A licensed comic for “Planet of the Apes” has a lot of baggage to contend with. There are the sepia toned fond memories of old, the ludicrous expectations every fan holds for a relaunch, and the crowd that just don’t want to be reached. Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno have pooled their collective talent and done what many thought impossible: they have crafted a book for Boom! that is enjoyable and adds to the mythos, while still crafting its own narrative path.
The opening arc set up the rift between humans and apes in a landscape centuries before the original movie. With this divide now firmly in place, the tale wastes no time in charging forward with blood and death in its sights. We follow a human terrorist, Wyn, as he sneaks into an ape factory and sets off a bomb. It’s a bold move to show the humans, the protagonists we’ll naturally side with, as terrorists not above sneaky acts of vengeance. It could be argued that without the acts of a handful of humans this story wouldn’t have as many terrible moments.
Gregory shows each side of this conflict to have very elaborate and wrong elements buried within them. This will then set the stage for the right people to earn our respect and hopefully a teaming of man and ape will save the day. Gone are the ideological extremes of one side being evil and the other pure, Gregory shows us that any leader can be false. There is no preaching here, or hidden meaning to lay over the real world. It’s refreshing not to feel a didactic tale but rather one with an open message somewhere within a genuinely enjoyable and well structured story. The main gripe is that the characterization still feels a little thin.
Sometimes you look at comic art and wonder about the thoughts put behind some choices. I am thoroughly enjoying Magno’s take on this world and the characters within it, but there is one thing I cannot reconcile. Why are the apes wearing chestplate armor that includes sculpted abs on them? It shouldn’t be something to get hung up on, and yet it completely is. Aside from that, Magno makes these pages come alive with fluidity and character. Nolan Woodard’s coloring is great, with the martyr scene in Skintown standing out as just one scene of spooky beauty.
This book might be divided into arcs, but it looks like Gregory is going for the long game, as well. Plot threads are going to carry over in this epic tale of apes and men. Intrigue, backstabbing plots, high politics, and retraining facilities for humans are just the beginning. “Planet of the Apes” continues to be a solid book and one that looks set to become the sort of opus this series has long deserved. With this $1 issue dropping the same day as the first trade for $10, this is a great time to buy in.