In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Malcolm said that his son, Alexander, saw things that no kid should have to see. While Alex may have witnessed some dark and twisted developments, the downfall of humanity is something we haven't seen in great detail (the opening recap sequence in the movie totally doesn't count). Rise of the Planet of the Apes revealed the origin of the Simian Flu and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes moved forward a decade, showing us humanity has (mostly) fallen and Caesar's civilization has flourished. But what happened during those ten years? Just how messed up did the situation get for Malcolm and his family? What did Caeser do to build his civilization? Yes, we've seen a gazillion post-apocalyptic stories at this point, but a well told story is still a well told story, and this franchise has done a brilliant job handling its characters. So, who wouldn't want to see more of their tales?
Writer Michael Moreci has the very tough act of following the creative and intelligent movies, but so far, he's doing a praiseworthy job duplicating the tone and feel of the films. Just like Dawn, this series is character-driven. The bigger picture isn't important. What is important is where these characters stand and what they want to do right now. There isn't some diabolical antagonist or some over-the-top and grand scheme at hand. If someone does something villainous, you can tell it's because they legitimately believe it's for the greater good or it's coming from the amount of pain and suffering they've endured. When someone aims a gun at an ape, you understand why and you don't immediately view them as the bad guy. And, when an ape leaps into action and things get bloody, you understand they're doing what they think needs to be done. Even the humans that are clearly meant to be bad guys have a little more depth and it teases there's something bigger going on with them -- something we don't quite understand just yet. This is a franchise that doesn't dumb things down for the audience and thankfully, Moreci is delivering a smart script, one which continues to capture my attention. Oh, and bonus points for finding a way to work in part of an iconic line without making it feel forced.
Artist Dan McDaid and colorist Jason Wordie do an excellent job telling the story. There's so many panels which tell you everything you need to know and dialogue isn't required. You can tell when a character's nervous, dissatisfied, shocked or determined. The expressions -- especially in the scene with Pope -- do a tremendous job making these characters feel alive and not just like they're static images. The work, notably with humans, can be a little rough or seemingly rushed at times, but the combination of effective angles, varied coloring (the bloody scene is striking and appropriately horrifying) and handling of the apes is commendable. There's a number of layouts in here (e.g. one ape approaching another after a big moment) that do such a good job capturing the moment and making it feel fluid instead of still. There's some truly cinematic bits in here and it allows the issue to make a much stronger impression.
While I do enjoy the rougher style of artwork, the comic is at a disadvantage when it comes to handling the humans. With comic characters like Captain America or Batman, it's understandable the look changes from artist to artist and we're more than accepting of that because that's what we're used to. However, with a character like Malcolm, it's a little more difficult because we expect the illustrations to look like Jason Clarke at all times. And, if the dialogue wasn't there, I honestly wouldn't be able to know it's him in a few panels.
You can really tell this comic is made for people who love the new movies because there isn't really a strong hook. It pretty much trusts you'll care about these characters and want to stick around to see more of their story. It's not hitting you with huge, jaw-dropping twists or stunning cliffhangers. Just like the recent movie, it's focused on humanizing characters, not an epic bigger picture. If you like this universe, this will more than likely win you over and leave you wanting to pick up the next chapter. For casual fans, it may not be enough.
BOOM! Studios' comic feels like a proper return to the amazing franchise. Just like the movies, this is all about giving us a solid insight into its characters and watching what happens when they're faced with moral dilemmas. It treats the reader with respect and understands that it's sometimes important to show and not tell. It's a good script and the visual team creates a tone that consistently reminds us of just how intense and difficult the situation has become. A look at two totally different groups -- one human and one ape -- could have been a mess and left the book feeling unfocused, but the juggling of the two locations is being executed well and both stories entertain. Neither is outshining the other and both are doing a fine job showing us more of this world and how it's impacting both groups. We may not have a compelling bigger picture just yet, but the focus on character and the way it's all presented makes this a worthy edition to the franchise's story.