Friday, January 5, 2018

Review - Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 (@IDWPublishing)


"No sharing, no hiding. He can simply be Ursus."

Living on any planet is rarely made as easy as it could be. Being a human on the Planet of the Apes brings with it its own sort of challenges. Being a primate on the Planet of the Apes brings with it a wholly different set of challenges. Ursus is up to the challenge in Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 from IDW Publishing. The issue is written by David F. Walker, illustrated by Chris Mooneyham, colored by Jason Wordie and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

General Ursus has always hated and feared mankind. Get a glimpse at his rise through the ranks to General and what experiences brought him to the Forbidden Zone.

One of the things that the Planet of the Apes series has always strived for is a sense of humanity in the primates and Walker's approach in Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 is certainly no exception. In it, Ursus is a grizzled and terrified combat veteran, struggling to find a way to protect his people while at the same time being one of them. Walker writes his character in a way that reinforces that notion, in that Ursus believes in military might even if it comes at the expense of more humanitarian efforts as a sentiment completely in line with defense hawks in many of today's governments. The primates are in a situation that requires something more than combat to resolve it, but by funneling the narrative through Ursus Walker shows the reader the philosophical bind that a character like Ursus finds himself in. The story around Ursus provides plenty of context for his actions though, as Walker reminds the reader of the threat that the humans pose to the primates on a regular basis isn't always physical.

Mooneyham illustrates Ursus and the supporting cast in a way that bolsters the notion that the primates as a people are being ground down by life. Ursus is shown as especially tired, both mentally and physically from having to continue to advocate for a war that no one else seems to want to wage. Each panel is presented as a single image mixed in with others as Mooneyham relies on a variety of panel insets and overlays to move the story along, all of which work very effectively in concert. There's one section of the story that's a flashback where Mooneyham uses a slightly different illustrative style to allow it to stand out more and the seemingly ethereal approach gives it an appropriate level of dreamlike quality. Wordie's colors are muted with an emphasis on reds and blacks that support the underlying narrative of danger and drama throughout the primate kingdom.

Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 is a somewhat abstract look at the primates as a whole in that it focuses on a character who doesn't really get the spotlight all that much. Ursus is a more than capable leader when it comes to combat, but reconciling decisions made as a solider with those made as a civilian is never easy. Walker's script is very informative in relaying to the reader information about Ursus' past and how he's gotten to where he is mentally and emotionally. Mooneyham's illustrations are a great fit for the story, showcasing a wide variety of primates interacting with one another and the humans as well. Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 offers a lot for fans of the franchise, especially by showcasing a lesser-known character in a great way.

Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 is available now.

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