The story that is “Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes” takes place twenty years before the first movie, but offers a very familiar environment for fans of the original films. The chaos of ape versus man in a world that is so familiar to man’s world yet truly belongs to the apes is nicely captured by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.
It helps that the artist for this series is also a co-writer. Rather than stumble through the hand-off of script to artist, pencils to inks, Hardman is able to craft the story straight away. The communication and cooperation between Bechko and Hardman is evident in the flow and pacing of the story. As Zaius is roughly moved through seven wordless panels to a room of seeming interrogation, there is a fear and uncertainty that needs no words to telegraph its message to the reader. Hardman’s storytelling and framing tells you all you need to know: Zaius doesn’t want to be here, isn’t sure where “here” is, and is afraid of why he’s there.
The crux of the story is one of political intrigue, juxtaposing the posturing of ape castes in the “present day” with the mystery of an ape murdered fifteen years prior. Both stories find resolution in this issue, as is only appropriate for a four issue series. Both stories include a twist that I didn’t see coming. Both stories have enough weight to them for a standalone tale. To thread the past and present through the story of Aleron is a fun idea and one that Bechko and Hardman execute nicely.
Hardman’s apes are masterfully rendered, looking very much like evolved gorillas and orangutans rather than humans with “forced” countenances of those apes. Hardman then puts gravity upon their shoulders, bolting them down into the world that he draws around them. It’s an ugly, chaotic world, but one that Hardman draws wonderfully. Jordie Bellaire’s colors smartly accentuate the moods of that world, making it seem more hopeless and stark than the base concept of a city of apes. Bellaire’s palette and styles are well-suited for this story and give it the feeling of a throwback from yesteryear, a story that is at once new and used, lived in and breathing. Quite simply, this book is worth the cost of admission for the art alone.
With this series now concluded, I’m certain it will be readily available in a number of formats and is certainly worth checking out, in single issues or collected edition. A follow-up to this series has already been announced. With Bechko and Hardman onboard, I’m definitely coming back to check that one out.