzz in Green Lantern Annual #8 (October, 1999). "Thanks to my rather duplicitous efforts, Green Lantern was restored to normal, as has been the rest of the JLA." In fact, the entire episode of Gorilla Warfare was then resolved in Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (October, 1999)...

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