The humans are ravaging the crops of Ape City. While there are frequent hunts for the creatures, the apes of the city are still on the brink of famine. The high council wants to train the soldiers to work crops to counteract the shortage, but General Ursus, a gorilla well acquainted with the savagery of humans, attests to this plan. Ursus wants to keep his gorilla soldiers ready to fight the humans at any moment.
Strange humans begin showing up among the herds, and this begins to validate what Ursus fears. The humans present a larger threat than just ruined crops.
With Ursus, David F. Walker and Chris Mooneyham gives us a new look at a classic villain. They do so by adhering to the simple truth that almost no one is thoroughly evil, and the best way to do show a different side to a rogue is to keep the camera (or panel) on them in their private moments.
Walker gives us a peek into the mind of General Ursus and insight into what makes this warmonger tick. Even the small moments of him just waking up in the morning and eating breakfast are given weight by Walker’s writing and Mooneyham’s artwork.
The plot takes place during the first Planet of the Apes film, which is actually a little surprising. Usually tales like this transpire before the source material in question. It does work to give the story some urgency and tension, but it also lead to the question of “Ursus was doing all this during Planet of the Apes?” if the story isn’t paced carefully.
The story is quite wordy, but the majority of the text works. It handles the politics of Ape City, and there is a lot of intrigue and racial tension set into focus in this setting. The gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees all distrust one another to some capacity, and they each have presumptions about the capabilities of one another due to their species. Ursus has the assumption that people of color are naturally more dangerous than white humans. These assumptions are explored a little here, and I look forward to seeing how the themes are dug into in future issues.
As already implied, Chris Mooneyham’s artwork is very good. He knows how to infuse emotion and weight into little scenes with framing, shadow, and body language. The apes themselves generally look quite awesome, and the world feels like the films of old in a lot of subtle ways. Jason Wordie’s color art is strong, as well; he knows how to balance the shades of color from scene to scene.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 is a powerful opening salvo for this series. Walker, Mooneyham, and Wordie do some phenomenal work with this comic. It’s emotional, has excellent pacing and tone control, and the art is damn good. This one gets a recommendation. Pick it up.
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