Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Longbox Junk - Planet of The Apes - Part 1: Issues 1-8

Welcome back to another Longbox Junk "Rescue Review"!

Don't worry, I'll get back to doing some of my more recent stuff soon.  I just feel that I need to keep these older reviews from gathering dust in a forgotten archive on a comic site that doesn't really have much to do with comic books any more.  Just bear with me for a little while longer on this.

Besides. . .like I say all the time about old comics I pull from the bargain bin:  
If I haven't read it, then it's new to me.  Just think of these rescue reviews in the same light.  

BUT I DIGRESS!

Like I said in the original intro to this series review below, I love Planet of The Apes. No. . .wait.  It's more like I LOVE Planet of The Apes!  It's one of my favorite fiction franchises of them all.  All you have to do is put Planet of The Apes on something and good or bad. . .I'm there.

Unfortunately (and it makes me a bit sad to say this), Planet of The Apes comic books have always been a bit disappointing.  They generally aren't BAD, but for some reason comic books haven't really been able to nail Planet of The Apes to my satisfaction.

BOOM! Studios' 2011 version of Planet of The Apes takes things in a bit of a different direction in that it tells a story set about 600 years from now between the recent "Rise of The Planet of The Apes" movie trilogy set in the present day and the original Planet of The Apes movies set almost 2000 years in the future.  It tells of a time when humans and apes lived together in a fragile peace that threatened to break at any time.  Can this unusual setting break the chain of so-so Planet of The Apes comics?

Let's find out!

ORIGINAL INTRO: 

I love Planet of The Apes. 

I have a confession to make that may or may not earn me any nerd points. . .you know that Tim Burton Planet of The Apes movie that everyone despises? I even love THAT movie! I think everyone hates it because they were expecting a remake and instead got a total re-imagining. 

But that's beside the point. The point is that I love all things Planet of The Apes when it comes to movies. But Planet of The Apes comics have been hit or miss. . .

So is BOOM! Studios' version of Planet of The Apes a hit or a miss? Read on!

On a re-read, I still stand by what I put in the original review.  So except for a bit of polish, some pictures, and creator credits, this is pretty much as originally written. . .

PLANET OF THE APES
Part 1: Issues 1-8
BOOM! Studios (2011 - 2012)

ISSUE 1
THE LONG WAR PART 1

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Carlos Magno

The first issue is a hit! It's a FANTASTIC and very strong opening issue to this series. It's set about 1,200 years before the first movie, and about 600 years after the nuclear war that devastated the earth. Apes and humans live together in a Steampunk society. 

Humans aren't the mute animals they will become yet, but are looked down on and segregated into their own slums. . .working at manual labor and in factories while apes live in relative wealth and luxury. I can already tell this is going to have a lot to do with race relations and class warfare in our own society.

Except for an assassination that starts the issue off with a literal bang, there's very little action to be had in this first issue. Instead, it focuses on introductions, world-building, and politics. But it's still so well-written that I didn't mind the lack of action at all. It paints a picture of a city on the boiling point and dangles quite a few plot threads.

The art here really steals the show, though. I'm not familiar with Carlos Magno, but his art is extremely detailed. Each panel is a true work of art! The colorist also deserves credit. This is one brilliant-looking book.

BOOM! Studios' Planet of The Apes is off to an extremely strong start. But a lot of comics start strong and finish weak. Hopefully this is one of the exceptions. It was a fairly short run with only 16 issues, so here's hoping the quality is maintained to the end.

ISSUE 2
THE LONG WAR PART 2

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Karl Richardson

Another great issue! Things are about to get real as the apes blockade the human slums during their search for an assassin. Still introducing characters and world-building. Not much action until the end, when riots begin to break out, but again, I didn't mind a bit. 

The writing is still strong, as is the art. In particular, the scenes in a pawnshop filled with ancient junk are so full of detail I lingered over them for a while. Very nicely done!



 Nothing bad to say about this issue at all.


ISSUE 3
THE LONG WAR PART 3

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Karl Richardson

As I read this first arc, I'm thinking that THIS should be a Planet of The Apes movie. It has a very cinematic feel to it, thanks to the fantastic artwork. The scenes of a failed assassination of Speaker Alaya in the pouring rain are unbelievable in a very good way! 



So far the quality of the opening issue has been well maintained. . .but should I get my hopes up? I've seen plenty of runs begin to break down after their first arc.

ISSUE 4
THE LONG WAR PART 4

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Karl Richardson

The first arc ends with a literal bang as a suicide bomber ignites the spark of war that began with the assassination in the first issue. . .



So now the tale delves not only into issues of racial tension and class warfare, but into terrorism and insurgency. That's a pretty deep dive into current topics for a story about a world ruled by intelligent apes!

 I really didn't expect the quality of this book to be so high. 4 issues in and nothing bad to say yet. Let's hope the next arc is as good as the first. . .

ISSUE 5
THE DEVIL'S PAWN PART 1

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Scott Keating

The second arc starts off strong. The same team remains on the book, which is a good thing. I see it often where comic companies (and they're ALL guilty of this particular crappy move) have a fantastic team on the first arc to hook you in then, once they have their subscribers, they roll in the B team for the next arc. This is not the case here. Same fantastic writing, same fantastic art.

The second arc looks like it's going down a pretty dark path as humans are rounded up and packed into railroad cars to be taken to "Happy Valley Retraining Camp" after Alaya promises plenty of free labor for ape factories. 

Shades of The Holocaust in addition to the other politically-uncomfortable subjects this title has been touching on. Who knew the story would reach THIS deep in a Planet of The Apes comic? So far I haven't had a bad thing to say about this run. I think it's the FIRST time I can say that 5 issues in. . .

ISSUE 6
THE DEVIL'S PAWN PART 2

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Damien Couceiro

As humans are rounded up into concentration camps to be used as slave labor, there is a growing insurgency. I can see that this won't end well. . .

Another great issue with a fantastic flashback scene to the fall of the independent human nation that really adds a lot of cinematic power to this issue, along with a final panel of the insurgent humans blowing up an ape airship. This comic went from a political comic to a war comic quick!



I still have nothing bad to say 6 issues in. I think that MUST be a record for me!

ISSUE 7
THE DEVIL'S PAWN PART 3

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Carlos Magno

All hell's about to break loose as some humans escape a concentration camp and decide the truth has to be told, the leader of the apes delivers a very Hitler-like speech to justify extermination of humans, and the insurgency decides whether or not to declare independence. 


As far as I'm concerned, these 7 issues would make a great Planet of The Apes movie! From the tight story to the fantastic, cinematic artwork, I can't think of enough good things to say about this run so far!

ISSUE 8
THE DEVIL'S PAWN PART 4

SCRIPTS: Daryl Gregory
PENCILS: Carlos Magno
COVER: Scott Keating

So FINALLY at the end of the second arc, I find myself a bit disappointed. 

This was pretty much an all-out action issue, but it didn't really resolve much. All it did was set up the new status quo for the next arc. One resistance leader captured, the humans fleeing the city to hide in the swamps, and the other resistance leader joining up with another rag-tag resistance group. 



Of course, when I say I'm disappointed, it's just with the lack of resolution. The writing and art on this title remain well above my expectations for a licensed property. A below par issue here is STILL better than a good issue of many other comics.

CONCLUSION

I didn't originally write a conclusion for the first half of this series.  I saved my final thoughts for the second part.  But on re-reading these first 8 issues while getting page scans and such, I feel that I need to take a moment to make a strong recommendation for this series.

From the deep dive into uncomfortable social issues as a framework for a compelling story of a fragile way of life coming to a violent end, to the fantastically detailed and cinematic artwork, this series was a real surprise to me in just HOW good it is.  In my extremely humble opinion, BOOM! Studios' Planet of The Apes is a true hidden gem of comic art.  

Up Next. . .

Part 2 with issues 9 - 16.  
So far, so good. . .but can BOOM! Studios stick the landing?

Be there or be square!