This week, enter the Planet of the Apes! Should you be afraid of the Simian Flu? Find out in our SPOILER LITE main review! For the faint of heart (or spoiler averse), jump down to the Rapid Rundown for quick thoughts on the triumphant return of Gwendolyn Poole!

What did you think of the fresh Marvel Comics issues released this week? The Beat wants to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Planet of the Apes #1

Planet of the Apes #1

Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Dave Wachter
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Joshua Cassara & Dean White

As somebody who’s never consumed any previous Planet of the Apes media (except for the iconic Dr. Zaius moment from The Simpsons), I figured now was the time to jump in and see what this universe is all about – and honestly, I was pretty happy with what we got (though I’m not sure how it happened that I wound up reading The Stand and this at the same time — way too much pandemic media in the midst of a real one)

This first issue opens with a brief explanation as to how the world got to the point where intelligent apes were roaming the Earth, establishing the story to come in a succinct package. After an experiment with a treatment for Alzheimer’s goes wrong, humans begin to die off in a horrific pandemic, while apes begin to become more and more intelligent. But crucially, we learn that these apes did not kill all of humanity (as some would try to tell you), but that they rose up only after being abused and attacked by humans. 

Planet of the Apes #1
Planet of the Apes #1 by Dave Wachter and Bryan Valenza

Following this, the story is told in a pretty fascinating way, as David F. Walker moves backwards in time through a number of years, dropping little tidbits of world building to provide us with further context for this universe, providing us with a better understanding of the various perspectives from humans as to what they feel they should do about the apes. 

This is how we’re introduced to a human terrorist cell dubbed the ‘Exercitus Viri,’ or the Army of Man, a group dedicated to the survival of humanity and the mass extinction of all apes. The group is (surprise, surprise) very similar to far-right extremists, and refuse to accept the fault for their own misguided failings, instead choosing to blame the apes for the virus and ensuing pandemic. 

If I have any real gripes with the issue, it’s that we never learn the names of the characters we’re meant to follow. Through the flashbacks, we get glimpses of a woman who learns to empathize with the apes, showing her grow up into a soldier who feels tasked with protecting the simians from human abuse. We get insights into her personality, but it would have been nice to see/hear more about who she is (although I suspect that’s the nature of this issue, with the need to setup before we can really dive in).

Planet of the Apes #1
Planet of the Apes #1 by Dave Wachter and Bryan Valenza

Dave Wachter does a tremendous job depicting both ape and man, and is able to make them visually distinct from one another (too many times have I seen apes that look a bit too much like humans). There are some great touches with apes wearing human clothes and carrying military garb that are wicked funny to see. Wachter is also able to draw much more grounded scenes, as we see the devastating impact the pandemic has had upon humanity through his emotive character work. He does a great job towards the end showing subtle aging in our protagonist, showing how harsh this new world is through the changes in her facial expressions and demeanor.

Bryan Valenza’s colors ground the story in the real world through most of the issue, but in moments of stress or action, colors become brighter and far more intense, giving way to the truly terrifying reality of the situation. Joe Caramagna brings his a-game as always, and is able to provide the sign-language of the apes in an inclusive way that doesn’t pull the reader out of the story. 

Ultimately, with this being my first real journey into this world, I’m pretty satisfied with the setup for the issue, as it does a great job of introducing the premise and showcasing this new, ape-ier world. I’m not sure where the story plans to move next, but I think I’ll be continuing onward to follow how these apes make the Earth their planet.

Verdict: BUY

Planet of the Apes #1
Planet of the Apes #1 by Dave Wachter and Bryan Valenza

Rapid Rundown!

  • Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #23 
    • This week’s Amazing Spider-Man #23 is the third issue in an arc that if I was in charge would be titled FREAKING FINALLY. See, this arc is explaining what the opening sequence in this run’s Amazing Spider-Man #1 was all about (a sequence that was also used as cryptic marketing for this relaunch and new creative team). It’s so so nice to finally have any context at all to what that opening was about — Peter was fried in a field, everyone hated him, MJ had two toddlers with a different guy, etc. As a result, I’d say this issue is one of the best of this run so far, if for no other reason than I’m no longer distracted, wondering what the start of this run was all about (for, like, 20 issues!). Amazing Spider-Man #23 was written by Zeb Wells, with pencils by John Romita Jr., inks by Scott Hanna, colors by Marcio Menyz, and letters by Joe Caramagna. — ZQ
  • Love Unlimited: Gwenpool (2022) #43
    • The course of true love never did scroll smooth… unlike the arrival of Gwenpool in Love Unlimited. The Infinity Comic’s new run by Jeremy Whitley, Bailie Rosenlund, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Travis Lanham sees the titular Poole observing a high quantity of romantic subplots… then concluding her best bet for finding her way back into an ongoing title is to force a meet-cute for herself. This ingenious premise, paired with excellent and funny art and lettering – not to mention a sojourn through the tubes of the internet that sees our hero confronting COVID-19 and internet trolls alike – makes this an incredibly promising first entry for this run of the ongoing Love Unlimited. As with any good Gwen story, you can expect some excellent allusions to Marvel Comics in dialogue; plus, the character chosen to be the object of her misguided metafiction-informed affection is a clever pull from the X-canon.  All this and open acknowledgment of Gwen grappling with being affected by Marvel’s sliding timeline? Be still, my heart. — AJK
  • Scarlet Witch (2023) #4
    • This week (ok, it was technically a final page reveal in issue #3), Marvel Comics introduced a new villain: Scythia. No word yet if the new villain is tied to the Temple of Scythian or if the name is just nerdy ancient Greek wordplay from writer Steve Orlando, who loves his nerdy wordplay (don’t believe me, count the number of times that he has made a one-off reference to Mikhail Bulgakov‘s The Master and Margarita in his comics). We know that Scythia is a member of the Bacchae, a secret society protecting women and the abused. But it’s also more than that — and sets up some pretty interesting themes for the final issue — historically, “The Bacchae” is an ancient Greek tragedy dealing with one’s relationship to g-d, various aspects of society, and art. The art by Sara Pichelli, with inking by Elisabetta D’Amico, colors by Matthew Wilson, and letters by Cory Petit, is used throughout the issue to explore these relationships within the context of this comic. — ROK

Next week: the Guardians return and we leap into the Spider-Verse! Catch up with past entries in the Marvel Rundown archive.

The Marvel Rundown is edited by Avery Kaplan.