REVIEW: Planet of the Apes: The Long War

Planet of the Apes vol. 1 TPB

Planet of the Apes Vol. 1 TPB

Written by Daryl Gregory
Art by Carlos Magno
Color by Juan Manuel Tumburus, Nolan Woodward
Letters by Travis Lanham
Covers by Karl Richardson

112 pages / $9.99 / Paperback

Boom! Studios

“Thus to tyrants!”

The year is 2680 in a calendar prescribed by Man in a world no longer his. Though they walk freely, humans lay down their heads in the ghetto district of Southtown, called Skintown. For centuries the sons of MacDonald, beleaguered by internal strife and nuclear holocaust, have fallen subject to the princely Apes, victors of Earth’s last great Revolution. But for how much longer?

There beneath the statue of long-dead Caesar in the city-state of Mak, the Lawgiver reads of compassion from the ancient scrolls. Sons and daughters of Man and Ape both listen in rapt attention. If Caesar set down his guns those many ages ago, why do Man and Ape still struggle in their coexistence? The old sage’s voice is halted in a flurry of weapons fire. There, fleeing the courtyard by rope, an assassin clad all in black, a gun cradled in his arm. Less so many bullets. The Lawgiver lies dead, and it is surely at the hands of a human.

The opening four-issue arc of Boom! Studios Planet of the Apes ongoing begins with a brutal political assassination and ends with an even more explosive act of terrorism. Already far more complex than even the best of the classic Apes¬†film sequels of the 70s, this new tale from Dracula: The Company of Monsters co-writer Daryl Gregory feels like the franchise’s promise finally fulfilled. Set between the events of 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes¬†(the last of the initial five) and the original 1968 film, this story focuses on an age of transition, when Apes rule, though humans have not yet devolved into primal savagery. Human and Ape children still play together in the streets, though the memory Caesar’s revolution and vision, as well as the height of human development is getting *ahem* fuzzier by the day. In the temporal cycle presented by the Planet of the Apes saga, this is a period often neglected despite its potential for drama. Thankfully it’s now being mined for a truly compelling political thriller.

If you’re looking for camp, understand that that’s not really what Gregory and co have set out to with this series. On many levels, I’m reminded of books like Conan or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Simmering palace intrigue in a barbaric world. We’re talking about warlords and open air markets, rudimentary technology and politics based around prophecy and mysticism. The mystery of the Lawgiver’s assassination (solved by the end of this volume) centers on the weapon used to do the deed. By 2680, automatic weapons have been replaced by brute force and what appear to be flintlock pistols. Machine guns are a distant memory, but the Lawgiver’s corpse was riddled with bullets in a handful of seconds. And the bullets were not artifacts pilfered from a museum or archaeological site, but new creations of a variety not readily manufactured in even the most advanced factories of Mak. Who went to all this trouble, and to kill an Ape so dedicated to social harmony between the species?

From Planet of the Apes #2

Most impressive about “The Long War” is the rapid world-building. The status quo detailed so far in the review is expressed much more subtly in the first issues of this comic. We open with a murder. We learn of the complex social hierarchy through the path of the news breaking and the investigation shortly thereafter. A pregnant woman called Sully serves as mayor of the human ghetto Southtown. Her lieutenants are a grizzled former soldier and his beautiful daughter, one of the many mutes to be born in this hostile age. Sully, though human, considers the Lawgiver a foster grandfather. But Alaya, a prominent chimpanzee politician and the Lawgiver’s natural granddaughter, is no longer so welcoming to her, despite all those years raised alongside her. Another human, a cleric called Kale represents one of the most delightfully bizarre elements from the classic films: the shrouded deviants known quite aptly as the Church of the Bomb. Rounding out the main ensemble is Nix, a former revolutionary gorilla, newly freed from prison and tasked with finding justice for his old friend the Lawgiver. But will this warrior who claims devotion to the ideals of equality truly bring about peace with his White Troop?

Carlos Magno’s art is also something of a revelation. Though it’s not always entirely clear whether a particular ape is a Chimpanzee, Bonobo, Orangutan or Gorilla, his pencils are well-suited to this fantastical universe of warriors, assassins, clerics and politicians, both in scenes of intense action, cloak and dagger intrigue, or the simple splendors of an exotic new world. Between Magno and Gabriel Hardman (the upcoming Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes mini-series) the damn dirty apes are looking damned good.

There’s a lot going on in these first four issues, but it’s all masterfully conceived and executed. If this summer’s terrific Rise of the Planet of the Apes has you hungry for more of the franchise, look no further. No monkey business. This is the start of something truly special.

Story: 4 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5)

Comments

  1. And………… I’m in. Sounds like exactly my cup of tea.

  2. I read the first paragraph and stopped right there. Sold. Damn dude, that’s got to be a record

  3. AWESOME!! THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Seriously I was a non-believer, got the first issue and was converted.

  4. Oooh, $9.99!

  5. aw, Paul you’re stealing my heart.

    I’m really glad you’re highlighting this series – I loved this first arc and it is featuring some of my favorite art of the year. I’m not an Apes guy by any means and when I picked up the first issue, I wasn’t connecting to the fact that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was coming out soon – but it doesn’t matter. This is a great comic, definitely one of my favorite things going right now. And issue 5 that came out this week takes things even further. I recc this wholeheartedly

  6. Tried to pick this up, but midtown comics was oddly sold out. I did pick up issue 5, and will pick up the trade when it goes back in stock. The book sounds superb.

  7. Question: As of now I’ve only watched ’68 original and Rise. Are the other four sequels worth watching?

  8. And this is not available digitally, why? Boom Studios?