Tying a comic into a movie franchise forces a lot of restrictions upon the writer, and even more so when the storyline has a predetermined beginning and ending by way of being sandwiched between two specific films. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" #1 is such a comic, taking place between this year's film of the same name and its 2011 predecessor, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Writer Michael Moreci manages to kick off a decent story within these parameters, though, taking place two years after the earlier film but introducing Malcolm, Jason Clarke's central character in the later one. The skills of artist Dan McDaid also fit in well, by giving the issue a desolate and gritty look that matches the neo-apocalyptic feel of the film.
Knowing his story is just one of the dots connecting two other existing ones, Moreci plays it safe and doesn't go for any kind of wild surprise that might not come across as consistent with what's already been established. It stands to reason that Malcolm would have had a wife, for instance, so Moreci makes it so. Her absence from the last movie makes it clear that something must have befallen her, so Moreci begins to address that, as well. And there are few likely scenarios that could befall humans in this era of the ape-verse, so he picks one of them to use here.
While there is an element of predictability, Moreci still makes a moderately engaging story out of it, largely by telling two parallel narratives with similar themes; one with Malcolm, and the other of course with Caesar. Malcolm is desperate to find a way to do more than just survive in this new world, while Caesar struggles with his place, and that of the other apes, in this very same world. While Malcolm's forward-thinking ways cause conflict with his wife, while Caesar is responsible for an entire populace, some of whom feel his own approach is too conservative. It's an interesting dichotomy presented by Moreci, despite many of the elements contained within being similar to those in the film.
McDaid evokes a look for Malcolm that is similar to Jason Clarke's portrayal in the movies, with a few deftly placed strokes rather than any kind of attempt at photorealism. He takes a similar approach with the simian characters, although many of them are given much larger eyes which add a sort of unwelcome cartoonish element. McDaid heavily shades many of the figures and nearby surroundings, giving the overall environment an appropriately dark and foreboding feel, aided by Jason Wordie's subdued colors.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" #1 is a plenty adequate start for this six-issue series that begins to fill the gap between the last two movies. It's not an essential bridge to cross, but it's a journey worthwhile starting for fans of the films.