Considering that this limited series so closely courts the events of Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 American science fiction film, David F. Walker’s narrative for Issue Two of “Planet Of The Apes: Ursus” must surely have made its 4,453 readers in February 2018 feel that he had missed a major opportunity with which to significantly expand upon Robert Gunner’s ‘Silver Screen’ alter-ego John Landon. For whilst this twenty-two page periodical based upon “the franchise’s most notorious villain” undoubtedly provides a savagely brutal explanation as to why the troubled astronaut’s frontal lobes were removed from his brain by the chimpanzee Doctor Galen, it disappointingly does so within mere moments of the terrified talking human being discovered by Zaius and the orangutan’s former friend; “You call this an interrogation? You’ve fractured its skull.”
Admittedly, the timing to this publication’s plot is somewhat tight, as “the most powerful gorilla in Ape City” has to arrange for Sergeant Moench to assemble and deploy a loyal hunting party to the Forbidden Zone before the Chief Defender of the Faith rather cynically covers up Taylor’s writing in the dirt just outside the voiceless captive’s external exercise pen. Yet even so, it seems a shame that the six-foot-four, 200-pound ‘Liberty 1’ explorer wasn’t given something more ‘meaty’ to do than simply whimper in his cage that “the oxygen levels in my hypersleep chamber are off balance” and plead to “see my wife — my family” before being beaten half to death by an enraged Ursus.
Mercifully however, the “award-winning journalist” does seem to find the time to depict the titular character’s first meeting with his beloved wife, Qama, when she was a servant of Zaius’ mentor, Doctor Cephina. This tender flashback scene, set against the backdrop of a violent human attack upon an easily overrun Ape City, not only provides the military commander with an opportunity to demonstrate his courageous bravery when he was a young primate, but also continues to reveal just why he “has always hated and feared mankind.”
Easily this comic’s greatest asset though, are Chris Mooneyham’s excellent illustrations. The Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art graduate really does imbue “the primary antagonist of Beneath the Planet of the Apes” with a formidable presence and it is genuinely a major anti-climax when a disillusioned Ursus is pencilled riding away from his hand-picked “most trusted gorillas” rather than sketched leading them into the Forbidden Zone in search of “a new breed of human [who] has migrated to our land…”