In Review: Planet of the Apes: Ursus #5

The visuals are hurting this book's appeal, because the story is outstanding.

The covers: A trio to seek on this penultimate issue — just be sure you’re not ambushed by a human as you seek them out. The Regular cover is by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera and has the general on horseback warily looking over his shoulder. Behind him the statue of Lincoln from the iconic monument looks down in sadness at what has happened to the world of man. On the debris in the background gorilla soldiers can be seen following their leader. I like this cover, but the bottom left is so black it makes a good quarter of this cover undecipherable. The Variant cover is by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred. This is a classic scene from the second film with the apes shocked at a flaming image of the Lawgiver that’s behind several upside down scarecrows. Dr. Zaius and the soldiers look uneasy, but Ursus looks forward in determination. Very cool, very nice. Becca Carey has created the Subscription cover featuring black and white images separated by a yellow horizontal banner stating Planet of the Apes. The top image is, I believe, a photograph of astronaut John Glenn while in his capsule. The bottom image is an illustration of a gorilla biting into a cheetah’s neck. Cool, but this cover has nothing really to do with this story or series. Overall grades: Regular B+, Variant A-, and Subscription C-

The story: “No Ape’s Land. Many years ago…” Ursus, Kananaios, Omerus, Qama, Zaius, and the rest of the apes have come across an ancient city in ruins. Within it Kananaios and Omerus stumble upon something blasphemous: a large statue of a seated human (the Lincoln Memorial statue). Ursus is shocked and confused when seeing it. Kananaios rallies the apes. “…Do not look away from this blasphemous monstrosity — This symbol of evil!…See this for what it is — A sign from the Lawgiver! He has guided us to us place, to cast out the devil’s pawn, and before us stands a monument to the very beasts we have come to destroy!” David F. Walker’s story then moves to the present in an Ape City hospital. Moench has been brought there because his mind has been shattered. Ursus vows vengeance upon those who have done this to his friend. What he does to sate his anger is very fitting. The more interesting scenes in this installment are in the past which contain a major action scene that involves Ursus and Zaius. The orangutan is also shown in the present, speaking to Zira and Cornelius immediately after the events at the cave from Planet of the Apes. His perspective on the past, the future, and the truth are engaging. The book closes in the fiery past, with two characters planing a future. This continues to be a fantastic read. Overall grade: A

The art: Lalit Kumar Sharma continues as this book’s artist. The flashbacks scenes look terrific, but those in the present are underwhelming. The first four pages show the apes at the Lincoln Monument and every element on these pages are fantastic. The first panel is full of details showing the apes standing among the ruins, the close-ups of Zaius and Kananaios are great, the monument and the apes’ reactions superb, and Kananaios’s rallying of the faithful wonderful. Now look at Page 5. Everything is incredibly simplistic. There are no details whatsoever and the characters merely outlines with the bare minimum of linework to define them. Even the backgrounds disappear. The close-up of Ursus at the bottom of 7 is a generic ape: he looks nothing like actor James Gregory in his iconic makeup. Worse still are the two pages that follow. That Ape City is horrible. The building he enters is tremendously simple. It must have given Sharma difficulty because the backgrounds disappear entirely after one panel establishes the new setting. The return to the past is visually upsetting — it looks so much better. The action and characters on these pages are awesome. The pages set in the Forbidden Zone return to base visuals to tell the story. Look at how the characters in the distant are merely sketches, not realized characters. The visuals in this book go from tremendous to minimal. Very disappointing. Overall grade: C

The colors: The colors throughout the book look as though they’re watercolors, given the natural overlap of colors upon one another. This makes the scenes set in the past look fantastic. The greens and grays combine beautifully to create a grown over by nature feel, while pale violets are used to show intensity. Jason Wordie makes these pages look amazing. The present, however, due to the lackluster visuals, don’t give him much to work with, with large empty backgrounds requiring tremendous spaces to be filled. This is true in the hospital, which is given surprisingly dark tones, which are supposed to set the somber scene. When Ursus vents his anger the backgrounds go orange. Like the art, the coloring is mixed. Overall grade: C

The letters: Ed Dukeshire is the book’s letterer, creating scene settings, dialogue, sacred scroll notations, yells, and a whisper. The scene settings neatly capture that primitive look of the Apes‘ films, the dialogue is easy to read, the scroll notations are italicized to give them a formal air, and the yells bellow off the page. The one whisper in the book visually illustrates a character’s personal turmoil. Nicely done throughout. Overall grade: A- 

The final line: The visuals are hurting this book’s appeal, because the story is outstanding. The artwork in the past is fantastic, while that of the present is average. I still would recommend this as mandatory reading to Apes fans, though those who aren’t converts may be put off by these visuals. Overall grade: B

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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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