“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
— Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. She’s best known for her 45 year study of social and family interactions of wild chimps. She was the first to appoint names to her primate subjects during study as opposed to simply numbering them, noting that each one had its own distinct personality, an unusual idea at the time. She also observed human behavior such as hugs, kisses, pats and even tickling. Goodall suggested that this is evidence of “the close, supportive bonds that develop between family members and other individuals within a community…”
In BOOM! Studios’ online prequel to the summer blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the scientists of the Gen-Sys Laboratory observed similar behavior, especially in Burke and Bright Eyes (the same nickname Zira used for Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes film), the two main primates in which the story revolves.
During the month of July through the American premiere of the film on August 5th, BOOM! Released a chapter a week of the online comic as a prequel to the prequel, which is set in modern day and depicts how the fall of Man and the rise of Ape City transpired.
Daryl Gregory, the current writer of BOOM! Studios’ very popular Planet of the Apes comic series, does the honors and he does not disappoint. Artists Damien Couceiro and Tony Parker take over for regular series artist Carlos Magno and though their style isn’t quite on the detailed level as Magno’s, they still offer a nice and entertaining visual experience.
Gregory chooses to focus on the capture, experimentation and planned escape of Bright Eyes and Burke, detailing their evolving thought process. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he used Goodall’s research as a springboard for this story.
In that research, Goodall did observe something else: an aggressive side to chimp nature. She
noted, “During the first ten years of the study I had believed […] that the Gombe chimpanzees were, for the most part, rather nicer than human beings. […] Then suddenly we found that chimpanzees could be brutal—that they, like us, had a darker side to their nature.”
So, what happens when these apes, who are taken from their home, threatened with violence and taken to a strange, cold place, are subjected to strange experiments that increases their intelligence to that of humans? They get angry. And like Goodall’s discovery, Burke and Bright Eyes take that anger and retaliate in distinctive ways.
Reading it’s hard not to get drawn in by memories of similar moments in comics over the past few years. Last year’s magnificent series finale to the long-running Brian Vaughn-scripted, Tony Harris-drawn Ex Machina certainly springs to mind. “Happy endings are bullshit. There are only happy pauses”, Vaughn writes, “In the real world there’s no such thing as a never-ending battle, is there? Because sooner or later somebody wins”.
Vaughn’s story exposes the heavy price paid by Mitchell Hundred in shirking his responsibility. And in a similar way, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the tale of human life shrinking from caring for the planet as a whole.
This digital comic prequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a small, neat statement about what happens when humans stop being human. It’s the beginning of the beginning of a time when apes rule the land and humans, well, become apes.