Exile on the Planet of the Apes issue 4.
Written by - Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.
Art - Marc Laming.
Colourist – Darrin Moore.
Letterer – Ed Dukeshire.
Editor – Dafna Pleban.
Publisher – Boom Studios.
This is a review of the final issue of the Boom Studios mini-series Exile on the Planet of the Apes. This series of Apes books seem to be adopting the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. universe model where each mini-series has a storyline that can be linked back to an overall arc and theme.
The storyline has reached a climactic stage where the ape army is attacking the humans ( and a handful of rebel apes who have joined them throughout the series) in an Alamo style setting. The issue throws us straight into the action at the front of the battle lines. Bullets are flying and both humans and apes are falling on both sides. (Pages 3’s counter attack looks astounding).
This mini-series and it’s predecessor Betrayal on the Planet of the Apes were both leading up to this moment. We knew that this big clash of species would happen. This issue does not let you down. As the issue progresses we see what happens to all the disparate characters. The rebel group has retreated into the Forbidden Zone (remember that from Beneath The Planet of the Apes movie?) and the heat drips off the page (awesome colouring). There is a real sense of desperation in the faces of the mute and scrawny humans who have survived.
Marc Laming has a realistic style that shows off his roots as an art teacher and a compatriot of Howard Chaykin. His previous work in American Century, The Activity and The Rinse (to name a few) also show an ability to mix personal moments as well as broad action sequences. He deals amazingly well with the distinctive Ape faces. I was never at a disadvantage as to which Ape was which (a mighty feat). It surely can’t be long before he is snapped up by Marvel or DC. I would love to see him on a street level book like Daredevil or Batman.
A book where one half of it’s cast cannot speak could well be seen as a challenge but whenever we see a human it seems to have an added poignancy because of the unspoken drama. Marc Laming is adept at displaying the emotion of both the human and apes through their faces and Gabriel Harman and Corinna Bechko pace it astoundingly well. One notable moment which I loved is when Aleron feels the strain on his heart mid battle and collapses. You can see pain and disappointment in his vulnerability showing in his gorilla features. The spread of wordless panels throughout the issue works brilliantly.
Aleron, the eye patch wearing grizzled General, is the standout character in this book for me. He straddles the tough exterior of a warrior with the vulnerability of an outcast. He is a little bit Nick Fury and a little bit Commissioner Gordon. He is rage and fury in the heat of battle with a melancholic side in the quieter moments. He despairs of the politics and the double dealing. It’s a shame that we may (spoilers) well not see him again.
The writers do a great job in showing us the blurred sides in a war. They show us their characters both misguided and moral motivations. They show us the escalation of violence through demagogues and outdated prejudices. There is nothing melodramatic in this book. Great Sci-Fi speaks to the world today and this is no exception. ‘Ape Shall Not Kill Ape’ is both a central theme and an anchor around the necks of some of the more exuberant apes. The mood of the piece is splendidly executed. We have a bleak and dystopian future here. Desperation to survive is evident in almost every panel. The humans face extinction and the Apes fear a return to times gone by.
The finale itself has a feeling of non-stop action and a seeming confinement in the close quarters of an old fashioned battle. When the humans flee you feel the danger of the escape and fear for those that might be caught and killed. Interspersed throughout the battle are moments of really well handled ape/human interaction. (SPOILERS) The apparent death of Aleron is dealt with well. The falling rubble around him as a he looks on has a beautiful sense of finality. (Perhaps a Tales of Aleron spin off series? Huh?)
I loved this book and mourn it’s passing. Boom are really proving themselves with their POTA comics. With Hardman and Bechko at it’s wheel it bodes well for future storylines (I see that the Annual is due next week and I can’t wait).