What follows is a comprehensive look back at every original comic book ever set in the universe of the original Planet of the Apes franchise. From the 1974 Marvel magazines to now, these detailed reviews will invite you to relive the issues you once read, as well as easily catch up on those that you missed, with comprehensive plot summaries and critical analyses.
*Note: This thread will not include the Dark Horse series (2001) based upon the Tim Burton film, nor the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes series (2014) set in the rebooted POTA film universe.
The reviews in this thread are organized in chronological order by publication date. However, since these POTA stories do not all occur within a shared continuity and do not all follow the same cast of characters, you may prefer following the reviews in this thread by the main character/continuity they follow:
The Curtis/Marvel series was a magazine format comic published in 1974, three years after Marvel launched the Curtis imprint and began selling a series of magazine format comics/fanzines, most based upon properties and areas of interest that had a fan base outside of comicdom (Dracula, Conan, The Hulk, Fu-Manchu/Kung Fu in general, etc). At the same time that this was occurring, the Planet of the Apes franchise was nearing the apex of its popular culture success, and with a new television series about to hit Prime Time in 1974, as well as the re-release of the five feature films in theaters, it was beginning to occur to merchandisers everywhere that very little had been done to cash in on the Apes craze. In this context, a Planet of the Apes comic magazine was a bit of a no-brainer, as Roy Thomas explains in his editorial at the beginning of the issue.
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "The Lawgiver," and Chapter 2: "Fugitives on the Planet of the Apes" writer: Doug Moench (idea erroneously credited to Gerry Conway. This is later corrected) art: Mike Ploog
The first chapters of "Terror" are a bit slow to warm. Mike Ploog's pencils and inks are a bit more awkward than what they later become (by issue #8, they're drop dead gorgeous), and Moench's characters feel a bit one-dimensional. They are:
Jason: An impulsive human with a chip on his shoulder, living in a world in which humans, though technically equal to apes, are treated as second class citizens.
Alex: The more rational, sometimes wise-cracking Ape friend to Jason who doesn't seem to have a personality yet.
Brutus: The villain of the story, both the leader of the military and the secret leader of the anonymous group that is killing humans Klu Klux Klan style.
Xavier: The inept Orangutan ruling in the Lawgiver's place who essentially allows Brutus to run the show.
The Lawgiver: The ideal leader (even though he empowered both Brutus and Xavier and allowed humans to be socially and economically disadvantaged) who leaves Ape City to go on a mysterious mission.
The overall premise, set in the future shown at the end of the fifth film (approximately 600 years from present day), and after Caesar revised history (the fourth and fifth films) so that apes and man would coexist, involves Jason's parents being murdered by Brutus's people during a hate raid, Jason discovering Brutus' involvement in the secret society responsible for the raid, Brutus killing his wife and blaming it on Jason, and Jason and Alex fleeing into the forbidden zone in search of The Lawgiver so that they can tell him what Brutus is doing and clear Jason's name.
It's not a bad idea, but nothing about the first issue is particularly extraordinary either. Both Alex and Jason are highly simplistic, under-developed characters, and the plot hasn't had a chance to pick up any momentum yet.
And, for what it's worth, the Klu Klux Kan inspired group of hooded apes premise was also used in the 1975 POTA TV series episode, "The Deception." This was published before that episode aired, so it's entirely possible the TV show writers were inspired by this story.
"An Overview of the Apes Series" article by Gary Gerani -- a simple history of the making of each film, providing summaries of the plots, and also randomly inserting judgments about various aspects of the films, ultimately crediting Conquest as being the best of the franchise (I personally prefer Battle, but no one agrees with me).
"Rod Serling Recalls" interview by David Johnson -- An interview with Serling confirming his role in the writing of the original script. Serling goes on to explain that he agreed with the decision to have Mike Wilson rewrite his script and liked the playfulness he added to it. Unfortunately, the second and third pages of the three page interview are spent almost entirely on discussing Serling's non-Apes works.
"The Face of the Apes" article by Ed Lawrence -- The first of entirely too many articles published in this magazine about the make-up and prosthetics.
"Planet of the Apes" film adaptation in 6 parts, written by Doug Moench, art by George Tuska. While I don't have the patience to read through a full adaptation of a movie I know by heart (remember: adaptations made more sense back before the onset of home video), Moench and Tuska do their best to almost change my mind. Tuska's artwork is absolutely stunning (though he was required to draw Taylor to look nothing like Heston for legal reasons) and Moench changes the dialogue from time to time in order to intensify or improve specific moments in the film. His narration boxes are an excellent supplement to the action, as well.
This first installment of the adaptation depicts the film up until the moment that the astronauts are first captured by the apes. What I found most surprising was Tuska putting the astronauts in swimming trunks during the skinny-dipping scene. I'd assumed that one of the advantages to publishing in magazine format would be circumventing the comics code, and indeed the violent KKK-inspired killings in the "Terror" chapters would seem to validate this, but then we have skinny-dippers in swimming trunks. With all that Warren Publishing had been doing in magazines for a full decade by this point, one would expect Marvel to be comfortable showing some naked and thoroughly un-sexy male butts here.
Beyond all this, it's worth noting that Marvel does some very cute house ads in these issues, with Stan Lee starring in a one page photo-comic enticing you to buy Crazy Magazine, and with an original (and always highly amusing) ad for subscribing to Planet of the Apes each issue. You'll never see these in a reprint.
Solid first issue, though "Terror" isn't fully taking off yet and, for lack of a better way of expressing it, the writers of these articles (and even editor Roy Thomas) do not seem at all psyched about the Apes franchise. It feels like they're doing this for the money, with only Moench, Tuska (and later Ploog) pouring their hearts into the project.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:21:16 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "Forbidden Zone of Forgotten Horrors!" and Chapter 2: "Lick the sky CRIMSON" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
"Terror" finally begins to grow some legs in this story, taking us into a few unexpected directions. Up until this point, Jason just seemed obnoxiously moody, but this time around, he takes revenge on Brutus, setting his entire tree-top encampment on fire with Brutus and his soldiers still inside. It absolutely crosses a line for comic book heroes, and Alex says as much while beside him. Not only does this make Jason a far more unpredictable and fascinating character, capable of taking the dark path and not becoming the hero we expect, but it better defines the Jason/Alex friendship, giving Alex a role as superego to Jason's id. The two are still both simplistic, under-developed characters, but together perhaps they can add up to a complex whole.
Beyond this, we finally get Jason and Alex out to the forbidden zone, where they first encounter the mutants, and we suddenly begin to realize that Moench has a much more fascinating vision in mind for the mutants than just being the sad bomb-worshipping folk we saw in both the Beneath and Battle movies. These guys have complex sci-fi machinery and an entire underground futuristic world at their disposal. This is fertile ground for great sci-fi storytelling.
This issue definitely won me over and convinced me that this series has serious potential.
Editor's letter: It seems like someone else is in charge of this book each issue. This time, I believe Roy Thomas is still in charge but has invited Tony Isabella to use the space to comment upon his role in the creation of this magazine. I'd read it again to make sure, but the mindless self-congratulating drivel in that column puts me to sleep. Why couldn't these guys take a page from the book of Stan and try to sell this book with enthusiasm, not just dry explanations of who did what?
"The City of the Apes" article by Ed Lawrence -- A detailed exploration of the design of Ape City, accompanied by photos.
"Simian Genesis" article by Gary Gerani -- both a review of the original Pierre Boulle novel and a comparison/contrast between it and the first film. Nothing here that you wouldn't read on Wikipedia, but there was nowhere else to find this information back in 1974. I probably would have read this article with great interest back then.
"Michael Wilson: The Other 'Apes' Writer" interview by David Johnson -- Most of the article is spent discussing Wilson's other projects (which he appears to find more interesting). Not much of interest in this one.
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Chapter Two: World of Captive Humans" by Doug Moench and George Tuska. This chapter begins with Taylor waking up in the human prison cell and ends with Zira learning he can write his name and deciding to take him with her.
Definitely a stronger chapter of "Terror." The additional features are fun to look at, but nothing about them (beyond the house ads) is really particularly worthwhile to a modern reader.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:22:23 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "Spawn of the Mutant-Pits" and Chapter 2: "The Abomination Arena!" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Wow. "Terror" keeps heating up. This time around, Doug fully revisits the concept of the mutants and makes their world so much more intricate, fantastic, and thrilling -- filled with speeding subway rocket cars, armed cybernetic soldiers, and controlled by admittedly schizophrenic giant brains with specific personality deficiencies. It's funny, brilliant, and fulfilling stuff. Certainly, the pathetic mutants in a school bus from the final film must have been from a different tribe.
Meanwhile, the banter between Jason and Alex is getting more intelligent/witty, and they do an excellent job of exploring all sides of hatred, with Alex generally functioning as superego to Jason's trauma-triggered id. Brilliant stuff. If the series maintains its momentum, I'd easily rank this as a favorite POTA story, falling just behind Battle of the Planet of the Apes and the original film in my own personal hierarchy (for what it's worth, the new RISE of the POTA film ranks in at #5 on that list).
One area of thematic trouble -- Conquest made the clear case that, though humans were in power, Apes were the physically (and perhaps morally) superior beings, even while the two races were cognitively equal. Now that Apes have risen to power in this series, the same argument seems to hold for Jason and the humans like him. Is the unintended message that the downtrodden will always be superior (not just equal)? Where do you go with a message like that? Would a utopian civilization then consist of all beings subjugating each other? Or do you just concede that becoming free and a master of your own destiny makes you weak?
Anyway, other interesting aspects of this issue:
-Tony Isabella clarifies in this issue that Gerry Conway DID NOT come up with the plot for this storyline. That had been Roy Thomas' error. All Conway did was suggest that the series be made. The rest was all Moench. I believe the GCD still credits this incorrectly.
-The letters column contains a long and wordy letter of praise from one J.M. Straczynski, at 555 Naples, #304, Chula Vista, California, 92011. This is almost certainly current comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski, who was 20 years old and writing in California at the time.
-Chris Claremont (still just a lowly editorial assistant at the time) writes a lengthy column about visiting the set of the new Planet of the Apes TV show and backs off from offering praise for what he observes.
-Roddy McDowall is given an embarrassingly short interview that tells us very little about him.
So the lead serial is really blowing my mind right now, but the rest of the mag is not. It feels exceptionally amateur, and not in a Stan's Soapbox/I'm-going-to-break-the-fourth-wall-and-talk-to-you-as-a-human sort of approach. None of the articles sound like they are being written by people who know what they're doing. The interviews, in particular, feel clumsy and awkward. And even Isabella, while answering the letters column, throws Moench under the bus for what he deems to be a less than satisfactory explanation of something a fan questioned him about. Not at all professional.
It's exciting to be reading the original mags in their original context, but I think you could read a reprint of the Moench lead feature, ignore most of the other content, and not miss much beyond the cute house ads and Tuska's brilliant artwork for the film adaptation. If I were a fan in 1974, I doubt I'd be paying a dollar for this every other month (and it goes monthly next issue).
Speaking of the film adaptation, it covers the moment where Zira and Cornelius first learn who Taylor is from his writing on a pad to the moment where he speaks the "Damn dirty ape!" line. As usual, Moench makes a few new additions to the dialogue and, in this case, Taylor's writings, and Ploog does an excellent job with the art.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:23:34 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Part 4: "A Riverboat Named Simian" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
This is the issue where I personally feel the "Terror" storyline begins to find its center. Outside of Ape City, the Mutant underground city, and all that Moench had originally conceptually planned before getting knee-deep in the series, Moench is now free to experiment more freely and see what comes our characters' way in the spirit of the great fantasy stories where bands of characters travel from strange world to strange world.
Indeed, our heroes pick up four new traveling companions in this issue: -Gunpowder Julius (1st appearance) -Steely Dan (1st appearance) -Shaggy (1st appearance) -The Lawgiver
And they travel to a fantastic world in which apes and humans live side by side in a frontier society along a river. Gunpowder Julius and Steely Dan are absolutely endearing and hysterical frontier brawlers with hearts of gold who insult and threaten their friends far more than their enemies. Shaggy, the speechless hybrid ape/man makes a far different and incredibly memorable contribution to this story, but I won't spoil it here.
And yet, while we're having fun escaping into this post-apocalyptic fantasy, there is also complexity brewing back home, as we learn that Brutus has conspired with the mutants to plunge Ape City into a civil war through his actions against humans, leaving it ripe for a mutant conquest.
GREAT story that thoroughly blows open the confines of this storyline, leaving its potential seemingly limitless. Can't wait to travel to new strange lands, meet more compelling companions (who are all far more endearing than our original protagonists), and see the trouble brewing in Ape City develop and play itself out.
"A Half-Hour with Harper" interview with TV series star Ron Harper by Chris Claremont (y'know, before his X-Men days).
"Planet of the Apes Fashions" article by Ed Lawrence
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], part 4: The Trial!" by Doug Moench and George Tuska, covering Taylor's first conversations with Nova up to the trial scene.
This is a must-read issue. If you're at all on the fence about "Terror," this would be the chapter to fully win you over.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:24:12 GMT -5 by shaxper
This is the first time Moench takes a break from the "Terror" storyline, instead offering a stand-alone story outside of the regular storyline and taking place in a different time and/or place than Jason and Alex's adventures.
I wonder if Boom! will reprint these non-"Terror" stories.
"Evolution's Nightmare" writer: Doug Moench pencils: Ed Hannigan inks: Jim Mooney
This stand alone takes the cliche of two bitter enemies having to find their own separate peace in order to survive (best popularized, perhaps, by the Tony Curis film "The Defiant Ones") and throws one hell of a twist into the concept. I enjoyed it, though it was nowhere near as memorable as what we've seen of "Terror" thus far.
What's weird, though, is that this storyline clearly depicts a feudal human society existing on the Planet of the Apes. I'm curious whether Moench envisioned this story occurring during the same time frame as "Terror" or at a later date. Considering that he'll eventually create original stories that consciously place themselves in different time frames from "Terror," it's probably fair to assume that this question was on his mind, as well.
Of course, Gunpowder Julius' society, depicted in the previous issue, certainly established that the societies on the planet of the apes are diverse and disconnected from one another. It's entirely possible that a human race could exist on such a world, free of ape rule.
Another cool addition introduced in this story -- the forbidden zone contains mutant apes in addition to mutant humans. Actually, this might help to date the story. The human mutants in the 5th film were clearly looking for battle and probably wouldnt have allowed mutant apes to exist within the zone. Such a race of mutant apes could only emerge after the mutants were defeated in the 5th film, making it likely that this story occurs a long time after the 5th film, just like the "Terror" serial.
"An Interview with Dan Striepeke," interview with the Apes TV show make-up man by Samuel Maronie
"The Man Who Sold Planet of the Apes!" article about producer Arthur P. Jacobs by Gary Gerani
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], part 5: Into the Forbidden Zone" by Doug Moench and George Tuska. This chapter takes us up to the revelation of the talking doll at the archeological site.
Not as strong as an issue containing a "Terror" installment, but still worthwhile reading.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:28:25 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes: "Malaguena in a Zone Forbidden" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Our band of heroes encounters a traveling band of Ape and Human gypsies in this issue. The plot, itself, isn't all that exciting until Brutus enters at the end, but Jason clearly descends deeper into his rage this issue as a result of the events of the last one, actually unable to snap out of his memories and fantasies of revenge for the beginning of the story.
What I find troubling about this, though, is how the Lawgiver seems to sagely understand exactly what Jason is going through, even while refusing to condone his rage. The primary theme of Planet of the Apes ever since the fourth film has been racism: sometimes Humans treating Apes the way White American culture once treated African Americans, and sometimes Apes treating humans in this way, Well, in this storyline, if Jason represents the voice of understandably incensed African Americans, and if the Lawgiver represents the best intentioned voice of the oppressive White Culture, isn't it a little offensive for the Lawgiver to presume to understand Jason's rage at all, let alone attempt to advise him on the inappropriateness of his anger?
This brings me back to a point I made in the first issue that the Lawgiver is presented as a sort of ideal leader in this storyline, and yet the social and economic imbalances of Ape City were occurring under his watch and without his interventions, even going so far as to appoint Brutus to head the military, and leaving Xavier in charge in his absence (who was clearly going to defer to Brutus).
I think this is the one aspect of "Terror" that Moench has not considered carefully enough.
"Urko Unleashed," interview with TV show actor Mark Lenard by Chris Claremont. Not that interesting (even to me, and I'm a fan of Lenard's from Star Trek) until Lenard and Claremont begin dropping hints that the TV series isn't doing that well with either audiences or producers and may not get renewed.
"Ape for a Day" article by Samuel Maronie -- more about the experience of wearing the prosthetics
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation] part 6: The Secret" by Doug Moench and George Tuska covers the end of the film, though Moench changes Taylor's famous last lines (AGH!).
Good issue, overall, but not as mind-blowing as I've come to expect from this series.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:53:17 GMT -5 by shaxper
This is the first issue in the series to have no lead feature, and editor Don McGregor (see? I told you they keep changing editors) pretty much throws Moench under the bus for this one, explaining that he's away in Chicago. He could have just as easily explained that the new film adaptation of the second film was starting in this issue and so they wanted to give it extra attention.
Indeed, the Beneath the Planet of the Apes film adaptation is given two chapters in this issue, and it's almost worth it since you've still got Doug Moench scripting and, best yet, Alfredo Alcala penciling and inking. Alcala is my favorite inker, and I'd been wanting to see him ink his own artwork for a long time. I was not disappointed.
Still...no "Terror" installment
"Interview with Marvin Paige" (Casting director for TV series) by Susan Munshower. How sad that they've sunken this low in seeking out interviews, and how sad that they are apparently unable to get the other stars of the TV series (beside Ron Harper) to do interviews for this mag?
"Monkey Business on the Planet of the Apes" article about Natalie Trundy by Sam Maronie -- Sadder still, we get an article (not even an interview) about the absolute most usless actor from the Apes films who clearly only got her three different roles in four films because she was married to the producer.
"Man the Fugitive" review of the paperback adaptation of the TV show episode by John Warner -- Sadder even still.
Alfredo Alcala aside, this is one sad issue.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:54:19 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes: "The Planet Inheritors!" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
I swear that "Terror" just keeps getting better. Any other writer could have just provided a new storyline for this magazine set in the Apes' world, much like the TV series being produced at the same time did, but Moench has really worked hard to flesh out an entire world of post-apocalyptic fantasy, full of vastly diverse micro-societies and strange cultures (some nodding to elements of the past, some looking ahead), and with a core group of heroes at the center.
In true fantasy style, Jason and Alex once more add members to their team as they continue on their quest, including the knife-wielding gypsy Saraband, his semi-deranged dwarfish companion Trippo, Jason's romantic interest/liberated love slave Maleguena, and Brutus (now their captive).
Unfortunately, just as the series appears to hit a new level of momentum with this expanded cast of characters, Moench accidentally gets to the ending too quickly. Our heroes take a bold frontal assault on their mutant enemies and end up in a situation where they absolutely should have won, defeating both the Mutant threat and Brutus once and for all, and you can almost see Moench furiously back-peddling to not let the series end so easily. The final victory only comes after lots of absurd delays that seemed unlikely, and then, after Saraband's heroic act to save the day, we see two of the evil brains controlling the mutant forces shattered (and our heroes' explanation for why they need to run instead of shattering the third one makes absolutely no sense), only to notice for the first time that Ploog has penciled two new brains behind them which clearly were not there in previous issues. So, obviously, nothing has truly been accomplished. Brutus has escaped (why did the heroes take Brutus in with them anyway or not retie him up after climbing down the ventilation shaft?) and there will still be three evil brains controlling the mutant forces after all is said and done. Ho hum.
And even Moench seems bugged by this, deciding to take a break from "Terror" next issue and starting a new lead feature series in its place. Too bad. "Terror" was absolutely enthralling me until this final conflict. I can't wait for it's return in three issues.
"The Remaking of Roddy McDowall!" article by Abbie Bernstein -- Yup. Just another article about wearing the prosthetics.
"Knowing Your Place on the Planet of the Apes!" article by Gary Gerani exploring the slightly different racial hierarchies of the book, the individual movies, and the TV series.
Also worth noting -- In the letters column, one fan writes in about the show being cancelled, though it is mentioned nowhere else in the issue (not even in the letter from the editor). Impressive, then, that the magazine was popular enough to keep going for another two years after this, only halted when licensing fees got too expensive.
"The Warhead Messiash" (Beneath the Planet of the Apes film adaptation part 3), by Doug Moench and Alfredo Alcala, cover Brent and Nova first going underground up to right before Brent's telepathic interrogation.
Still a great issue that had me on the edge of my seat, though Moench has clearly lost his direction with "Terror". I sincerely hope he regains it quickly and doesn't create these absurd back-peddle moments again.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:55:14 GMT -5 by shaxper
Lots of changes this issue, including a temporary new lead feature, new editor (AGAIN!) Archie Goodwin, and an unusual supplemental feature.
“Kingdom on an Island of the Apes, Chapter 1: “The Trip,” and Chapter 2: “Arrival” Writer: Doug Moench Art: Rico Rival
“Kingdom” is certainly a major change in direction for Moench. Whereas “Terror” is primarily a fantasy story set in a sci-fi post-apocalypse world, “Kingdom” begins as more of a generic 1950s sci-fi comic story, and whereas “Terror” took more interest in action and new developments, “Kingdom” is a densely written, character-intensive piece that spends the entire first part of this four part story giving us a sense of who the main character is before even getting him to the Planet of the Apes.
It’s incredibly well written, and Rival (who I have never heard of) does a great job mirroring Moench’s darker, deeper tone through his art.
What’s odd, though, is the title of this story. Unless it’s a reference or quote I’m not familiar with, I have no idea what an “island” has to do with this story at all. Derek Zane is transported to what appears to be the exact same location and general time period that Taylor and his crew visited in the first Apes film. General Gorodon and the unseen ape leader, Xirinius, would seem to indicate either that this is not the exact same time period or that this is a slightly different future, altered by Caesar’s presence in the 4th and 5th Apes films. Of course, the introduction takes the safest explanation, merely promising that the story is “freely based on the concepts founds in 20th Century Fox and Pierre Boulle’s thrilling PLANET OF THE APES” without any specific mention of it fitting into a pre-existing continuity. Of course, Moench’s references to Taylor and Otto Hasslein in this story suggest otherwise.
A good story that spends most of its energy on getting Zane into the time machine, but once he gets there, there isn’t much to captivate me yet. Only two chapters left for the story to find its footing; I hope Moench is up to it.
In the editor’s letter section, new editor Archie Goodwin explains that Moench’s departures from Terror are intended to give Ploog a chance to catch up on the artwork, as well as the fact that we can expect more of them from time to time in the future. He also informs us that “Kingdom” was originally intended as a stand lone four part story for a POTA Annual that never took shape (they decided to take the regular magazine monthly instead).
“On Location: Conquest!” by Al Satian and Heather Johnson. Here’s a mystery for you. This article is a behind the scenes report on a film made almost four years earlier and written by people who are not regular contributors to this magazine, and yet there is no introduction to explain the origin or inclusion of this article. Also weird that it’s the ONLY article in this issue. Usually, we get 2 to 3 of them.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Chapter Three: “The Horror Inquisition!” by Moench and Alcala covers Brent’s telepathic inquisition up to the moment when the mutants unmask during the church service.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:57:50 GMT -5 by shaxper
Kingdom on an Island of the Apes, Chapter 3: "The City," Chapter 4: "The Island out of Time," and Chapter 5: "Battle" writer: Doug Moench art: Rico Rival grade: A
"Kingdom" concludes here and yet tells a story so much larger than you'd expect in 31 pages. Our hero first goes to Ape city, makes an arch rival out of Gorodon, gets framed by Gorodon for murder (this felt WAY too similar to "Terror"), escapes his pursuers, travels to a nearby island and ends up in a replicated Camelot with apes and humans playing out the roles, makes an arch rival of Sir Gaiwan, proves himself as a wizard and knight, gains a love interest, defeats Gaiwan, and leads a battle against Gorodon and the pursuing forces from Ape City. Truly, this could have been a twenty or thirty part serial on the same level of "Terror," and yet Moench consolidates it so well in this issue, introducing compelling subplots, taking us to strange and imaginative new lands, and ending it all on a strong note that resolves all conflicts and thematically answers the issues established at the beginning of the story.
Of course, there were lots of minor issues that didn't make sense, most prominently the abrupt shift in characterization Derek experiences in this issue. Last issue, he was a helpless dreamer who took himself too seriously and spent too much time in his head. Now he's a muscular hero who is constantly aware of what's going on and what next step to take, has very brief and simple internal monologue that's all slang (whereas it was once complex and verbose), is an excellent shot with a gun, recognizes gunpowder on sight, can build a raft in minutes, and is an expert lassoer.
It's a fun fantasy, but the transformation is fully unearned.
And, once again, Moench is careful NOT to answer the question of where these various Apes stories occur with respect to one another. This COULD be the same time period that Taylor and the others were sent to, or it could not. Certainly though, it can't be the same time period as "Terror" since that story continues after the events of the 4th and 5th films (which existed in a revised timeline that is different from that of the first two films).
The Editor's letter announces a new assistant editor. Seriously, people are changing around almost every issue!
The letter column concedes the cancellation of the TV series, provides an address to write to CBS, and also announces the forthcoming animated series.
The letter column also contains several concerns/criticisms from fans about the dwindling availability of topics for apes articles in the magazine.
"Finding the Future on the Fox Ranch!" article by Samual Maronie -- talks about how the Fox ranch was used for so many of the sets and scenes in the films
Beneath the Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Chapter 4: "Children of the Bomb!" by Moench and Alcala covers the church service scene up to the approach of the Apes into the Forbidden Zone and the mutants' decision to prime the Omega Bomb.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:57:24 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes: "When the Lawgiver Returns" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Sadly but surely, Moench abandons the fantasy/adventure aspect of the series this issue, having Gunpowder Julius, Steely Dan, and Trippo bid our heroes farewell as they return to Ape City and to the conflict and premise with which the series began. Moench handles it well enough, finally making the Lawgiver a presence to be reckoned with (it's now clear that he is and was a great leader doing his best to maintain the peace), and the hatred within Jason explodes to new levels, finally resulting in him renouncing the Lawgiver, socking Alex in the face, and fleeing Ape City, swearing to never return, only after having savagely beaten Brutus within an inch of his life.
Oh, it's powerful stuff, but it's not as fun as the quirky band of heroes and sci-fi villains Moench left behind outside of Ape City's borders. That's where the true magic was, in my opinion. Still, Ploog's artwork (particularly his exaggerated Lawgiver faces and usage of torches and nighttime shadows) really took this already pretty good issue to the next level of awesomeness.
Two minor details worth noting:
- The gorilla military leader kills the useless orangutan leader (Xavier, not the Lawgiver) and blames it on humans. Once more, "Terror" and "Kingdom" overlap a tad too much.
- I first noticed in #5 that the gypsy leader wished well to our heroes by instructing them to "Look to the mountaintop." The saying is used again twice in this issue, once by Gunpowder Julius, and once by Jason. Six years later, Moench still liked this saying enough to build an entire Batman story around it (Detective Comics #533, in which Barbara Gordon stands vigil over the commissioner's hospital bed, recalling that he once gave her that advice). Honestly, I don't see what's so great about the line, but Moench apparently did.
"Outlines of Tomorrow" by Jim Whitmore. This is a pretty ambitious and fascinating attempt to blend the movies, TV show, and "Terror" comic into one coherent timeline, adding facts when appropriate to create a comprehensive picture of the future. There are minor issues I take with it, but it's a great read nonetheless. Truly the first supplemental feature in this magazine that I've actually felt was worth owning.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Final Chapter: "Holocaust of Hell!" by Moench and Alcala. It's become apparent by this point that Moench is working off an early script of the film that is very different from the final film that hit theaters. That in itself might make this adaptation worth reading (though I haven't taken the time to do so, myself). This final chapter begins with the Apes entering the mutant city (thankfully, Taylor isn't wearing a white leisure suit in this version), foreshadows the ending of the film a bit better by having Taylor show early on that he's fed up and wants everything to be "finished," and goes all the way up to the end, which is the same as what we saw in theaters. I happen to like how Alcala chose to depict that ending on the comics page. Very subtle, beautiful, and detached.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:58:41 GMT -5 by shaxper
Future History Chronicles I: "Nomads" writer: Doug Moench art: Tom Sutton
A fantastic fantasy premise about a war torn city, divided into two halves, aboard a giant ark on the ocean. It echoes a theme established by Moench in "Kingdom" of an insular society that prefers to separate itself from the rest of the world, though the reason for this goes unexplained in this story. Unfortunately, the best thing about this one is the premise (I think I could have stuck with a full series exploring what civil war on a giant boat would be like!), as the story, itself, involving a mysterious character attempting to instigate war between Orangutans and Gorillas, isn't anything to write home about beyond the surprise revelation of who/what he truly represents.
Also, Tom Sutton is no Mike Ploog, Rico Rival, or Alfredo Alcala. I know Sutton has some hardcore fans out there, but this is my first look at his work, and what I saw here didn't work for me at all. I found his panels crowded, unclear, and sometimes lacking accurate perspective/size ratios. More than anything, they felt like work to look at.
What's perhaps most worth noting here is that we are up to issue #12 of this series, and yet we have only had seven issues of "Terror" thus far -- barely more than half the run. Normally, this would be a disappointment except that every filler story Moench has done while Ploog has taken the time to catch up on deadlines has been extraordinary in one respect or another. It could be argued that the Jason and Alex vs. racial injustice premise might be the least interesting of the ones Moench has introduced in this series, though it's still a remarkably high quality series in its own right, only diminished by the competition its own author gives it in this magazine.
My own personal ranking of Moench stories thus far:
1. Terror on the Planet of the Apes (POTA 1,2,3,4,6,8, 11): In spite of the tired premise and simple main characters, I love so much of what this series has accomplished, especially in its rich supporting cast and imaginative settings.
2. Kingdom on an Island of the Planet of the Apes (POTA 9, 10): Brilliant, imaginative 5 part story that wraps up having accomplished everything it set out to do by the end.
3. Nomads (POTA 12): Great premise, decent story.
4. Evolution's Nightmare (POTA 5): Set out to tackle the exact same theme as "Terror" with somewhat lesser results, though the ending was a nice one.
(NOTE: POTA #7 contained no original Moench stories).
Sad to consider that the upcoming Boom! reprint may only contain the "Terror" chapters, missing all these other wonderful Moench concepts.
Also worth noting is that "Terror," "Evolution's Nightmare," "Kingdom," and "Nomads" all concern themselves with racial tension as a major theme. In each series, there is absolutely no inter-breading between humans, gorillas, chimps, or orangutans, and (in fact) there are no mixed friendships aside from Jason and Alex. Granted, the fringe cultures we visit in "Terror" have intermixing, but not in the central culture in the story. Also and finally, in "Terror," "Kingdom," and "Nomads," the species hierarchy remains the same: Orangutans are in charge and on the verge of being usurped by the more war-like gorillas. Meanwhile, the chimps obey the orangutans, and the humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Only "Evolution's Nightmare" deviates from this hierarchy, focusing on the relationship between man and apes to the extent that this single issue story never even establishes what kind of ape the co-protagonist is (seems to be a gorilla) or whether his ape society even contained different ape species.
A final minor point -- the chimps of "Nomads" appear to have devolved, expressing far less intelligence than either orangutans or gorillas, treated like slaves and unable to even speak in full sentences. Certainly, their being forced into slavery less than a generation earlier (our protagonists still recall when it happened) could not be the cause of this.
It took three editors and two assistant editors, but this magazine finally actually seems enthusiastic about Ape-dom. The letters page is just full of energy and pride for the content of the magazine, and I'm glad to finally see this, especially in the wake of the TV series being cancelled and the clear writing on the wall that Ape madness has peaked.
"Two People Who ARE The Planet of the Apes!" Part 1 interview by Jim Whitmore. This is a rather sad interview with the actors playing Cornelius and Zira in a licensed traveling show that, while huge to the most dedicated Ape Fans of the time, was obscure to the larger readership even then. While you can tell that Jim Whitmore is thrilled to talk with them, it's more a reminder to me of the high profile interviews that were missing from this mag. Where's an interview with Kim Hunter (the REAL Zira), or maybe even one with Roddy McDowell (the REAL Cornelius) that lasts more than a page?
Escape from the Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Part 1: "Escape from the Planet of the Apes!" by Doug Moench and Rico Rival. I was enticed by the cover to this issue (the most gorgeous one yet, in which Cornelius witnesses the destruction of Earth from space) and read into its subtle promise that THIS adaptation of the film would cover the pivotal missing scenes from the actual film -- the ones that show HOW they get aboard that ship and end up back in 1973 (renumbered to 1975 in this issue, presumably to make it the "today" of the magazine instead of the near future of the now aging movie). Unfortunately, what Moench adds, unrestrained by the financial restrictions of the filmmaker, really isn't what we were looking for. We still don't know how they got Taylor's ship working and launched, they offer a brief rationale of wanting to escape the planet before the war (implied: between apes and mutants) breaks out (of course, then what was their plan? Who decides to plummet into uncharted space without a destination or adequate supplies rather than face the possibility of a war that their side has a reasonable chance of winning?), and seem remarkably underwhelmed as they witness the planet's destruction. From there on in, it's pretty much the beginning of the film as we all remember it. Oh well.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:59:36 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Phase Two: "The Magic Man's Last Gasp Purple Light Show!" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Beside the entirely unnecessarily complex title, I have to say that I was thoroughly in love with this one. Whereas I feared Moench was taking the "Terror" storyline too far back to basics in the previous chapter, we're out on wild adventures once again in this one, and Moench is laying foundations for several future adventures this time, strongly suggesting that he's now comfortable with taking the "Terror" storyline far away from Ape city (where the Lawgiver is now back in control). The "Phase Two" designation further makes it clear that, with Ape City back under the Lawgiver's control, the title is now free to explore the far looser central conflict of Jason pursuing Brutus. In short, this is now a whole new exciting chapter in the "Terror" saga.
This issue introduces Lightsmith and Gilbert, his mute ape companion, who travel in a steam-powered "Wonder Wagon," espousing the wonders of lost technology. Lightsmith exhibits the same rich characterization we've come to expect from all of Moench's supporting cast, and his understandings of our culture are both amusing and (mostly) logical.
Additionally, we meet the savage Assimians led by Maguanus, learn about the Psychedrome (where all information about past civilization is supposedly stored), hear about a tribe of winged monkey demons that you just know are coming back, and let's not forget that both Brutus (possibly aided by remaining sympathizers) and the Forbidden Zone mutants are still out there somewhere, along with Gunpowder Julius, Steely Dan, and Trippo. The world of "Terror" is certainly expanding quickly.
- Let's take a closer look at Brutus' map on page 10. We know the Forbidden Zone is or includes New York already, and we know the other mark on the map is South Dakota. This means the map is drawn "upside down" with South being up. It also places Ape City in Michigan, with Brutus's camp in Ohio, and both Lake Erie and Lake Michigan seeming to no longer exist. I find it hard to believe that Brutus' camp would need to be so far away from Ape City though (that's several days' journey by horseback). And this would also mean that Taylor and his crew walked from New York to Michigan in the beginning of the first film (it seemed that they'd only traveled for a day, never depicting nightfall or the three stopping to sleep). Perhaps the map is not drawn to scale.
- Why would Brutus have ever been as far out as South Dakota? And doesn't that ruin some of the surprise of this series is the antagonist already knows about all the weird civilizations out there along the way?
- I'd always assumed the editors were being polite when they responded to a fan letter, promising to pass suggestions on to Moench, but a few issues back, a fan received such a promise in response to suggesting that Moench put some gibbons on the Planet of the Apes (makes sense -- there are more than three species of apes, after all!), and lo and behold, Gilbert is a gibbon!
- Seems far too convenient that Jason, Alex, and Malaguena ended up traveling in the same direction, resulting in Jason discovering the Assimian tribe just before they killed Alex and Malaguena. When you add to this the fact that Jason got there by traveling on foot and Alex and Malaguena were on horseback, the timing seems even more absurd.
- A continuation of the interview last issue with the actors who play Cornelius and Zira in a licensed traveling show that was big with Ape fantatics of the time.
- The Escape from the Planet of the Apes adaptation continues, spanning from Zira first speaking to the doctors to the end of the congressional hearing session with Zira and Cornelius. Honestly, I think Rival's artwork might be too striking for this more grounded Apes story. The action looks like it's going to explode each panel, but this is a story about congressional hearings and celebrity status -- at least until the end.
Strong issue all around, more for the potential it promises than for the actual "Terror" story (which was adequate). I am excited for the future of this title!
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 21:00:35 GMT -5 by shaxper