War for the Planet of the Apes #1
Written by David F. Walker
Art by Jonas Scharf and Jason Wordie
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Planet of the Apes franchise has had us in its damn, dirty paws for the better part of the last 50 years, or at least since Franklin J. Schaffner first adapted Pierre Boulle’s novel back in 1968. Since then, it has spawned two television series, multiple comics and books, two reboots, and a grand total of nine films, including the forthcoming War for the Planet of the Apes. While this comic book draws its name from the latter, this is not so much an adaptation as a prelude to the main event.
Labelled a “prequel” by the publisher, this issues sets out to showcase the world as it stands before the oncoming war. A few references to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes notwithstanding, the book is made up of a series of quasi-related vignettes set in Nevada, Florida, California, and Georgia. While some show an agrarian group trying to make the most of what they have, others are already embroiled in screaming terror while running from rampaging apes. Another group searches for apes to capture, with rewards being offered by a hitherto unseen party.
Which leads to one of the most intriguing story threads, with labs still undertaking research on the simian flu/ALZ-113 virus. The vignette establishes that it has been 10 years since the virus first spread, but there is still a fair gap to go between intelligent apes and them “blowing it up” (damn them all to hell). Things really get interesting on the ape front, as the civilization of the titular “planet” start to grow. Some humans still believe that their structure is a myth, while David F. Walker shows us evidence to the contrary.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve grown so used to tie-in comic books being somewhat subpar, but Jonas Scharf and Jason Wordie’s art really knocks it out of the park. The exaggerated realism of Scharf’s figures are greatly enhanced by the choice of deep black inks and heavy shadows. Wordie’s color choices are surprisingly muted, although perfectly in keeping with the gritty realism of the cinematic franchise. The violence is kept to a minimum, but is escalated by the red wash that Wordie strategically throws at the reader during periodic spots of ape on human conflict.
War for the Planet of the Apes #1 does exactly what you’d expect from a prequel comic book, by establishing a number of the changes that have taken place in the world without giving away too much of what we can expect from the film hitting cinemas this week. It would be great to see a little more of what is happening beyond North America, as a comic book like this has the power to do. However, even within the confines of the landscape that walker and his art team have laid out here, there is plenty of scope for a story worthy of the excellent films that it accompanies.