Excitedly announced by both “BOOM! Studios” and “Twentieth Century Consumer Products” in October 2017, David F. Walker’s somewhat sedentary and dialogue-heavy script for Issue One of “Planet Of The Apes: Ursus” probably still provided plenty of entertainment to its 5,788 readers upon the mini-series initial release courtesy of the “award-winning journalist” closely mirroring the opening twenty minutes of Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 American science fiction film. Indeed, the publication’s first four pages so closely follow the motion picture’s plot and dialogue that many within the book’s audience perhaps momentarily feared that they had mistakenly picked up an official comic adaption of the Charlton Heston flick, rather than a title which promised to “follow the rise through the ranks of the ape who has hated (and feared) mankind the most, including what first brought him to the Forbidden Zone.”
Of course, once astronauts Taylor, Landon and Dodge have either been captured, injured or killed, this twenty-two page periodical firmly focuses its attention upon gorilla General Ursus, and immediately starts showing a side to the titular character never before touched upon on the ‘Silver Screen’. Sentimental towards two photographs of his apparently dead wife Qama, and angrily agitated that his “morning will be spent among politicians… The enemy of every true soldier”, these scenes show Walker’s genuine desire to explore ‘what actually makes the villain tick’ rather than simply present the army’s veteran leader as a stereotypical warmonger solely interested “in his own dreams of conquest, glory and power.”
Indeed, Ursus’ subsequent discovery of Dodge’s corpse initiates a truly troubling flashback scene set within an ape coliseum called Terminus “many years ago”, where humans are trained to slaughter one another in brutal unarmed combat simply for the amusement of their Simian onlookers. Gorily graphic as its subject matter is disturbingly distasteful, this memory shows an adolescent Ursus hauntingly looking into the eyes of a grim-faced imprisoned black slave, who perhaps understandably, has nothing but hatred for Kananaios’ shocked son; “I have seen humans like this before. These dark-skinned beasts, they are the most vicious — The most cunning.”
Admittedly, so much ponderously slow background development to the General could so easily have turned this comic’s storyline into a dreadfully dire experience which contains little action despite its aforementioned reimaging of “The Hunt.” But whilst this particular instalment certainly does contain plenty of pedestrian-paced talk, particularly when Ursus confronts Zaius in the orangutan’s office, it is fortunately all wonderfully illustrated by Chris Mooneyham, whose pencilling imbues a good deal of emotion to his figure’s furry faces which definitely isn’t generated by this book’s penmanship.