A Character Portrait of a Bored Monster
The opening page of Grodd of War, a character-centric one-shot tie-in to Flashpoint, seems to be making a socio-political statement. A bemused President Grodd sits upon a pile of carcasses, ruminating on how his conquest of Africa seems to be less impactful than the war that is ripping Western Europe apart. It is a rather startling commentary on how skewed the Western perspective of the political climate in the world is, and how our European and American perspective can easily overlook human right atrocities in the world's second biggest continent. Sadly, the rest of the book barely brushes against these ideas, instead turning into a rather bloody character portrait of a bored psychopath.
It is revealed early in this issue that Gorilla City, under the leadership of "President Grodd", have taken over the vast majority of Africa. But conquest has not made the telepathic ape happy; in fact, he seems to be gloomier and more upset than ever. He is a bloodthirsty Alexander, longing for more battle and bloodshed. He must resort to fighting his own men to find the pleasure of battle again, having defeated all the enemies put before him.
This depiction of Grodd being more interested in the actual battle than the spoils of war is not exactly novel, but Sean Ryan (who I recognize primarily as a script editor; I believe this is his first major writing assignment) turns the characterization up a few notches. Ryan uses the Flashpoint event to consider a world where Gorilla Grodd is actually victorious; the end result, with a surprising amount of logic behind it, is that the ape conqueror would be miserable. The final moments of the book suggest that Grodd may have been pushed to suicidal tendencies, unable to think of anything that can please him anymore. He turns his eyes on a bigger prize not for the joy of conquest, but for the very thrill of violence itself. It is a twisted variant on a Twilight Zone trope, but is done with that much more bloody glee.
Most of that bloodiness can be chalked up to Ig Guara's art. While his style is far from anything resembling photo realism, especially with gesticulating apes, Guara doesn't shy away from depicting rather fierce violence. One panel in particular, which included a spinal cord, caused me to pause and check what the book was actually rated; I was surprised to find it was merely a straight T for Teen. And outside of the straight gore of the book is just how viciously Guara depicts Grodd's viciousness in battle, with clubbing merciless blows. Contrasted with how utterly depressed and bored Grodd looks elsewhere, it hammers home the psychopathic aspects of Ryan's script.
Ultimately, this book doesn't add much to the overall Flashpoint universe other than the final scene where Grodd makes a surprising deceleration that could appear in other books in the event. It also flows from moment to moment rather listlessly, as if things are merely happening without culminating in anything spectacular; it just sort of ends and hangs there. Perhaps that is part of the point that Ryan is trying to portray, of how rote and mundane a life post-battle has become from Grodd, and how he must live recklessly to even find the combat he craves. But it also gives the book itself a feeling restlessness, that its conceived of how this character would respond to this circumstance of being victorious, but never got around to the business of crafting a story around that. Again, Grodd's final decision could have echoes in future Flashpoint books, but as it stands it is little more than anti-climatic, depressing and very bloody character study of one of DC's most bloodthirsty baddies.