In Review: Planet of the Apes: Ursus #3

You can't call yourself an Apes fan unless you've read Ursus. Recommended.

The covers: The Regular cover by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera is an outstanding vision of General Ursus turning his head slightly to his left. Behind him is Dr. Zaius, looking at the gorilla with ire. Down below the two apes are several humans, one of which has had some of his hair shaved away, revealing that an operation was done on this man’s brain. The characters look terrific and the colors are raw, with oranges and reds being strong, making this a stand out frontpiece against all other books. Showing a climatic scene from the end of the original Apes movie, the Variant cover by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred has Dr. Zaius holding a doll that can speak. Zira points at the doll, telling the doctor he can’t disbelieve his ears, while poor Cornelius looks on in fear. Behind the trio is General Ursus on his horse. In the background is a mountain with a cave whose entrance is accessed through a series of wooden planks. Just in the distance, peeking around the rocks and beyond the beach, is a familiar silhouette from one of the greatest surprises in film history. This looks great and the coloring is perfect. The final cover is the Subscription cover by Becca Carey. Against a black background, the first line of text in blood red states “No human can remain human on…” followed beneath by the title in white. Below this, in orange, is a broken doll’s head. Nice, if one is familiar with the film. If one is not, this will have no significance. This is just a little too simple for me. Overall grades: Regular A+, Variant A, and Subscription B-  

The story: David F. Walker begins this issue showing Moench and his troops entering the Forbidden Zone, as ordered by General Ursus. Before they get too far, flames erupt from the ground, scaring them. Some want to turn around, but Moench is curious. Something is not right with the gigantic flames. Stepping down from his mount, he shocks his troops by walking into the fire. “You stare in fear at the raging inferno…but where is the heat from the flames? I don’t know what kind of sorcery this is — but this fire isn’t real.” The scene then moves to a drunken Ursus, slouched in a chair, holding a bottle of alcohol, stating his disdain of chimpanzees and orangutans. He’s speaking to John Landon, the unfortunate astronaut captured by the apes and operated on so that he can no longer speak. Ursus states that Zaius blames him for the human’s condition and that the doctor saved him. However, Ursus knows better. Leaving the silent human for home, the drunken ape recalls a moment from his past in saving a female gorilla from some humans and learning how strong and smart men can be. This series continues to weave in new scenes to the classic film, with Ursus being the focus. His backstory continues to be sensational. Also receiving focus is new character Moench, who with his men enter the Forbidden Zone, noticed by the mysterious humans who reside beneath it. Jailer Julius also gets some time, with his thoughts and motivations revealed to the reader. He is responsible for a key character learning an important piece of information. The final three pages are introduced by a new character named Alcala (LOVE THIS!), who tells Ursus that another human is loose…and this one can also speak. The book ends with this new character speaking ten of the most famous words in film history. This is a thrilling story that revisits the famous film while giving Ursus a major backstory. This is must reading for Apes fans. Overall grade: A+

The art: This issue has some spectacular images by Chris Mooneyham. The first panel is a small one, but teases a familiar sight to those of the films. The raging flames that shoot out of the ground in the third panel are massive. The first page ends with a close-up of Moench as he realizes something is amiss. His standing among the flames on 2 is great; I love him looking at his hand in wonder as the flames fail to fry him. The most startling introduction of the issue is Ursus’s on Page 3. He’s never been shown this hammered before and he’s a sloppy drunk, hunched over with his massive hat crooked on his head. When he wipes his mouth at the bottom of the page it’s a beautiful character movement. The reveal of Landon is awesome as it sparks silence from the drunken ape. The flashback sequences are some of my favorites of this series, resembling the art drawn on rough art boards. In addition to the art style altering the reader to the change in time, Mooneyham has rounded the corners of the boarders to differentiate them. I love on 6 that Ursus’s actions in the present are contrasted with those of his past. The full-paged splash on 9 is powerful. Though only briefly in the book, Julius steals his pages with his subversively dark silent asides. Page 18 is an outstanding series of images showing a character having a rough rising. Alcala, though also shown briefly, is completely relatable to the reader who would feel and look the same way. The final panel of the page features an iconic scene and has me excited to see what Mooneyham draws next. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Matching the coloring of the film, this book has harsh colors by Jason Wordie. The books begins with heavy oranges for the Forbidden Zone and its flames. The book cools considerably when Ursus speaks to Landon, matching his stupor. The coloring on Ursus’s armor is great, with the blacks and grays outstanding. The coloring on the flashback sequences are incredible with cool blues, yellows, and vicious reds. Julius’s scenes are in strong yellows and oranges, giving him a rural tone, which suits his job. Once the apes arrive deeper into the Forbidden Zone the sky goes a sickly green, teasing the sick nature of those below them. When the final human goes on the run the colors go yellow, to match his hairy, animalistic face. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ed Dukeshire creates narration and dialogue (the same font), sounds, whispers, yells, a closing outburst, and the tease for next issue. I wish that Dukeshire had used a different font for the narration and dialogue, rather than relying on the shape of the text’s balloons and colors to define them. A book is lifted up when this is done. The sounds are solid, with someone getting sick resembling the action. There are also two whispers for two different moments and they draw the reader closer into the tale. I’m liking what Dukeshire is doing. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Ursus is a fantastic series that uses the backdrop of the general’s past to reveal behind the scenes moments from the classic Apes film. You can’t call yourself an Apes fan unless you’ve read Ursus. A sensational series. Recommended. 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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