It’s nearly the end of the year which means I’ll have to stop going on about the 50th Anniversary of Planet of the Apes. Although it is only a year until the 50th anniversary of Beneath the Planet of the Apes…
But, before then, there is still time to get some new Apes stories in and that is exactly what Boom! Studios are doing this week with the release of The Simian Age: three new stories set across the franchise, taking in the original universe and the new movie continuity.
Similar to The Time of Man one shot released last month, The Simian Age has three very different stories which highlight the diversity and story potential for Planet of the Apes. Across both issues, the creators have told 6 wildly different stories but they all are quintessentially Ape stories.
In this week’s offering there is Apex, a tale of a gorilla in military training written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Matt Smith. The story starts off in a very straight forward manner, presenting the training regime for a Gorilla new to the military. But as the story unfolds, the central character Apex begins to learn what it means to be a mindless follower of the status quo and he has a few issues.
The story illustrates the horrors of combat through the eyes of a young Ape and Kindt builds a series of events which leads the reader, and Apex, into a situation where a choice needs to be made. The script pulls no punches and doesn’t hide from the brutality of sanctioned violence. The actions of the military are questionable which leads Apex into his predicament.
The Art work is as bold as the story with Smith using thick, fluid black lines and heavy shadows. The colour choices by Joana Lafuente are also striking with some less than subtle panels.
Apex may feel heavy handed to some readers but it draws on the political nature of previous Ape outings and the creators aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
Cloud and Rain is weakest of the three stories but that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable or entertaining. Written by Ryan Ferrier and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma, Cloud and Rain follows the tragic adventures of two Apes caught between their fear of Koba and their love of Caesar. As political as the story that precedes it in this comic, Ferrier examines the impact that 'Fear' has upon the average ‘persons’ decision making. He delves into uncomfortable truths and shows the reader how easy it is to manipulate people and turn friend against friend.
Sharma gives the titular characters an innocence, representing them as children in the face of the elder Apes like Maurice and Koba. This approach works well at reminding the reader about the divide between the leaders and the civilians. Sharma also uses the layouts of the page to great effect when telling the story. He mixes up the panel layouts, unafraid to use inserts or allow the gutters to be broken for emphasis. A number of panels have pure white backgrounds which stand out on the page and focus the reader’s attention onto the Ape’s interactions.
There are some strong moments of tension within Cloud and Rain with a number of thought provocative panels. It may be the weakest of the three but that does not mean that it is a weak story.
The best that The Simian Age has to offer is in fact the first story in the collection. Mothers of Exiles is a beautifully moving tale of a Chimpanzee in hiding. Jeff Jensen has written an emotional tale of heartbreak and loneliness that will touch even the hardest of gorilla hearts. It follows the daily routine of Amy, a Chimp who is self-exiled and living in the remains of the Statue of Liberty.
Set a short while after the end of the original movie (reference is made to Taylor so the readers can place the action) and unexpected arrival changes Amy’s life in a way that she hadn’t expected.
The Art work is beautiful. Jared Cullum’s watercolours are a superb fit to Jensen’s narrative and produce an atmosphere rarely found in an Ape comic. It is very insular tale of a single Chimps personal experiences. There are moments of warmth; touching scenes that illustrate the kindness of the chimpanzee’s and are a reminder of the affections shown by Cornelius and Zira in the original movie.
Like the other two offerings in The Simian Age, Mothers of Exiles is about over coming fear and risking personal safety to do what is right. The narrative, however, has a much subtler tone which makes the Hope embedded in the story more transparent and heart-warming. It is a gripping story, expertly written and beautifully illustrated.
Planet of the Apes: The Simian Age is yet another worthy additional to the ever expanding Apes franchise. A collection of three, very different yet very similar themed stories each with its own appeal and relevance. Whether you are a fan of the old movies or the new, The Simian Age has something for you.