Film To Comics: PLANET OF THE APES #1 Review

While it seems that studios are interested in turning virtually every comic book into a movie, many comic book publishers are making sure that the traffic between comics and the silver screen follows both ways. Today, we’re launching an initiative to cover more of these film properties that get the four-color comic book treatment. We start with a look at Boom! Studios brand new Planet Of The Apes comic.

When writer Bill Willingham introduced readers to a world where the embodiment of fairy tale characters lived in a hidden community in New York City in his comic book series Fables, he did so with a murder mystery. Within the context of a carefully constructed whodunit, Willingham gave readers a tour of this community as they followed Bigby Wolf moving through various layers of Fabletown society on the trail of a murder. It’s an ingenious and effective way to present lots of exposition within the confines of the actual story.

For the opening issue of Boom! Studios’ new Planet Of The Apes comic, writer Daryl Gregory uses a variation of this device. It is some six centuries after the initial revolt of the apes as seen in Conquest Of and Battle For The Planet Of The Apes. Humanity is on the decline, and in the case of humans living in the city-state of Mak they are pretty much confined to one ghetto known as “Skintown”.

The story opens with the assassination of Mak’s ape Lawgiver by a masked human armed with an automatic rifle not seen before. The Lawgiver had two adopted “grandchildren” – the ape Alaya, who now sits on the city-state’s ruling council and the human Sullivan who acts as the unelected mayor of Skintown. Although they grew up together, it seems that Alaya still harbors some prejudice towards humans, which bubbles up after the Lawgiver’s death. She summons Sullivan to her quarters to tell her that she has two days to find the Lawgiver’s assassin or else she will turn loose the ape military to overturn Skintown until he is found.

Gregory has certainly set up an initial story arc, titled “The Long War,” that promises some interesting political intrigue playing out over it’s remaining chapters and beyond. The apes seem to be divided into two political factions – those who want to co-exist peacefully with humans and the Caesarists, who are very much pro-ape and anti-human. Alaya seems to be one of those who would co-exist with humans until her grief over the death of the Lawgiver pushes her towards the Caesarists. The Caesarists seem to be very much in charge and to very much relish that the Lawgiver’s death has given them the opportunity to be more openly abusive to humans. And as we see how humans are treated very much as second-class citizens, we see the irony of the Lawgiver’s final reading from sacred scrolls on the first page of the issue – “… And Caeser sealed the armory of Mandemus. To this day, apes and humans have lived together in friendship, harmony and peace.”

The best of the Planet Of The Apes film series entries have a layer of social commentary in their stories and we can see the beginnings of similar subtext in “The Long War”. Could the ape attitude of holding all humans culpable for the actions of one lone assassin be a comment on how some people blamed all Muslims for acts of terror following 9/11? Outside of the Battlestar Galactica revival, it’s not a subject that has been touched upon too much in popular genre material, so there remains a lot of fertile ground still available to be covered.

Carlos Magno’s art for the book is a treat. His characters are strong and distinguishable and the action clean. His designs for the ape city as well as everyone’s clothing is unique yet still contains a hint of the familiar cloth and leather ape tunics the films are known for.

I do have a minor concern or two about the story though. Chief among them is the younger generation of humans being born mute. I am not sure if this going to be a plot point or if it’s just an attempt to retcon in an explanation of how humanity reached the feral state we see it in the first Apes film. Hopefully this will play out as the series progresses.

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About Rich Drees 7040 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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