Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trade Tales! - Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes

I think it’s time to return to the Planet of the Apes. Back in 2011, Boom! Studios had acquired the license for Planet of the Apes. I think they still have it. They’d have to have it in order for that Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover to come out some time ago. Yes, someone had the awesome idea to have William Shatner and Charlton Heston meet in comic form. I’m not talking about that today though. One thing Boom! did do was try to bridge the gap between the fifth and first POTA movies. I really haven’t read much of those unfortunately.

Today’s book is a prequel to the first movie in that it’s supposed to take place 20 years before the 1968 movie. Betrayal of The Planet of the Apes was a miniseries that was released in 2011. I actually found this trade and another book at Books-A-Million on New Year’s Eve. I decided to take it light that night. The miniseries was written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman. Hardman also handled the art with the mini. Jordie Bellaire handled the colors and Ed Dirkshire handled the letters.

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes
Writers: Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Ed Dirkshire
Editor: Dafna Pleban

This take place 20 years before the first movie. At this time, apes are keeping humans mostly as pets. That all starts to change when an orangutan by the name of Cato (not this one) has been teaching his human sign language. He’s brought before the court of Counciler Quintessa, Counciler Tenebris, and Doctor Zaius. Luckily, former general Aleron is able to defend him and get him out of trouble. Unfortunately, Cato’s actions start to ruffle feathers, so actions are taken. One night, a group of gorillas come over to Cato’s house and make it look like he committed suicide. His human, Tern, saw it all but can’t exactly tell anyone what happened. He escapes and some gorillas try to kill him but Aleron is around and saves him. Tern eventually finds Prisca, Cato’s chimpanzee assistant.

Cato’s body is found the next day and Aleron wonders if foul play was involved. It’s then revealed to us that Tenebris is behind it and has the military under his foot. He and Ursus then plot to take down Aleron by framing him for the death of another officer, Varus, which took place 15 years ago. He doesn’t put up a defense for the action though. Since the rule of thumb is “ape shall not kill ape,” he’s sent to prison at The Reef. Doctor Zaius (who was less of a monkey’s butt in his youth) knows something seems off, so he visits the site where Varus’ body was found.
This may not go well...

In prison, Aleron isn’t having a good time. He finds out that most of the inmates are actually here on trumped up charges done by Tenerbis. Realizing this, he and other prisoners plan an escape. Meanwhile, Tenebris starts to plot more things on happening. He has Quintessa killed and Zaius taken to a hidden place. At that place (a bomb shelter that has books and other things), Tenebris tells Zaius the about the true history of the world and man’s dark deeds. He also orders Ursus to assassinate Aleron in prison. Tern is also found by the military and is ordered for experimentation.

Aleron’s breakout doesn’t go as planned with only him escaping and fighting Ursus. He does escape with the help of Prisca and they find Zaius and Tenerbis. Aleron tells Zaius of Tenerbis’s crimes and the truth of what happened to Varus: a human shot him. A fight breaks out and Tern (who escaped from his confines) kills Tenerbis with a scalpel. When Aleron is also stabbed and falls into a river, Tern goes after him. The story ends with Zaius being the only one left on the council. He releases the innocent prisoners and he starts a movement to basically get rid of humanity. We also find out that Aleron survived and Tern is caring for him in the wilderness.

While I had an issue or two with it, this was a nice story. It fits well within confines of the first movie. The story was a good one that let us see how things were before Taylor and the others showed up. It even showed that apes society wasn’t as hard on humans as it eventually came to be. We even get to see a pretty interesting prison that we never got to see in the original movies. Like the original movie, it tries to approach different social topics and that’s always cool. Politics even get thrown in which is cool for once.

While we only get a couple of familiar faces (Zaius and Ursus), I liked the new characters. Aleron was a pretty cool main character. Tenebris was interesting and basically a much more extreme version of the older Zaius from the movies. I wonder who informed him about Earth’s true history. Then we get to “Ole Rocky Doctor Zaius.” We actually find out that wasn’t as much of a baddie in his youth. We do see him take steps in becoming the Zaius we love to hate though. The moment where Tenerbis tells him about Earth’s true history was really good.

The artwork was pretty for the most part. It has a bit of a stylized look to it. Hardman also made sure to get the familiar characters looking right without making it too photo referenced. The action was pretty cool as well and the small moments were quite nice. I will say it was I did get a little confused with who was who at times. I guess that happens when you have apes wearing leather. They all kind of look the same. It was like that in the original movies as well.

I don’t really have anything to say about the mini. I will say one thing that did bug me was the pacing. You get a lot of crap thrown at you in four standard issues but it moves at a really fast pace. I wanted it to slow down and it did do that at times. Maybe four issues was all they could get. The ending also felt pretty rushed. After all is revealed, it's literally over.  Another thing that I do wonder about is the title. What’s being betrayed? Is it that ape society is changing or is it that people are taking extreme actions in maintaining the status quo? The story doesn’t answer that though I may have missed it. By the way, this is just a nitpick, not a literal criticism.

Overall, this was a good, surprising find. I know the same writer went to do another mini with Boom!, so I may check it out one of these days. Well, I’m outta here. I need to visit another sci-fi property that originated in the 60’s. No, it’s not Star Trek but it’s kind of close. All I say is this: Starchild. Until then, peace, God Bless, and “I’ve never met an ape I didn’t like!” In fact, I’ve never met any apes unless you count that one ugly-lookin' sucka!

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