Sacrifice And Defiance On The Planet Of The Apes

Covers, in order: Issue #4 covers A, B (preliminary and published) and C, as well as the upcoming trade paperback collecting issues #1-4.

BOOM! Studios concluded its opening Planet of the Apes story arc, “The Long War,” with issue #4, released earlier this month. The entire storyline, written by Daryl Gregory and illustrated by Carlos Magno, will be collected next week as a trade paperback. entitled Planet of the Apes Vol. 1.

Those yet to read this issue should be warned: There be spoilers ahead.

General Nix prepares the White Troop for a raid of Skintown, ordering his soldiers not to shoot unless fired upon. Hulss introduces him to Wyn, a descendant of the MacDonald brothers, who–pretending to betray his people, on request of Bako–agrees to deliver the Lawgiver’s assassin. Sully plans a Skintown memorial for the orangutan. Bako questions this decision, fearing that Alaya will use the murder as an excuse to corral humans. Sully is determined, however, to show that humanity is not the enemy. In Mak, Alaya holds a funeral for her grandfather, claiming to uphold his ideals but playing on the crowd’s anger to spur anti-human sentiment. Back in Skintown, the humans barricade Caesar’s Bridge. As Nix’s troops arrive, Casimir and Wyn deliver Bako, who has opted to accept blame for the murder in order to protect his daughter. Moments later, a badly injured Chaika attacks the apes, clad in her assassin garb–and wrapped in explosives as a suicide bomber. Allowing Nix’s gorillas to arrest her, she flashes a card reading “Thus to Tyrants,” and with Bako and Sully watching in horror, she blows herself–and the gorillas–up.

The fourth chapter of “The Long War” is one in which not a lot happens–but what does happen is very significant.

The previous issue revealed the identity of the Lawgiver’s assassin, but ended on a cliffhanger, with Chaika possibly dead from her injuries. In this chapter, we learn that she survived, though badly wounded, as the mute performs one final act before succumbing to death–making sure her father would not be blamed for her crimes, while sending a powerful message to apes and humans alike: that simian tyranny must be stopped by any means necessary, even if that means sparking an inter-species war.

This issue contains several noteworthy moments, including:

–The mention of bonobos, the oft-forgotten fifth species of Great Apes, alongside chimps, gorillas, orangutans and humans. These chimp-like primates appeared briefly in Mr. Comics’ Revolution on the Planet of the Apes, as well as in the novels Rule and The Fall (based on Tim Burton’s film re-imagining), and some sources claim that Koba, from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is also of that species. Otherwise, bonobos have been non-utilized in all iterations of the Apes franchise. Revolution’s planned follow-up, Empire on the Planet of the Apes, was slated to explain their absence in the classic films, but that miniseries was never published. As such, having bonobos referenced in BOOM!’s comic, and featured prominently in Rise, is very satisfying. It’s about time!

–The artwork, which has improved from previous issues. In prior reviews, I’d noted that the aesthetic was decidedly Burton-esque, but in this issue, human society has taken on a look more appropriate to the classic POTA era–in fact, it’s much like the villages of the TV series. (The simian outfits in Mak, however, are still more befitting of the Burton film than the classic movies. Hopefully, that will eventually change.)

–The funeral scene, which is well executed (pun unintended). The facial expressions of the ape citizens as Alaya gives her eulogy display a mixture of emotions, ranging from anger to dismay to fear, epitomizing the division building in ape society. The inclusion of a lone human in the crowd–seen comforting an agitated ape, no less–is especially poignant. What’s more, the full-page funeral pyre in Mak, juxtaposed with a view of Skintown’s humans viewing the crematory smoke from a distance, requires no words, other than Sully’s tearful “Rest easy, Grandfather.” The effect is quite touching, and is one of Magno’s finest contributions to the series to date.

–The introduction of Wyn, one of the “Sons of MacDonald,” making him a descendant of either Malcolm or Bruce MacDonald (from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, respectively). Initially portrayed as a cocky young street-punk willing to betray his fellow humans, Wyn is ultimately shown to be loyal to Bako–a double-agent working to throw Nix off Chaika’s scent. Such references to the classic films, when used properly (and sparingly) resonate well with fans (one common criticism of Rise has been that, while a wonderful film, it contains too many homages to what came before). The legacy of the MacDonald brothers–both in the character of Wyn, and in the naming of MacDonald Square–provides a great throwback to the later films, by showing that the two men’s societal influence did not end with their deaths.

–Nix, who remains one of the most fascinating gorilla characters to appear in the history of POTA comics. Atypically noble and peace-favoring (though utterly fierce when necessary), he bucks the usual stereotype for how his species is usually portrayed in Planet of the Apes. Hopefully, he will not be killed off early in the series, and will remain a player for many story arcs to come. Played properly, Nix could believably emerge down the line as either a dangerous enemy or a valuable ally to Skintown.

–The final scenes, in which Chaika sacrifices her life to kill more apes in one final act of defiance. This can not bode well for her people, and will likely lead to the dismantling of man’s place in society, as Nix and Alaya are sure to see Bako and Sully as having plotted the explosion. With Chaika’s final actions, BOOM!’s Apes run stands on a pinnacle, one sure to end badly for humanity. “The Long War” may be coming to an end, with a new saga beginning in issue #5, but in the grander scheme of things, the battle is never-ending.