In Review: Planet of the Apes: Ursus #4

This is beautifully told and handsomely illustrated. Check this out.

The covers: Three covers to find and hopefully you won’t have to venture into the Forbidden Zone to find them. The Regular cover is by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera is delightfully devious. Ursus is in the foreground on the left. He gives the reader a knowing glance, holding his pistol up. Behind him his gorilla soldiers are carrying away the protesting chimpanzees whose signs, WAGE PEACE NOT WAR and FREE HUMANS, lay tattered on the ground. Excellent illustration and great coloring. The Variant cover is by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred is one of the iconic moments from the original film, with Taylor caught in a net that’s been raised up in Ape City. Against a crown of wide-eyed apes, he screams, “Take yer stinkin’ paws of me, you damn dirty ape!” This is great and gives me goosebumps. It’s impossible not to look at this and not hear Charlton Heston’s voice. Rebecca Carey is the artist of the Subscription cover. This is a really trippy frontpiece that has the title Planet of the Apes split into three parts on the left. The profile of a chimpanzee is inserted between Planet and of the. This ape is yellow. The same image is repeated between of the and Apes. This ape is blue. Overlapping the blue chimp are full skeletons of a gorilla and a man. On the far right are three astronauts in hot violet with their helmets off, revealing skulls. A chain falls across the final astronaut. This is really cool. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant A, and Subscription A+

The story: This story, written by David F. Walker, opens “Many years ago.” Young Ursus is looking upon all the death and destruction caused by the recently discovered intelligent humans. In fact, the humans ate apes. Qama says that they must take another path so the others in their party do not see the carnage. Ursus disagrees. “Let them see what humans are capable of — let them know the unsimian evil of these beasts.” As they make their way, Qama worries about the future general, telling him she wants him to find peace. “There’s more to you than hate, more than darkness. I see a light in your soul.” Ursus replies, “All this talk of souls, of darkness and light — you sound like a chimpanzee poet. There is no light here, only darkness. Just look around you.” The point of view moves back to a cart where Kananaios tells Dr. Cephina they need to get to Terminus. “If ever there was a community big enough to defend itself from the rampaging humans, it is Terminus.” In the present, Ursus rages before the Simian High Council that the order needs to be given that all humans should be exterminated as two were found that can speak. The gorilla does something unwise to a supposed friend in front of the council, which leads to him being taken off the floor to listen to reason. Sergeant Moench and his troops in the Forbidden Zone are visited and they bear witness to something surprising before having something surprising happen to them. The past is revisited with something important happening at Terminus. The issue’s final five pages show that Ursus has changed from his past self, and it’s not for the better. This story occurring parallel to the classic Planet of the Apes continues to be fantastic as if fleshes out the antagonist of the film. This is a fantastic read. Overall grade: A

The art: There’s a different artist on this issue, Lalit Kumar Sharma, but he’s illustrating the book in close enough style to the artist of the previous three issues. The flashback sequences are still rendered in uninked pencils that are colored in a watercolor-like fashion. This gives the illusion of age to the art so the reader has a visual clue that these pages aren’t set in the present. These pencils are a little looser than in earlier issues, as is evidenced by the group that’s in the first panel on Page 2 that crosses over to Page 3. The close-ups of the characters in the past look terrific, especially Kananaios, who looks maniacal. The stare down on 6 is terrific stuff. The Forbidden Zone is great, with it being an absolute sea of debris made of a crumbling city and seeing humans and apes run about it is thrilling. The action that occurs in the third panel on 9 is outstanding: it’s not too showy and would fit seamlessly into one of the classic films. The reveals at the top of 10 and 11 had me anticipate that something was going to happen, but I didn’t expect what occurs in the largest panel on the pair — which is awesome. The flashback that follows is exciting, with some good surprises. I really like that the final three panels on 16 have no dialogue, relying on the visuals to tell the story, with that last panel leaving me giddy. The final page is a defining sequence of visuals for Ursus; they sum him up excellently. Sharma does a good job on this book. Overall grade: A-

The colors: Jason Wordie’s work continues to be key to telling this tale. The flashbacks have washed out colors to age them and they succeed wonderfully. I really like the work done with the foliage and the close-up of the apes’ arms and legs, with the colors giving the visuals extra depth. The colors used for the action on 9 is simple, but it’s so set apart from everything else in the panel it’s horrific with those colors added. Take note how a sick green pea color is used for the large panel on 10 and 11, telling the reader that the actions are sick. Take note, too, how Ursus’s background on those pages are a harsh orange, giving him an instantly villainous tone. Wordie enhances every aspect of the art. Overall grade: A

The letters: The text of this issue by Ed Dukeshire includes scene settings, narration and dialogue (the same font), sounds, yells, and screams. The scene settings are block letters, as one would expect, but they’re given an ancient look, dating this story as set in the past, though fans will know better. I do wish that the dialogue and narration were in different fonts, rather than differentiated by the shape and colors of their balloons and boxes. The yells are neat in a bolder, thicker font, while the screams really come off the page, expanding beyond the panel’s border on 15. A well done job. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is mandatory reading for any Apes fan or anyone who wants to see a character become a villain. I relish the stories in the past as much as those in the present. This is beautifully told and handsomely illustrated. Check this out. 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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