THIS WEEK: DC celebrates April Fools’ Day early with the Ape-Ril Special.

Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.

Ape-Ril Special #1

Writers: John Layman, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Karl Mostert, Phil Hester (pencils), Eric Gapstur (inks), and Bernard Chang
Colorists: David Baron, Dee Cunniffe, and Marcelo Maiolo
Letterers: Tom Napolitano, Clayton Cowles, and Janice Chiang
Cover Artist: Dan Mora

Every once in a while, a comic comes along that completely changes the way we think about the medium. It gives us a new perspective, or presents a familiar story in an entirely new and innovative way. Something about that unique synthesis of words and pictures flips a switch in the audience’s collective mind and makes them say, ‘This is Important. This is Art. This is what comics can and should be all the time.’

At a glance, DC’s Ape-Ril Special is not one of those comics. But a thing that I have loved about DC Comics over the past few years is that, of the Big 2 publishers, they’re the one that’s willing to have unabashed, unironic fun. No comic better exemplifies that than the Ape-Ril Special, a one-shot featuring a trio of stories starring many of the primate characters from DC’s stable. Because there are, it turns out, a lot of them, and when you’ve got a good thing going you lean into it.

The issue’s lead story, “Plan of the Apes,” comes from John Layman, Karl Mostert, David Baron, and Tom Napolitano. It finds a handful of non-human primate villains teaming up to take over the world, and facing opposition from the DCU’s simian heroes. It’s exactly as silly as it sounds, and everyone involved knows it. Layman lays on the jokes thick, and while they don’t always land they hit often enough to elicit a few chuckles. Mostert and Baron’s art straddles the line between funny animals and superhero comics nicely, and they do a nice job visually differentiating between a bunch of ape characters who, under less skilled artists, could easily have ended up all looking the same. This story also prominently features Beppo the Super-Monkey, which scores it immediate points.

The standout of this one-shot is “Detour,” a Detective Chimp story by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, Dee Cunniffe, and Clayton Cowles. The story finds Bobo hitching a ride with a paranoid murderer. It marks Fialkov’s first DC work in over a decade, and he returns to the publisher with a tale that’s as suspenseful as any Hitchcock thriller. Fialkov’s choice to make the murderer the point-of-view character of the story is a strong one, letting the reader experience the fear and anxiety of the situation along with him. Hester and Gapstur bring the noir vibes and inventive storytelling techniques they deployed on Gotham City: Year One to this story as well, and it makes this reader want to read crime comics illustrated by these two for years to come. For as tongue-in-cheek as the first story is, “Detour” is every bit as hard-boiled a drama – that just so happens to star a talking chimp in a deerstalker cap – and it works perfectly.

The one-shot closes with a Monkey Prince story, “Call to Arms,” from Gene Luen Yang, Bernard Chang, Marcelo Maiolo, and Janice Chiang. The story, which reunites Yang, Chang, and Chiang from the Monkey Prince miniseries, picks up a thread from that series, as well as one left dangling by the opening story of this one-shot, and ties them together nicely. Yang’s scripting feels breezy and confident, and Chang & Maiolo’s art is energetic and inviting. It’s a fun, funny story that’s sure to make readers who haven’t already read the Monkey Prince miniseries want to check it out.

The Ape-Ril Special is a solid assortment of entertaining stories that cross genres and tones in an impressive way. It may not be capital-i Important, and you may not think of it as capital-a Art, but it’s definitely a fine example of what comics can and should be: utterly limitless in their possibilities. And full of apes.

Final Verdict: BUY.


  • The 25th issue of Batman/Superman: World’s Finest tells the tale of first meeting of Lex Luthor and The Joker. Mark Waid is joined by guest artist Steve Pugh for the tale, aptly titled “World’s Vilest,” and it’s an entertaining story that takes Lex and The Joker to a delightfully unexpected corner of the DC Universe. The issue’s second story picks up where Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite left off in last month’s annual, and sets up the next arc of the series with regular artist Dan Mora. World’s Finest remains one of the best books in DC’s lineup, and this issue is no exception.
  • Nine issues in, it feels like Justice Society of America is still setting itself up. The latest issue of the series from Geoff Johns and Mikel Janin has the existing team members attempting to bring in and reform the young villains Huntress worked with in her future. It’s an interesting idea, but the execution feels off, and just sort of aimless, even as one mystery is revealed and raises new, bigger ones at the issue’s end.
  • Elsewhere in team books that are nine issues old, Titans continues to explore the fallout of Beast World and the evil Raven’s subterfuge. Having a villain masquerading as a member of the team isn’t new for the Titans, but Tom Taylor and guest-artist Lucas Meyer do a nice job of showing how Dark Raven is exerting her influence over the rest of the team. Still, I hope this storyline wraps up quickly.
  • Superman #12 puts a decent bow on writer Joshua Williamson‘s first year on the series. David BaldeónNorm Rapmund turn in solid artwork for this concluding chapter, which wraps up the ongoing plotlines with Lex’s old enemies, and ties it all interestingly to the upcoming “House of Brainiac” story.

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  1. I love apes on horseback shooting machine guns while smoking banana cigars as much as the next guy, but this is a little too ridiculous – I’ll read it, just saying….

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