Gorilla-Man #1(of 3) - 'Ken Hale, The Gorilla-Man In: The Serpent And The Hawk' - Parker, Caracuzzo and Charalampidis
Story - Well, that was certainly a comic about a talking Gorilla shooting guns on a motorbike. Yep, it sure was.
Books like Gorilla-Man are the kind of comics where you don't really want to have high expectations. You want to see a talking Gorilla shoot things, and that's it, you're not expecting anything more. It's the kind of comic that works on a high-concept, almost Internet-meme level. And in this issue, Parker certainly delivers on the wacky high-concept stuff. Gorilla-Man Vs. A Zombie-Spider-Borgias and a load of buxom hench-chicas. The opening 9 pages are just the kind of silliness you'd expect from a comic entitled Gorilla-Man.
But things get a little more sedate once Gorilla-Man is sent on a new Agents Of Atlas adventure by Jimmy Woo, he even decides to use an Image-Inducer a la Nightcrawler to hide his Simian nature. Where's the fun in that? This main plot seems to follow the pattern of the last few Atlas stories, with the Agents (or one Agent) heading into a rogue Atlas cell and sort it out.
So there you have it, Gorilla-Man shoots things and cracks some jokes, done and dusted.
Except it's not. You see, previous stories have understandably focussed on the Gorilla side of the Gorilla-Man equation, and it's worked out fine in that afore-mentioned OTT meme sense. But now Parker has finally turned his attention to the 'Man' inside Gorilla-Man. We are getting an insight into Ken Hale's personal history and life. Plucked Charles Foster-Kane like from Depression-Era Missouri, Ken becomes a Pulp-style adventure, journeying across the world with his new Guardian from a young age. Parker has always enjoyed tackling storytelling styles and eras in the Atlas stories, and I'm glad to see Ken Hale's Young Indiana Jones style life shown here. I assume this flashback will show eventually how Ken became the Gorilla-Man eventually, but for now it's interesting to see the contrast between the Gorilla and the Man. I think in our childish delight at seeing talking monkeys, we forget that being trapped as a Gorilla must be a pretty shitty thing to deal with, and I like that Parker seems to be exploring this. Some readers may ask why a character as goofy as Gorilla-Man really needs to be humanised and explored in depth, but I'd say a character can only survive as a joke for so long before it gets old. The novelty of a Gorilla with guns may run out at any time, and then, we'll need to see a real character underneath all the wackiness.
This is a book of contrasts, much like the character, and I did enjoy it, as a massive fan of Parker's work on Atlas (cancelled again, alas!) I'll take any of these characters whenever I can get it, and when they're pleasantly surprising like this, all the better.
Art - Giancarlo Caracuzzo is an artist I'm not familiar with, but he does strong work here. He draws a good Gorilla, nice and expressive, but still realistic as a Primate. His work chiefly reminded me of Dan Panosian, who was the artist on a couple issues of the first Agents Of Atlas ongoing (cancelled! alas!). When an artist is adept at drawing a realistic American dustbowl as he is a giant Spider-Monster, then you know he's good.
Best Line - 'Mamma Mia! The Gorilla-Man!'