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The Flash #194 By Matt Martin
DC Comics – Geoff Johns (w); Scott Kolins (p); Doug Hazelwood (i)
Geoff Johns, quite simply, has a gift for Silver Age heroes. His work on JSA has surpassed that of his predecessor, the talented James Robinson, in my opinion. And that, in and of itself, is an impressive feat. But his work on The Flash is nothing short of outstanding, since month after month, he cranks out enjoyable, action-oriented superhero stories that manage to not insult one’s intelligence. If Mark Millar represents the best in the “modern” style of comic book action, Geoff Johns is the torchbearer for the old school and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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If I had to say that Johns had one talent that was more impressive than all others, I would say it’s his gift to take Silver Age villains, noted both far and wide for their less-than-sinister gimmicks and motivations, and make them cool again. He did it with The Trickster, for God’s sake. I have no doubt in my mind that he could make just about any hackneyed ‘50s/’60s villain into a believable threat.
Case in point: this issue Flash pursues Gorilla Grodd, whose rampage through Keystone City left much of the metropolis in rubble and one of Flash’s friends physically broken. Making his way south to Gorilla City, Wally confronts the simian society’s new leader about Grodd’s status before the inevitable fisticuffs with Grodd himself ensue. Now, I hate to sound like Don Cheadle on those NFL playoffs commercials, but Gorilla Grodd is a talking monkey. So, seriously, it’s kind of hard to take him seriously. But not Geoff Johns. He took a talking, psychic monkey and made him…a talking, psychic monkey.
I used to say that damned near anything could be improved, at least for comedic value, by throwing monkeys into the mix. After Johns opened this arc with gorillas parachuting into an insane asylum to spring their homicidal leader, a scene that was simultaneously hilarious and disturbing, I’m not sure that I’m able to use that line anymore.
In any case, this is the standard by which all Silver Age relaunches should be judged. I use the term Silver Age in reference to this book, incidentally, because the tone of it so clearly echoes that of the early Barry Allen Flash stories. There’s a sense of wonder and excitement, even when old, previously worn-out villains make an appearance, because you know that Johns’ take on them is going to be both fresh and respectful of what’s come before. He’s a very solid, go-to guy for any sort of superhero project and this book is no exception. In fact, it’s his most consistent work.
Incidentally, that Scott Kolins guy is no slouch himself. Page after page, month after month, he proves that quality and adherence to a schedule are not mutually exclusive. If I were launching a superhero book for DC, Scott Kolins would be the first guy I’d ask for to work with me, for that exact reason. His style is smooth and clean, with the sense of movement necessary to a book about a guy who runs fast, but not by sacrificing detail.