Review – Planet of the Apes: Visionaries HC (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Original Screenplay: Rod Sterling
Adapted by: Dana Gould
Artwork: Chad Lewis
Colours: Darrin Moore, Miquel Muerto, Marcelo Costa
Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Release Date: 22nd August 2018

Here’s something I didn’t know until I picked this BOOM! Studios Graphic Novel up – the classic 1968 cinematic version of Planet of the Apes was actually a significant departure from the first draft of Rod Sterling’s original screenplay.  And as part of their ’20th Century Fox Uncovered’ collection, BOOM! have tasked screenwriter Dana Gould  and artist Chad Lewis to bring Sterling’s original vision to life for the very first time.

While the overall story unfolds in a somewhat familiar manner, there are a few key changes to the cinematic version that definitely shift the focus of the narrative somewhat. Firstly, Charlton Heston’s scenery-chewing Taylor is gone, replaced instead by Thomas, a man whose restrained, intelligent demeanour make him a lot more sympathetic and likeable than the abrasive, belligerent  Taylor.  Granted, the anti-hero type probably works a little better on the big screen, but I found myself caring a lot more deeply about the plight of Thomas than I ever did for Taylor.

Secondly, the Apes themselves are far more technologically advanced in this version, with a vibrant culture complete with modern clothes, skyscrapers and automobiles. And while this perhaps doesn’t change the story’s flow in any significant way, there’s something a little more shocking about having this world of apes being so incredibly similar to the world we’re all familiar which, which I think really adds to Thomas’s bemusement and confusion throughout.

Chad Lewis isn’t an artist I’ve had much familiarity with previously, but he does a fantastic job here of bringing the story to life on the page.  Rather than the barren desert world of the original movie, there’s far more luscious foliage and vibrant architecture in this version, allowing Lewis to deliver some high-quality visual world building.  The character designs are also impressive, with Lewis frequently referring to the original test footage and rumoured casting (Thomas for instance is based heavily on Paul Newman, who was in early consideration for the lead before Heston) to help deliver a pleasingly fresh aesthetic.

As an interesting bonus, in addition to the story itself, this hardcover also includes some of the concept notes from both Gould and Lewis, and digging a little deeper into how the pair rebuilt the familiar characters in line with Sterling’s first draft is an utterly fascinating read.

As I mentioned, the key moments of the story remain largely unchanged, although the reduction of Nova’s part as the quasi love interest feels perhaps the most disappointing to me.  Her role is still important, but I always found the blossoming relationship between she and Taylor – as well as his fierce protection of her – to be a key part of the story.  On the flip side, there’s definitely something a lot more poignant about the Statue of Liberty reveal at the end this time around, mostly due to the new events which surround the moment.  It’s perhaps foreshadowed a little heavier, but the utter desolation of Thomas as he sees the remnants of the statue definitely hits home a little harder here.

If you’re a fan of the original movie, this graphic novel provides an intriguing snapshot of just how differently things could have turned out, and there’s a great sense of enjoyment to be gleamed by reading the story and comparing how certain things have changed.  However, even if you aren’t a familiar with the 1968 classic, or if your Planet of the Apes knowledge is confined to the recent movie trilogy, this is still a fantastic story in its own right, and as such comes highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5.


ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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