Review: Planet of the Apes #1 (AKA – POTA goes BOOM!)

Writer of the Planet of the Apes: Daryl Gregory
Artist of the Planet of the Apes: Carlos Magno
Colorist of the Planet of the Apes: Juan Manuel Timburus

Background of the Planet of the Apes

My love of the Planet of the Apes franchise dates back over thirty years. Some of my earliest memories come from watching the various films on Channel 5, which has since become the NJ/NY area FOX affiliate. My grandmother used to watch me a lot as a child, and I fondly recall her looking through the newspaper television listings for the POTA films. This was followed by well spent afternoons of viewing enjoyment. The memories of those films (many of them actually packaged episodes from the short lived television series) have lasted me a lifetime.

Unfortunately, most of the childhood favorites of mine have received numerous “glorious” returns to the center of pop culture fandom. You name it: Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, GI Joe, and The Transformers have all seen multiple products and numerous reboots to potentially enjoy. Some have been mores successful than others, but each childhood favorite has come back to me at some point. Considering how popular POTA was in the ’70s the three decades since have seen only sporadic comic appearances and Tim Burton’s rather lousy theatrical film. I’m guardedly optimistic about the upcoming James Franco feature, but that’s still not a lot to hold a lifelong fan over.

Back in 2005, Ty Templeton’s Mr. Comics released one six-issue miniseries entitled Revolution on the Planet of the Apes. The series was set between the fourth and fifth movies in the series. The story wasn’t perfect, but it was a decent attempt at connecting the dots. At San Diego Comic Con 2009, a company by the name of Blam Ventures promised an illustrated novel entitled Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes. I bought two prints back then and they proudly hang in my office. The books long development seems to be coming to an end, and it should be published later this year.

I went through this lengthy highlight of POTA products to illustrate how few, or in Burton’s case: an abject disappointment, they have been. After all that we finally come to the brand new offering by BOOM Studios.

Spoilers on the Planet of the Apes

This story is firmly set in the continuity of the original film series. The fifth film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, included a framing sequence set in the future with the character of the Lawgiver (played by John Huston) recounting the tale of ape liberator Caesar. Set hundreds of years after the last film, but some 1,200 years before the first film’s events. Wait, I’m probably confusing the hell out of you. Let’s just say that the five POTA films, unlike any other series, connect together in a loop rather than a straight line. Let’s try to get beyond all of the “timey wimey stuff,” as David Tennant’s Doctor would say.

The opening sequence continues out of Battle with the murder of the Lawgiver by an unknown ninja-garbed human assassin. Things actually progress quite far and we get some rather deep characterizations in the space of 22-pages. The setting is a pseudo industrial-revolutionary time period for the ape/human society. At the center of the story are the adopted “daughters” of the Lawgiver. “Mayor” Sullivan is the human’s defacto leader. Aalya is a queen-like figure for the apes. Darryl Gregory’s story is near perfection setting up the intricate tale with the Lawgiver’s murder, introducing the daughters, offering a flashback to their childhood, and offering a compelling countdown to doom for the humans.

Sequentials on the Planet of the Apes

Carlos Magno has a style reminiscent of Geof Darrrow, which very few would consider a bad thing. There are several neat tips of the cap to the original apes film. Much of the scenery, several of the ape and human costumes clearly are inspired by the first movie. There’s not a lot of action, as the story sets up the characters and situations. That could be a tough spot for an artist, but Magno keeps each page fresh and exciting. There’s plenty of eye candy and splendid detail on nearly every panel. My only question: does the story take place in Paris? There’s a structure in the background of pages four and ten that looks a lot like the French landmark. Perhaps the structure will be explained in a future issue, but it does pique my interest.

Salivation on the Planet of the Apes

This is quite possibly the best Planet of the Apes story since the original film. Gregory and editor Ian Brill have clear love for the source material. There are plenty of tidbits in the script and Magno’s artwork that sync well with the film series. Don’t feel that this title is unapproachable because of its linkage to the classic films. I would venture that any passing fan of the Apes mythos could easily hunker down with this brilliantly done comic. I am eagerly waiting for the next issue. It just can’t come fast enough.

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