In Review: Planet of the Apes: Ursus #2

This is a must-read, must-own story for every fan of Planet of the Apes.

The covers: A trio to seek out for the second issue of this sensational series. The Regular cover is by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera. This is a fantastic cover of Dr. Zaius holding a scroll, squinting at the reader. Behind him are several gorillas holding clubs in their hands. It’s unclear whether they’re going to use them on an unseen foe or to strike the orangutan. Or might this be a clever way to show what each species of ape values the most? This clever artwork is fantastic and so is the coloring. The Variant cover is by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred. In the foreground Cornelius looks behind himself to see Zira looking back calmly, while Ursus is behind the pair looking at them with disdain. Further back is Zaius with his hands clasped before him. A large statue of the Lawgiver is behind him. Taking up the rest of this image is Astronaut John Landon looking to the left, his eyes a clear white, and a large part of his head shaved away to show the scar from his lobotomy. The apes are almost friendly looking on this cover, while the huge head of the human makes this horrific. The Subscription cover is by Becca Carey and it’s a creation of other images. An orange desert has three astronauts in their white suits traversing it. The Statue of Liberty is embedded in the ground to the distant left. The mountains behind the statue are littered with white scarecrows that line the entrance to the Forbidden Zone. In the sky is a space vessel, perhaps a satellite. The key image is a monstrous image of a gorilla’s face in close-up colored a dark orange. Cute cover that’s got a very 1960’s vibe. Not for me, though. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant A-, and Subscription C

The story: David F. Walker is creating a fantastic story. This issue opens with a tale “Many years ago” from Ursus’s past. The young gorilla is with his guardian Kananaios, with the younger watching the fire and the older asleep. Suddenly Kananaios wakes up yelling, “No!” Ursus says the white gorilla was dreaming again, but he disagrees. “It was more than a dream. The Lawgiver has given me a vision.” The two make their way to a clearing where they spy several humans. The guardian gives his ward a rough sword. “That is the will of the Lawgiver…I am but the messenger. This is your holy mission…so says the Lawgiver.” Using the blade, Ursus kills all the humans. Kananaios pats his bloodied ward on the back. “It is as I say…the only good human is a dead human.” This violent past gives way to the present, where the general and Dr. Zaius look at the human in the cell that’s speaking. What John Landon says makes no sense to the apes, though the mention of others from the astronaut causes Ursus to take action with the man. What follows is monstrous, though based on the first three pages of this issue not surprising. The general leaves the broken human and seeks out help from Sergeant Moench, taking the gorilla and his allies in a frightening direction. The past is visited again, this time with more mayhem from humans and the introduction of a tragic character in the general’s life. Zaius has his own plans in this issue for what’s to be done with Landon. Even if one is familiar with the film — and who isn’t? — it’s shocking. That’s what is really impressive with this story. I know exactly how this is all going to end, but I’m seeing new scenes with these characters not shown in the film, giving more dimension to the fanatical general. This is a gem of a book. Overall grade: A+

The art: I love the different styles that Chris Mooneyham is using for this book. The flashbacks look as though they were drawn on parchment paper with pencils. It instantly gives the visuals an aged look and allows from some terrific colors from Jason Wordie. As if the style isn’t enough of a visual clue to the reader that what’s being looked at is set in the past, the corners of the flashback’s panels have been rounded. I love brooding Ursus in these flashbacks, such as in the third panel on the first page. The violence on Pages 2 and 3 is strong, but not as creepy as the joy on Kananaios’s face at the top of the third page. The thin line work used by Mooneyham in the pages set in the present is incredibly sharp. The close-up of Landon at the bottom of 4 shows a broken man. When face to face with Ursus on Page 5 in panel three, the profile of each character is incredibly strong. Zaius’s close-up on the next page is also strong. The full-paged splash on 8 is awesome; there’s so much action going on in the background I can clearly hear the sounds without there being any on the page. There’s a look of surprise on 12 that’s awesome. I’m a sucker for circular panels that hold a character’s face and Mooneyham creates a terrific one at the bottom of 13. The reactions of each character on the page that follows this is fantastic — perfect responses from soldiers hearing orders they’re uncomfortable with. The last panel on 19 is stunning for the emotion it captures. The last panel of the book is also an emotional powerhouse, that when combined with the text introduces a very different Ursus to the reader. Mooneyham’s work is incredible. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The flashback sequences of this book have much brighter colors than those of the present. It may be that colors were brighter then or that Ursus views those times more vividly than the present. Whatever the reason, Jason Wordie makes them beautiful. Look at the gorgeous hue the fire gives to the characters on the opening page. The blood of the humans is a bright splash in the darkness on Pages 2 and 3. How this color is splattered on Ursus’s face in the last panel on 3 says much of where this ape will be when fully grown. The present has the tans and oranges of the decaying ape society as seen in the classic film and Wordie makes them work wonderfully. I really like how the background colors intensify on Page 14, matching the intensity of the speaker’s words. The lack of colors for the final panel of the book makes the emotion of the illustration really stand out for a gut punch of a conclusion. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ed Dukeshire is responsible for this book’s scene settings, narration, dialogue, the muted ravings of Landon, sounds, and yells. The narration should be a different font from the narration, as they are two different forms of communication, though they are differentiated by the color and shape of the boxes and balloons that contain them. The sounds in this book are visually disturbing, especially when Ursus speaks with Landon. And speaking of the lost astronaut, the slight shrinking of his speech shows him to be a man not only lost in time but lost in his mind. Nicely done. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a must-read, must-own story for every fan of Planet of the Apes. Sensational story with awesome artwork. A joy to read. Overall grade: A+

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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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