Friday, August 03, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Planet of the Apes Annual #1

Planet of the Apes Annual #1 (Boom Studios), coming quickly on the heels of the last issue of the Exile on the Planet of Apes mini-series and the last issue of the current Planet of the Apes monthly series, which ended with #16 a few weeks back, helps fill a void of ape-less comic withdrawal, but also, it seems, plays midwife to the new Apes series that are in the works. This annual acts as anthology of the ape world we've encountered thus far in the ongoing monthly, and Exile's precursor, Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes. Within these four stories are great achievements: rewarding current readers with excellent stories about known characters, while standing as a great entry point for new readers waiting to be enticed by this world.
First up, Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno flashback to when Sully and Nerissa were young girls and Sully is about to be integrated into an ape school. The focus of the story, in the broad sense is on the political ramification of such desegregation and how it affects both apes and humans. Specifically, the focus is on Nix, the white ape, who became so central to the ongoing PotA story. Gregory fills in on some important, only previously hinted upon information about Nix that, for me, at least, invites a closer reading of PotA 1-16 in which to put Nix's action in new light. Magno's clear, detailed apes continue to be a joy. I hope there's more Apes stories from these two in the near future.

Next comes,Corinna Bechko and John Lucas' tale of an ape boy who meets a young human girl during an ape crackdown on humans. It's a simple yet powerful tale about awareness, empathy, and compassion. The ending adds a sparkle of mischievous hope. My hope is that Bechko has plans for this ape lad in the Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm

The third story is Gabriel Hardman's "The Scroll," which, like the opening story, delves into the past of a known character. Here we see General Aleron from Betrayal and Exile as a Gorilla Private First Class (OK, I may have made up that military title, he was referred to simply as "private") on a mission to liberate some scrolls from and orangutan in hiding. What Aleron finds is eye-opening (and, ironically, eye-closing, as we also find out the reason Aleron wears an eye patch) and again, gives us more perspective on what truly drives Aleron in Betrayal and Exile. Hardman is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. His action scenes are dynamite: Aleron running to escape an avalanche pops from the page, for example.

The Annual ends with Jeff Parker and Benjamin Dewey's story about Ape City envoys visiting Simian Port, an Ape trading outpost, that's run by a Kurtz-like ape, who defies the creeds from the Ape City tribunalThis story seems equally inspired by Conrad and jungle comics from the 50’s. The revelation of the unknown cargo on a docked ship is smiling-inducing in its cleverness.

Planet of the Apes Annual #1 is remarkable in how, across four stories, it builds upon the known the Apes universe in two of these, and introduces new characters that are ripe for further exploration in the other two. A great read. Highly Recommended