Lorks! It’s a whopping fifty years since Taylor and co crash landed on what was seemingly a parched and arid desert world far from Earth and ruled by a savage race of Apes. Blimey. The franchise of the Apes continues apace though and Boom Studios are giving it a right good go at bridging the gap between the original movie run and the more recent trilogy. Bringing together a couple of short story anthologies set at various points in the time line is a sure fire way to get my ape radar bleeping and so we set off once more to the Monkey Planet!
Opening with the water-y and wistful Mother of Exiles we are introduced to a kindly but emotionally damaged chimp living in self imposed exile inside the crown of the ruined Statue of Liberty. She has seen Taylor and Nova from her silent and hidden vantage point but never anything like the strange hairless creature she discovers washed up on the beach one morning with a strange mask contraption attached and pad locked to their chops. This dream like tale drifts by with subtle allusion rather than coming to a firm conclusion. It’s as if the chimp is going through the shocking realisations that all she believes in has been a lie and just like Taylor’s shocking discovery, our silent heroine is rethinking her place in the world.
Armandos’ Tale takes us right back to Escape from the Planet of the Apes, one of the original film series most inventive entries. Laying on the immigration theme thickly, as let’s be honest, it is extremely prescient in today’s crazy mess of a world, with children being separated from parents and talking apes living in fear of persecution just because they are talking apes is hardly subtle. I think that’s more a denouncement of today’s world rather than the writers of dystopian Sci-Fi though … Caeser is adopted and kept secret after his parents are murdered, and lives in secret with Armando, performing circus tricks and hiding the fact that he is a somewhat different chimp to the others. Bringing the tale of Escape from Planet of the Apes up to the start of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is nice touch and begs the question where does poor old Caeser fit in to a world which is enslaving his simian brethren? See Conquest and Rise to find out …
We next meet two apes – Cloud and Rain – as they are out foraging and being bullied by the brute that is Koba, when they come across a stricken human and face not only the barbarism of Koba, but a number of big ethical questions. Are humans all evil? Are all apes good? Who is the good guy in Ape City? Caeser? Koba? Ape shall not kill ape?
Dan Anett’s Man’s Best Friend is one of the highlights as we meet a lawyer ape who purchases a human at a slave auction sort of set up. Taking in Bolo as a pet who becomes one of the family, in the same way you would talk of your pet dog, we see ownership of a human through ape eyes: teaching him to play with the kids and what his place is with the associated boundaries. Replace the human with a dog in fact and the story would still make sense – should we question our own behaviour? When the “slave” or “pet” is a human and the ape owners are quite happily treating him as such, all the time believing they are giving him a good life and doing nothing wrong …
Mountain seems to take place around the time of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a group of artistic youngsters talk about how humans used to be so creative before we were afraid of everything find an ape and are afraid of it. Powerful stuff. The son of Malcolm, who played peace maker in the second of the new films, tries to befriend him while his mates wanna clobber the chimp. Nothing’s changed, lessons haven’t been learned and they probably never will … fear, after all, makes beasts of us all.
Finally, we get to meet Apex, a recruit in the gorilla army, who narrates a tale of the militaristic muscle memory he has had drummed in to him through basic training. It’s all designed to forge a battle ready ape who will march in to The Forbidden Zone intent on destroying all he finds there be they humans, mutants or anything else. An ape take on the War is Hell theme and depending on which generation you grew up part of you will know this tale as a metaphor for whichever conflict drove people to streets to protest in your time.
Drawing the dots between the events of the original series of movies and the latest instalments is a great move and this collection asks many questions of its reader and not just how everything slots in to place on a franchise continuum. Consider, as the original film did, what our place in the world is and how we treat those that we share it with. Are we really doing the right thing? Are we really superior? Looking inwards does not always show humans in a good light but are the apes any better? When Worlds Collide indeed. Philosophical dystopian Sci-Fi at its finest. Marv Gadgie