Marvel invites readers to witness the dawn of an ape-tastic new age —and a new imprint— in Planet of the Apes #1.
Though not actually the first Marvel comic based on a 20th Century Pictures property since Disney acquired the studio —that distinction goes to 2021’s Alien— Planet of the Apes is the first to be published under their new 20th Century Studios imprint, complete with its own distinct trade dress to convey its separation from the shared Marvel Universe. It’s an interesting pivot that implies a long-term effort to bring some of 20th Century’s biggest hits to comics. (What’s next? The Last Duel? Free Guy? The Eyes of Tammy Faye?!)
In any event, Planet of the Apes seems loosely inspired by the franchise’s reboot series, particularly 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t think this comic is meant to be a direct tie-in with the movies, but it definitely reads like a quasi-interquel set between them in terms of context and story. As seen in this first issue, human society has not completely fallen just yet, but a worldwide pandemic is quickly decimating the population while primates —immune to the virus and misblamed for it— are becoming increasingly intelligent. Although they have human allies fighting for (and occasionally with) them, it’s clear that some primates are wary of their movies and looking to protect their own from within.
I credit Planet of the Apes #1 for not strictly being a retelling of the movies despite seemingly being influenced by the reboot series, but I do wonder how much mileage they can get from a well-worn narrative like this one. The premise here (an early depiction of the monkey apocalypse) would’ve been novel had the movies not already done it a decade ago; this means writer David F. Walker and artist Dave Wachter will have the challenge of finding something “new” in this material that hasn’t been seen in the films yet. Focusing the story on a soldier sympathetic to primates as the (human) audience surrogate character could be interesting, especially if the series leans into the American military complex in the face of societal collapse while protecting the species that will eventually subjugate and enslave them. But it remains to be seen where Walker and Wachter will go from here.
To their credit, Planet of the Apes #1 looks great and is written impeccably well. Walker in particular is an award-winning creator who is especially known for his work with established IPs like Shaft and various Marvel/DC comics (as well as his own original stuff like Bitter Root) so if anyone has it in them to deliver a thought-provoking comic book adaptation, it’s him.