“Planet of the Apes Spectacular” #1 is the second one-shot to continue the story begun in the ongoing series by writer Daryl Gregory since the end of its run. Aptly drawn by artist Diego Barreto, who also illustrated the prior “Planet of the Apes Special” one-shot, the story is a tight continuation of the events following the fall of a post-civil war Mak, the future city where ape and human once both lived peacefully, although not equally.
Readers might have a little trouble recollecting that scenario, however, as it’s been five months since the last installment (and a year since the one before) and unlike past issues, there is no recap of the story preceding the events of this one. A recap would have greatly benefited a story of this complexity, with multiple factions making their move on the city in the wake of the leadership shakeup left by the uprising, but there’s no explanation regarding any of them.
Despite stumbling out of the gate with this omission, Gregory’s story manages to jog readers’ memories as it proceeds. And it carries the same kind of intrigue as past issues have, resulting from the conflicting interests of the various characters; in fact, it’s heightened significantly as all of these characters start coming together in this chapter. Gregory instills a tense atmosphere at this stage of the story, an uneasiness in the momentary and fragile peace that bridges the span between the war seen in previous issues and another imminent threat. It’s the same kind of uneasiness that he evoked so well in the early issues of this series.
Throughout the story, Gregory stresses, almost excessively so, that despite the difference between ape, human, mutant, and all other creatures, all are driven by survival. While arguably worth a mention, a theme that’s so common to nature, and to centuries worth of literature, it could easily go without saying, or even implying. To touch upon it more than once seems a little heavy-handed, but only a little. It’s like the start of a pimple; noticeable, but not enough to affect the complexion of the story.
Barreto is faced with the unenviable task of carrying on the story that was previously and so splendidly rendered by Carlos Magno, who defined a very stylish and unique look for the series. But, Barreto steps up admirably, remaining faithful to the established feel. His work is far less detailed, but no less pleasing; he knows when to follow what came before but also knows when he can add his own touch. Which he does nicely; his layouts are striking and he remains one of the best at facial expressions.
The thirty pages of story make the $4.99 cover price worthwhile, at least in comparison to the value of most other comics. Superlatives like “Special” and “Spectacular” make it sound cool, and the #1 on the cover makes it look cool, but it’s the story inside that is cool. This one-shot is the long-welcomed next chapter of a great story, and whatever the superlative tacked on to the title of the next episode, here’s hoping it’ll be seen soon.