In Review: Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1

The shock and horrors of a planet ruled by apes returns as the focus goes to mankind's greatest enemy.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera. This features a close-up of Ursus wearing his iconic hat, but the artists have made a slight change: the hat is actually a prison for humans, as seen in one of the original Planet of the Apes movie posters. Ursus looks awesome, the mob of guards behind him are great, the interior of his hat is very clever, and the colors are awesome. This is the cover I purchased. The Variant cover by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred pulls in even closer to the infamous gorilla. His face is fantastic, but if one looks down one will see white silhouettes of the crashed starship, the three astronaut survivors, and five of the typical humans found on this world. The coloring on this is also good, with the sunshine rays in red and orange making this look like a propaganda poster. The one cover that’s not working for me is the Subscription cover by Becca Carey. This is a very stylized cover with a bust shot of the Statue of Liberty against a red sky and three planets. The bottom half of the image is blue, with yellow mountains on the sides. The humans’ starship is at the bottom center, pointing at the Statue. At the point of this ship’s nose is a series of concentric rings, making it seem that the ship is targeting the iconic statue. It’s a nice design, but I need some apes on my apes books. The Classic Variant Cover is by Bob Larkin, with designs by Kez Wilson. This is an awesome cover that resembles a lost cover to Marvel’s Planet of the Apes Magazines from the 1970s. Against a dark sky and a broken U.S. Capital building, Ursus raises his fist to show his soldiers that their battle has been successful. Under the title it states ONE NATION, UNDER APES…! and at the bottom of the illustration it states FORBIDDEN ZONE PRIME. This cover is perfect. The Virgin Classic Variant cover is also by Larkin and is the exact same image as the Classic Variant Cover, sans the text. If one likes that, then one will love this. Overall grades: Regular A+, Variant A, Subscription C, Classic Variant A+, and Virgin Classic Variant A+

The story: This story by David F. Walker wonderfully shows scenes from the original Planet of the Apes movie that occurred off screen. The issue starts when Taylor, Landon, and Dodge come upon humans eating in a field. The mute throng hear a noise and stampede away. Gorillas wearing clothing, riding horses, and carrying rifles attack the humans. One of the astronauts is shot and killed, one is clubbed unconscious, and another is shot in the neck. After the carnage, one gorilla notices something unusual about one of the humans killed. He notifies Sergeant Moench (Terrific name!) who comes over on his horse. Orrip tells him, “Look at this human. I’ve seen thousands of these creatures, but never one like this. The general is always telling us to keep an eye open for strange humans.” Looking down, Moench’s eyes go wide. “In the name of the Lawgiver…You have bagged a rare beast indeed.” This opening then transitions to Ursus’s morning routine. It’s only two pages but defines the character solidly before he speaks once going outside. His work begins at the Department of Simian Affairs where he hears news not to his liking. After this, Moench finds him and shows him the human that was killed. This prompts a flashback to many years ago that’s fantastic. It’s only four pages long, but it further defines this title character. A familiar character from the film franchise is visited, with backstory being delivered before the pair are led to see something that will change ape society. I loved this “lost scenes” story and Ursus’s rounding as a character. As the book progressed, I began to like the character, forgetting the role he would play in Taylor’s future. Mr. Walker, you have me following this series to its conclusion. Overall grade: A

The art: Praise should also be given to artist Chris Mooneyham for the excellent visuals he gives this book. The debut of the astronauts on the first page is good and the panel that runs across the top of Pages 2 and 3 captures the pandemonium of the stampede of humans perfectly. I’ve seen the movie this series is based on innumerable times and I was pleased to see that Mooneyham didn’t settle for drawing still images from the film, but capturing the action from his own original point of view. The way in which Mooneyham is able to get the apes to emote without being cartoony is also good: he shows himself to be capable of having the apes be in shock or surprise on 5. To see this action shown more explicitly, take a quick peek at the last panel of the penultimate page. The two pages that show Ursus’s morning in his house are also well done. There are only three words of dialogue on the page, accompanied by some narration, but the story demands that the visuals clearly communicate to the reader the title character’s personality. Once outside, among the other apes, Ursus’s posture and demeanor define his pubic persona perfectly. The settings also look great, with Ape City’s exteriors and interiors believable. For the flashback sequence Mooneyham uses a different art technique to show these actions in the past and they look outstanding. They reminded me of Gene Colan’s Nathaniel Dusk series that I love. This is my first exposure to Mooneyham’s work and after this issue I’m going to have to track down some more of it. Overall grade: A

The colors: Jason Wordie’s colors are also top notch. His greens on the opening three pages complete the fields where the humans eat and run. When the apes attack the humans with clubs and guns the panels go rose and peach to increase the tension, which they do well after the calm green fields. Notice how the laughter on Page 4 is colored red to make it stand out, foreshadowing the horror that’s about to be revealed. Ape City does not have a lot of bright colors — it didn’t in the movie and, rightly, it doesn’t here. Wordie is skilled enough, though, to capture a similar color scheme in this issue, but use colors to draw focus: such as highlights on Ursus’s face, the similarity of the orangutans’ colors, increasing their unification in their decisions, and the light orange that shows underneath Ursus’s armor. The coloring on the flashback sequence is beautiful. I especially like the deep rust that starts that sequence. Wordie completes the visuals wonderfully. Overall grade: A 

The letters: This book’s dialogue and narration, scene settings, and a sound are created by Ed Dukeshire. There is more than one sound in this book, but it seems that artist Mooneyham inserted those. I would have preferred to see two different fonts for the dialogue and narration, as they are two different forms of communication, but the shape of the balloons and boxes, as well as their colors, make it plain for the reader what is being read. The scene settings are a neat font: bold capital letters in a rounded font, that makes them primitive, as if created by the apes. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The shock and horrors of a planet ruled by apes returns as the focus goes to mankind’s greatest enemy. Ursus is a rounded character in this tale and the visuals superb as the title character discovers his world is about to undergo its worst threat. This should be read by all humans…and apes. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a print copy go to https://shop.boom-studios.com/comics/detail/8246/planet-of-the-apes-ursus-1-

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Planet-of-the-Apes-Ursus-1/digital-comic/619871?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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