"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Michael Moreci
Illustrated by Dan McDaid
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 26th, 2014
In case you were wondering what happened during the ten year gap between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, BOOM! Studios has you covered with a new mini-series written by Michael Moreci and Dan McDaid. The book picks up two years after Rise. Humanity is crumbling but it hasn't lost all hope yet. Meanwhile, the apes are expanding, building their own civilization and figuring out what to do next in this new status quo.
The comic follows Malcolm and Caesar on parallel journeys. Both are trying to save their family and their people. They're sort of at the same point evolution wise, but if you were charting growth, Malcolm and the humans are on the way down while Caesar and the apes are on the way up. The comic takes place as their two paths cross (although not literally because that didn't happen until the movie).
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On Malcolm's side, he discovers that his wife Rita has the disease that is wiping out humanity. This was a character that you only heard about in the film, but you get to see her first hand in the comic. Now Malcolm has to balance between finding hope for his entire species and saving the woman that means the most to him in the world. While the films show the results of the plague and what it can do to a person, they don't really show the emotional effects it can have on others. Sure, it is shocking to see Tyler Labine all bloated and spitting blood, but it doesn't pack the emotional punch of finding out a family member has only days left to live. Rita wants what's best for her husband and son, even as she facing imminent death. There are some really touching scenes between her and Malcolm.
As mentioned, humanity isn't dead yet. It hasn't lost all hope. Trees haven't started growing in the middle of streets. Malcolm is trying to get back to some level of normalcy, which is why he's focused on electricity. If he can get the power going, they won't be forced into the dark ages. He's like a salmon swimming upstream, but instead of going against the current to mate, he's just trying to survive. Each time he fails, humanity takes another step back and one step closer to extinction.
As with zombie stories, the real villains aren't the creatures (in this case apes), they're other humans. Since mankind hasn't gotten to the point where its organized or ready to work together, there are roving bands of scavengers, looking to steal whatever they can, regardless of who they have to hurt to do so. There's a really terrifying bandit that wears an ape's face for a mask. It's a crude cut out, almost like how the Joker has looked after he got his face cut off in the New 52. It makes him look far more intimidating than anyone else nearby. He's tough to read as well because his features are motionless behind the ape's skin.
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While all this is going on, Caesar is faced with a different set of problems. He's forced to trust an ape named Pope, who appears to be like Koba but times a million. He was experimented on by the humans and he's very aggressive. This has helped trained the apes to fight, but Caesar is wary about his actions. On the surface, this looks like a very similar dynamic to what we've seen in the Dawn film, just replacing Koba with Pope here. Caesar must decide what to do in order to ensure that the apes continue to thrive and grow.
Artist Dan McDaid nails the likenesses of Malcolm and Caesar for the comic. Of the two, I'd think that the ape would be harder, as the film captured so much emotion using the motion capture technology with Andy Serkis. What really stands out is a closeup on Pope's face as he belts out instructions to the ape soldiers. His face is scarred and there's an intensity in his eyes that is primal and full of rage.
There are a few different covers to choose from with this debut issue, including the main one by Christopher Mitten. Cover B by Jay Shaw is the kind of image that I'd love to have as a print hanging up somewhere. It's a gorgeous shot of an ape's face in black and white with a skull over its left eye. The title is scrawled out in rough letters on the top and a small group of humans stand in red silhouette below. It's an all-around great shot.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a must for any hardcore POTA fans as it expands on the overall mythos and offers further insight into the film's two main characters. The movie started after these two had been through ten years of heartbreak and desperation as they struggled to survive in this new world. Now you get to see what that journey was like firsthand.