Matthew Kresal gets his stinkin' paws on the 2012 graphic novel, Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes.
The 1968 film The Planet Of The Apes spawned one of the first high-profile film franchisees, taking in four additional films in the early 1970s before a remake and now a rebooted series of films in the 21st century. Despite all those films and their success (or lack thereof), perhaps no one has captured the spirit of the original film better than the writers and artists behind this graphic novel which collects BOOM! Studios miniseries Betrayal Of The Planet Of The Apes in one volume, and with superb results.
Set two decades before the 1968 original film (with the very occasional flashback to 15 years before that), Betrayal works as a prequel that movie. Indeed as the noted comic writer Ed Brubaker says in his introduction, this could almost be Dr. Zaius: Year One at times as it explores Zaius (played by Maurice Evans in the original film as well as its first sequel) early days on the Ape Council.
Zaius is only one part of the story though as there's trouble in Ape City as a human has been taught sign language by a scientist and tensions are starting run high between the four different species that make up the ape culture. Add on that a discovery in the Forbidden Zone and the story becomes a slowly exploding powder keg. It's that combination though that makes this volume as good as it.
The original film was a fascinating mix of social science fiction with action/adventure elements that took full advantage of combining the two together. Writers Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman (who also contributes the artwork) create a tale that's very much in the vein of the original film as it explores issues of race, religious belief as well as the role of the military in a larger society, all of which is played out across the background of a science fiction tale with apes as both protagonist and antagonist. There's also references big and small to the original film series along the way, including the characters of Dr. Zaius and the gorilla Ursus and other moments which will make anyone who enjoys the original film quite happy. Yet the story works quite independently of the original film so if you've never seen it you're still able to enjoy it as a fine piece of science fiction comic writing.
The icing on the cake though might be Hardman's artwork. There's a cinematic quality framing to much of it which gives this the feeling of being an unmade Planet Of The Apes film, especially in scenes of confrontations between characters (or the third issue cliffhanger to name another example). Indeed there are moments when one sees scenes played in familiar locations from the original film which gives the reader an added thrill as Hardman is able to bring characters old and new to life superbly. There's also a visceral, almost rough edged feel to the artwork at times, especially once the story brings the character of Aleron to location unlike any seen in the films which gives the work an interesting edge as well. The result is a cinematic and visceral rendering of an engaging story.
In his introduction, Ed Brubaker describes this as his favorite Planet Of The Apes since the original film and I must say I can see exactly why that it is. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this might be the best Planet Of The Apes movie you can't watch. That's a testament to the work of Bechko and Hardman who have created a tale that works on its own yet pays tribute to and supplements that iconic film. If you're an Apes fan (and why else would you be looking at this if you weren't?) this comes highly recommended.
Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't
have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the
Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.