Thursday, July 01, 2010

JLApe part one, JLA Annual #3, "Gorilla Warfare"!

JLA Annual #3, "Gorilla Warfare" opens with Solovar, longtime good leader of Gorilla City, ending the super-intelligent apes policy of isolation, so they can join the United Nations and work on solutions for the problems facing man and ape alike. And Solovar gets assassinated inside of two weeks, killed by a car bomb--shortly after name-dropping 'actress' Silver St. Cloud, who was never an actress in her appearances in Detective Comics. It's not a good start, bringing up a character from a classic story, but badly...

Thankfully, on the next page, Lois Lane, and Chase and Sarge Steel, are all dealing with the fallout of Solovar's death. In Gorilla City, as anti-human sentiment rises, Solovar's nephew Ulgo takes the reins of power; but he's the puppet of sinister apes Abu-Gita the sorceress, Admiral Trafalgo the naval captain, Grimm the crime boss, and General Zolog. All of whom are obviously the puppets of longtime DC baddie Gorilla Grodd, because duh. (It's not intended to be a surprise, and we saw him in the prologue last week!)

The next phase in Grodd's plan? Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Flash are invited to Gorilla City, as intermediaries for peace. (The Flash at the time, may or may not have been Wally: in a red and silver costume, his identity was at the time unknown, even though Superman vouched for him.) They are attacked almost immediately upon arriving, but it's a distraction, so the apes can use their...gorilla gas! Whatever it is, it turns the heroes, and the Martian Manhunter (who had been there invisibly, as backup) into apes and turns them to the apes' side! J'onn stays himself, though, and telepathically is able to restore the others' minds...for now.

Still apes, they return to the JLA Watchtower, where new GL Kyle is momentarily convinced that they're messing with him.

Batman and J'onn study a captured 'gorillabomb,' and Bats realizes the circuitry and gas don't really do anything: they're a figurative smokescreen, and the bomb works with a crystal that affects the earth's morphogenetic field. Sound familiar?

Animal Man! This might be Buddy's first post-Vertigo appearance...maybe. I have nothing to back that up. Buddy is also apparently tripping out something fierce, when J'onn shows up as a big green monkey, which doesn't help.

The apes' alterations and tampering with the morphogenetic field has been affecting Buddy's mind, and writer Len Kaminski seems to take this as an opportunity to try and write off some of the more...abstract Animal Man stories. (Or, to take the piss out of Grant Morrison's work on the character, and all of the Vertigo run? That may not be intentional, but that's the impression.)

Meanwhile, back at the Watchtower, the ape Leaguers are staging courting rituals, the dominant male fighting for Wonder Woman. "Best not to dwell on it," says Batman, who doesn't break eye contact with a super-mad Superape. (That would've been seen as weakness, and Supes would've torn him apart.)

The situation worsens, when Ulgo goes to speak in front of the United Nations general assembly, and promptly declares war on humanity. But Ulgo plans a war without bloodshed, since they'll be using the gorilla-gas to turn humans into apes. The UN, and Green Lantern are gassed, and mayhem ensues. J'onn and Bats have figured out how to reverse the effect (and Batman has managed to avoid being changed) but they can only change a certain amount, and the JLA themselves would put them over the weight limit. By 2.37 tons, which I guess might be their gorilla weight.

Fittingly, the two-page spread there, is interrupted by a fold-out ad, for Playstation game Ape Escape. That ad would show up a few more times in the crossover, but I couldn't tell you if it was intentional...I'd say no.

The UN restored to humanity, the apes and Ulgo are still free, since they had "diplomatic immunity." Which I'm pretty sure doesn't work like that, but whatever. J'onn had performed a quick mind-scan, though; and had the apes' other targets: Themyscira, Atlantis, Central City, Bludhaven, Metropolis, and low earth orbit. The team splits up to investigate, but Batman stays behind to ask J'onn what he was holding back from the others. J'onn's worried that the others could revert to gorilla mind-set at any time, particularly Kyle, who was just turned. He also turns invisible and ditches Bats, not unlike the way Batman is constantly disappearing around Commissioner Gordon.

This is nowhere near in the league (boo!) of Grant Morrison's JLA, which I want to say was just about done when JLApe came out. From GCD: JLA Annual #3 was published September 1999; that same month was a Mark Waid issue. Morrison's last storyline, World War III was a couple of months out.

That said, it's not a terrible start, here: for every touch of the DC universe that doesn't quite fit, there's another that does. And I thought the art was pretty solid throughout: not mindblowing, but straightforward and pretty clear storytelling. The ape jokes don't do a lot for me, though. When he's turned into a gorilla, Kyle seemingly turns directly to the camera and says "It's a madhouse...a madhouse!" That feels like a reference I should get, but nothing. And of course, I only paid a buck an issue for these...

Scans today from JLA Annual #3, written by Len Kaminski, pencils by Jason Orfalas, inks by Jordi Ensign. Next week: Batman Annual #23!


Susan said...

RE Kyle yelling "It's a madhouse...a madhouse!": That's from the original "Planet of the Apes", specifically when Charlton Heston's gorilla jailers turn the hose on him. It's fun to crank the volume when that scene comes on and just let ol' Chuck howl.

googum said...

Thanks Susan! I rarely watch Planet of the Apes all the way through: usually, I'll catch bits of it here and there. Same with Heston's Omega Man, for some reason: took me years to watch that one all the way through.

Gorilla Hose said...

In Gorilla City, as anti-human sentiment rises, Solovar's nephew Ulgo ...