Planet of the Apes Annual 1 (1991)


At least the art is good. Otherwise, this annual is incredibly stupid. Marshall’s intended audience isn’t fans of the movies or even most of his regular Apes comics. Instead, it’s for fans of monkeys acting like people.

Being a Planet of the Apes annual has nothing to do with any of the stories. Maybe the Adventure Apes comics had problems keeping ape species straight because it doesn’t matter.

This annual has Western, horror, explorer and post-apocalypse stories. None need to have apes in them. Most would probably be better without apes in them.

Marshall did, early in his Apes writing, do a decent job. This annual just shows he was all too willing to forgo setting and science fiction for a gimmick. This annual is like a bad sitcom. Who knows, maybe Fox was pushing to relaunch the franchise as sketch comedy….

Regardless, besides the excellent art, it’s terrible.

Ape Nation 4 (June 1991)


Marshall doesn’t come up with anything good for the Ape Nation finale. In fact, he comes up with all these lame things and keeps stringing them together until the finish. Like most narratives with an endless supply of events, the problem is a lack of story.

I mean, the comic opens with three separate recaps of previous events. Sure, one’s an editor’s note, but it’s like no one thought anyone was paying attention to Ape Nation. Unfortunately, one can’t help but pay attention because some of Marshall’s details are just so stupid.

Like the apes who speak “the ancient tongue,” but this series is set roughly sixty years after the final Apes movie. Apes wouldn’t have been speaking long enough to have an ancient tongue… Marshall just wanted stand-ins for Native Americans.

It’s a bad finale; worse, it brings the series to a definite low point.

Nice art though.

Ape Nation 3 (May 1991)


I’m perplexed. There’s only one issue left to Ape Nation and the best Marshall has come up with for a threat to our heroes is a rampaging horde of bad guys. But these are all anonymous bad guys; the two major bad guys are still having their bickering scenes.

And Marshall also makes the terrible choice to have his ape hero narrate the entire issue. Except he acts nonsensically in order to meet up with a surprise guest star and takes the entire issue to do it. The rest of the issue doesn’t even feature the protagonist, it’s the gorilla, alien and human deciding they should be friends.

And Marshall’s voice for the first person narration is just terrible. He’s constantly referring directly to the reader, which makes for lame moments.

The color is still great, but about half the art is weaker than the previous issue’s high.

It’s disappointing.

Ape Nation 2 (April 1991)


The coloring and the art come together this issue. The coloring was nice last issue, but this issue it’s even better. And Wyman and Pallot overcome their bad action panels (it’s like Wyman can’t draw human figures, only ape) and create some great art. The close-ups, for example, are exquisite.

Other than the art, I guess the comic’s not bad. Marshall’s change in characterization between the regular Apes and Ape Nation is still striking. It’s like he forgot his human character was sympathetic—highly sympathetic—in Apes and turns him into a vicious sadist here.

The story mostly deals with the apes teaming up with the aliens, at least on the good guy’s half of the story. In the villains’, it’s just about the bickering between villains. Marshall’s not actually doing very much yet, as far as a big crossover.

I can’t believe he’ll get to a compelling finish.

Ape Nation 1 (February 1991)


Marshall ties a crossover between Planet of the Apes and Alien Nation directly into his Apes series. Meaning Ape Nation would be incomprehensible without reading Apes. While Marshall does introduce a new protagonist, the lamely named Heston, most of the setup directly involves Apes events.

The result is somewhat sillier than it need to be, but also far more tangible. Marshall’s not treating it as a castoff. Ape Nation will have consequences for regular cast.

Of course, coming into Ape Nation blind might be better. The inexplicable changes some of the characters have gone through… specifically the Tarzan stand-in. Marshall gives him an entrance like he’s got his own series.

A lot of the dialogue is bad. The stuff with the aliens is pretty bad. The apes act like it’s old hat, which is sort of believable but mostly not. They’re on horseback, these are spaceships.

But it’s passable.

Ape City 4 (November 1990)


While having apes watching MTV might be outlandish, having spaceships in a Planet of the Apes comic seems even more disjointed. Maybe because the apes themselves show no sign of having the technology, so it’s like there are time travelers from the past….

I forgot to mention the last issue—Marshall wastes at least three pages recapping the previous issues. He did it the issue before too. He certainly doesn’t understand the half page Marvel recap.

Ape City finishes, besides the art, fairly well. I enjoyed reading it, even though Marshall’s handling of the giant ape named Cong is awful. But it was a stupid idea, so it’s not like it’d get any better. There’s a lot of action and some thriller moments. And spaceships.

Well, one.

And it might have looked amazing if it weren’t for the art. Mann’s inks make the art appear two dimensional. It’s incredibly ugly.

Ape City 3 (October 1990)


The art gets worse this issue. I wonder what Wyman’s pencils look like without inks. From a few panels, I wonder if he even bothered with full faces. Adventure really didn’t put much effort into their Apes comics as far as the art (Wyman, at one point, being the exception).

But Ape City is almost engaging enough it should have been the flagship. Marshall mixes all the elements–mob apes, ninja apes, biker apes and a bunch of violent Americans–quite well. They just don’t belong in a limited series. He needs room to let them relax and expand.

The highly touted (by Marshall) explanation of Adventure’s Apes sequels is, sadly, not worth much touting. It’s kind of expected and there’s little or nothing revelatory about it. With these European apes (Marshall skips explaining what happened to different languages,) so amusing, why bother with the boring American Iron Age ones?

Ape City 2 (September 1990)



I don’t know what else to say about this issue of Ape City except… interesting. Imagine me sort of pensively scratching my chin as I think.

Marshall, besides making a… ahem… big King Kong reference, introduces Charlton Heston’s character’s daughter. She’s come to the future to make things better once her dad shows up. Marshall needs to explain his timeline to the reader, a big problem on the regular Apes series too, and his characterization of her is a little slight.

But he does manage to confound with the intricacies of his plot machinations, as opposed to just being confused.

He’s also reduced his cast to a mismatched team of misfits, which always reads well, on the run from three sets of bad guys. The silly factor, even with a giant ape, is down a little from the first issue too.

I just wish Mann was a better inker.

Ape City 1 (August 1990)


There used to be a cable network with chimps doing scenes from old movies. Ape City is a lot like those commercials. But Marshall does make it mildly compelling because of the threat factor. He introduces a bunch of time traveling humans sent from the past to kill apes in the future. It’s not to prevent the world from being overrun with apes, it’s just meant to be vicious and kill apes.

It seems like a realistic taking human nature into account.

There’s some really weak dialogue—Marshall’s trying to distinguish his characters’ speaking and he fails miserably. None of the characters are particularly strong either. Actually, instead of a comic book featuring a narrative, Ape City would work better as an annotated description of M.C. Wyman’s character designs. Why this ape looks this way and so on.

Ape City’s okay, but nowhere near as charming as Marshall thinks.

Planet of the Apes 24 (July 1992)


Planet of the Apes limps off into the sunset with a new artist for this extra-special finale. Craig Taillefer, who also handles the letters, is terrible. I almost like the first artist on the book more, because you could at least tell he liked good artists. And Taillefer’s lettering is bad too. The amount of typos alone make one wonder if anyone read a copy before it shipped.

Marshall closes up all his story threads moronically. Everyone gets a happy ending. There’s no attempt at being thoughtful about the philosophical implications of apes and humans coexisting. The one dissenter changes his mind because someone says “please.”

And there’s a big battle between the two magic giants (one ape, one man). Marshall doesn’t bother accounting for it making no sense in the franchise’s continuity either.

It’s a terrible close (both in plotting and scene writing) for a sometimes worthwhile comic.

Planet of the Apes 23 (May 1992)


You know, when I started reading Adventure’s Planet of the Apes series, I complimented Marshall for his intelligence.

As the series winds down, this penultimate issue leaves me considering him beyond dumb.

There’s a big canonical change here—Caesar (you know, Roddy McDowell’s chimp) is resurrected as the Lawgiver (John Huston’s orangutan). So, the way Marshall sees it—a guy writing a comic book about apes—there’s no difference between chimps and orangutans. You know, genetically.

It’s a stunningly terrible thing. But I guess Marshall is rushing headstrong into his final issues. The plot points are stupid and the narrative feels disjointed, but at least he’s trying.

Oh, wait, he’s really not. He’s doing all these wacky things with the characters to make it fit the finale… he’s not fitting the finale to his characters.

The art, after a brief uptick, is dreadful once again. Maybe the worst Wyman ever.

Planet of the Apes 22 (April 1992)


So Marshall’s evil ghost with demonic powers isn’t actually an evil ghost… he’s the Beyonder. Marshall doesn’t so much as borrow full scenes from Secret Wars II just how he approaches it.

I’m wondering if he’s trying to do some kind of commentary on the series actually, as this arc (he intimates it’s going to be the final one) is just Marshall killing off all his characters.

It’s lame and occasionally laughable, but there’s a certain bewilderment value to it. It’ll never be good, but if Marshall’s actually doing something creative, it might be interesting. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger refutes the idea it’s going to be creative. Marshall goes for the absurd instead.

He also never finishes a subplot before he moves on. There’s never any reaction to events. Apes doesn’t build to anything.

But I guess the art’s a little better than last issue. I counted maybe four okay pages.

Planet of the Apes 21 (February 1992)


What an exceptionally bad issue.

First, the art. Wyman has a new inker with Peter Murphy, according to the credits, but I can’t believe Wyman did much but sketch. The art has descended to the laughable garbage of the series’s early issues, before Wyman (with his alternating excellence and competence) took over.

Then the writing… Marshall apparently got a bug for tying into the movies, because he now ties into the movies, all of his ape characters (including giving one a descendent… without explaining how the line would propagate) and throws it all together.

But wait, there’s more.

There’s magic.

The villain is resurrected through evil magic and he can set people ablaze.

It’s terrible, terrible stuff. And it’s strange to see from Marshall, who never did anything incredibly stupid before. But this issue? This issue of Planet of the Apes goes into new realms of stupid.

It’s laughably hideous.

Planet of the Apes 20 (January 1992)


The only particular thing in this issue is someone writing an Apes comic finally got around to an orangutan called King Louie. Otherwise, the issue’s pretty drab.

Marshall does a Western with apes and it’s impossible not to compare it to Doug Moench’s work back on the Marvel series. Only, Marshall just does a Western. It doesn’t have anything to do with Planet of the Apes. After the King Louie reference, none of it needs apes.

Still, Wyman and Pallot’s less detailed art style fits a Western atmosphere better—there’s scenery they can’t get away with ignoring—and the story’s not terrible. If it were just a Western, it’d probably be better, because I had an expectation Marshall was going to make it somehow important these were apes not humans.

But he doesn’t.

The issue, which is clearly meant to be seen as a creative experiment, isn’t creative at all.

Planet of the Apes 19 (December 1991)


Marshall’s author’s note at the beginning of the issue mentions Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is his favorite in the series. Oddly, it’s one of the ones he ignored when mentioning history in a lot of issues.

But his one shot here, it’s pretty great. It’s Conquest from the perspective of some average guy who lives through the ape uprising. His kid gets killed by the household chimp (off page), he gives all sorts of insight. It’s a really good issue. I’m sort of stunned.

Not because it’s a revolutionary story (it’s good, not amazing), but because Marshall pulls it off. A comic side story to a movie is common-place, but having it come in this particular Apes series, over a year into the publication run… it’s a strange move. And Marshall writes the hell out of it.

The art isn’t exactly better, but it’s more agreeable.

Planet of the Apes 18 (November 1991)


The first page made me think Wyman and Pallot were back to doing good work. Unfortunately, they are not. It’s this detailed, beautiful piece of black and white comic art. The rest of the issue is their new low standard.

Marshall returns to his original cast, either starting a new storyline or wrapping up unresolved issues. His solution to one of his two major problems is a complete cop out. On part of the issue deals with suicidal depression, another with the sitcom antics of the gorillas. There’s no unity. It’s not just bad, it’s heavy-handed and bad.

And then–not sure who’s at fault, writer, artists, editor or publisher–there’s an orangutan with two chimps for children. Again, not even sure that one’s genetically possible.

The issue’s a slight improvement over the immediately previous ones, but Marshall’s out of good plot ideas. He’s just lazy at this point.

Planet of the Apes 17 (October 1991)


Interesting. Very, very interesting.

Marshall’s either a terrible writer or he just never really wrote the comic and editors did.

This issue ties directly to the first Planet of the Apes movie. It does so in a neat way. The neat connection almost makes up for the fact Marshall has his protagonist recount events, until this issue, she never knew about.

She summarizes the Conquest plot, which directly refutes the previous few issues. I wonder if Adventure paid its editors in Hostess Fruit Pies.

There’s some other bad stuff here too–Marshall gets even worse with the tense, for instance. Then there’s the person living who shouldn’t be (twice, sort of). It’s all incredibly lazy writing.

Though Marshall is predating a lot of zombie stories by fifteen years with his empty American landscape and sole survivors.

Sadly, the art is no better. It made me almost miss the ending’s significane.

Planet of the Apes 16 (September 1991)



Reading the issue, I kept wondering how the comic could get worse.

First, Wyman and Pallot have completely gone to pot. If I’d picked up this issue first, I would have never believed this art team could do the work they did on their first couple issues. It’s not as horrific as the original series artist, just because that guy was incompetent, but it’s bad art.

Second, Marshall’s handling of a female protagonist is disastrous. He seems to think strong woman equals sexually promiscuity. It’d be loathsome if it weren’t so earnestly idiotic.

But the character’s a moron too. At one point she’s equating horses to apes in terms of intelligence.

Worse—in terms of little details—there’s more of Marshall’s terrible continuity. In ripping off first movie, Marshall made the story a headache.

I don’t even have space to mention Marshall’s inability understand tense when telling a story.

Planet of the Apes 15 (August 1991)


I think Marshall’s trying to combine Ripley from Aliens with Charlton Heston for his female protagonist.

But he does get one big point of originality in this issue of Apes. He has his humans on the run and they’re traveling cross country. And none of the apes speak. So it becomes akin to a cross country zombie movie. The protagonists keep moving, one of them goes crazy, there’s some romance and some jealousy. It’s all the standards.

Marshall is doing this approach years before any of those zombie movies. Unless maybe the Italians made one.

Unfortunately, that innovation aside, it’s not a good issue. The art’s dropping. It’s still serviceable, but Wyman and Pallot were doing a lot better when they started. Maybe the settings are just boring, but post-apocalypse Americana shouldn’t be boring.

Plus, Marshall addresses the pet apes. The narrator apparently just forgot about them last issue.

Planet of the Apes 14 (July 1991)


I’m once again convinced Marshall didn’t see all the Apes movies. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t even read the comic books he’s written.

This issue features some astronauts going through time and ending up on the Planet of the Apes. Sounds familiar, right? It is. Marshall rips off the arguments between the astronauts from the first movie, changing the gender and race of the characters. Then, in maybe the most extraordinary move, he forgets the history of the franchise.

The astronauts are from the 1990s (one references “The Simpsons” in her narration) but they have no idea apes have been slaves. Just like earlier, when Marshall had a World Book with an actual entry on apes, not one appropriate for an Apes comic.

Even worse than Marshall’s disregard for continuity is the art. All the wondrous Wyman lines are gone. He either got lazy or Pallot got out the eraser.

Planet of the Apes 13 (June 1991)


Marshall changes things up for this issue, eschewing an actual story and treating it as a combination of a preview for other Adventure Apes comics and a joke. He constantly breaks the fourth wall in narration, talking directly to the reader, and most of the issue is annoying and trite.

But it has good art. The addition of Wyman and Pallot has fundamentally changed Planet of the Apes and now the artists making up for the writer, instead of the inverse.

The comic has three stories. One involves the moronic comic relief gorillas Marshall seemed to think are a great idea.

Then there are tie-ins to the Ape City series and to the Ape Nation series.

The tie-ins are better than the regular one.

But Marshall does come up with a funny–and simultaneously forced and unexpected– punchline.

Primarily, the art, and tie-ins, make the issue tolerable.

Planet of the Apes 12 (May 1991)


Can orangutans even breed with chimps?

New artists M.C. Wyman and Terry Pallot take over the art chores this issue (I really hope to stay) and Wyman can actually draw, so one can tell the difference between chimps, orangutans and gorillas. Well, there’s a little trouble with the gorillas and chimps, but it’s usually clear.

And, since Kent Burles was incapable of enough detail to show species, I was shocked to discover Roddy McDowell’s descendent in this series is an orangutan.

Did Marshall even watch the movies?

Anyway, nice new artists aside–Wyman isn’t great, but he has that black and white, nineties indie artist enthusiasm–Apes still isn’t on its way back up the hill.

Marshall’s plot is still silly. It’s a happy wedding issue, only there’s a big mean gorilla out to scare everyone. If it weren’t for the constant torture, I’d think his target audience was children.

Planet of the Apes 11 (April 1991)


What anti-climatic drivel.

I won’t even bother with Marshall’s mutant apes with super-healing powers. Or how he has Burles try to visualize the brainwashed female chimp’s attempts at remembering things.

No, I’ll stick to the conclusion of this issue.

Marshall earned points when he started Adventure’s Apes because he was willing to look at the ape society, with the barbarism of the gorillas, and deal with it. This issue undoes all that work he did. In fact, it reaches a point of uselessness I’m not even sure how he’s going to continue the story.

Maybe the problem is a bad editor. Marshall’s plots come and go and there are lots of things without presence from issue to issue. But he resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger with magic. Worse, he has his characters acting completely against how he’s previously established them.

The series’s plummet seems to be speeding up.

Planet of the Apes 10 (March 1991)


With the exception of the addle-brained storyline about the amnesiac chimp, I thought Marshall was back on track this issue. It really seemed like things were going well. He had the missing female chimp reunited with Ape City, he had the human fugitive deal with his gorilla captor… Things were moving along nicely.

Until the female chimp gets brainwashed with a watch.

And then it becomes infinitely clear why Marshall never feels like he’s told a complete issue. Because he’s dragging things out far beyond their expiration date. The problem with A, B and C plots is when a C plot never becomes anything else. It needs to either graduate or go away.

Clearly, Marshall has a longterm plan for Planet of the Apes but he’s completely unconcerned with that plan having a nice narrative flow.

The issue ends on a decent cliffhanger. Burles’s atrocious art ruins its impact.

Planet of the Apes 9 (January 1991)


Yeah, Marshall’s definitely plummeting, if not plummeted.

It’s little things, like the female chimp narrating again. If he’s not doing it for style, he’s doing it for exposition, but he’s got too many characters to do expository flashbacks for every one of them… and he doesn’t. Just the female. And the narration is really bad.

Then there’s her (now missing) companion, who goes on this wacky adventure. Only, it seems like he’s hallucinating the whole thing. But Burles’s artwork is so bad, it’s impossible to tell. The bad artwork really stings now, because there’s not even a decent story—and it’s making the comic on a whole incomprehensible for the first time. It used to just be incomprehensible scenes.

Marshall’s big problem is how he’s developing the plot. Absolute power corrupts absolutely… big yawn.

And the cliffhanger, though it suggests new life for Apes, seems like a capitulation to expectations.

Planet of the Apes 8 (December 1990)


It’s Christmas on the Planet of the Apes, which means there’s a guy with a cart who travels around with presents.

Now, I’m a fan of comic books playing with narrative tropes and doing special issues. But a Christmas issue with a Santa analog? Marshall’s lost his grasp.

He’s been faltering for the last couple issues, but the combination of Santa ape and then Marshall narrating from the female chimp’s point of view? Apes is getting dangerously close to without value. It’s already got crappy art, it can’t handle weak writing too.

Once again, Marshall seems to be running out of story. He pads with showing off little apes playing soccer or the interlude with the stranded chimps. Maybe it’s just his finite cast–the setting is huge, but we only follow six or seven apes.

A comic book is a serialized narrative, yes, but it’s not a TV show.



Travellin’ Jack; writer, Charles Marshall; penciller, Kent Burles; inker, Barb Kaalberg; letterer, Mark Moore; editors, Mickie Villa, Dan Danko and Chris Ulm; publisher, Adventure Comics.

Planet of the Apes 7 (November 1990)


Marshall finally takes a complete misstep. It’s well-intentioned and I see what he’s trying to do, but it’s a pointless waste of half the issue. It’s nice to see him falter, putting Apes on shaky ground for something other than Kent Burles’s terrible art.

This issue, Marshall juxtaposes a fight scene—which takes up most of the issue’s length—against the goings-on of the cast. The fight scene’s not interesting for two reasons. First, the town ruffian who starts it is a new character. Second, the art. How’s anybody going to get excited about a Burles fight scene?

The rest of the issue is fine; it covers the political machinations of the secretly villainous religious leader. Marshall’s in danger of putting the series back to zero (with the good apes against the bad for political control), but he’s also introduces some troublesome nomadic apes.

Shame about the rest.

Planet of the Apes 6 (October 1990)


Marshall makes an interesting choice with this issue, breaking the fourth wall. The protagonist of the issue is a new resident of the Ape City… his (or her) name is “Reador.” The entire issue is from the point of view of the reader, which is kind of cute… but it seems like Marshall is using it as a gimmick.

Planet of the Apes isn’t a kids book, it isn’t a fun book. It’s about lying, deception and racism. Being all happy and upbeat—after Marshall covers the nastiness especially—makes the issue silly.

It might have worked as a little back-up, but not a whole issue. Why, for example, do we have to spend time with the annoying buffoons.

Worse, Burles has gotten so bad I couldn’t tell the different between gorillas and orangutans. I think I can identify the chimps….

It’s a misfire, but a mildly ambitious one.

Planet of the Apes 5 (September 1990)


Marshall finally takes care of his continuity issues. He starts the issue talking about the second plague, which rendered most of the humans mute. Obviously, this development doesn’t fit into all of the Apes continuity, but at least it explains the ground situation of this comic series.

This issue is a bridging issue, revealing certain things going on off panel during the last four issues. There’s also a mystery, but Marshall doesn’t concentrate on it. When the culprit is revealed, his identity is nowhere near as interesting as his motives… or the personal repercussions.

For a comic with such hideous artwork, Marshall’s Apes is affecting because it’s so cynical.

It’s also revealed religious fundamentalism is ruining the Planet of the Apes, a standard trope for the series. But Marshall executes that plot point well—and a lot more subtly than he could.

Marshall’s a rather creative plotter; his Apes works.

Planet of the Apes 4 (August 1990)


Marshall runs into some big problems here.

First and foremost, he writes a big complicated action issue and Burles can’t draw it. There are fight scenes, there are battles scenes; they’re completely incompressible. And there’s even a climatic finish to one of the fights. Again, the awful art kills the dramatic intent.

The second problem is a minor continuity one. Marshall’s ignoring of the final two Apes movies is even more acute here. Either he didn’t see them, or he did and forgot them. Given Marshall’s not writing to suit his penciller’s absolute inabilities, I imagine he just forgot the movies’ contents.

Finally, he changes the mood of the comic. This issue’s end is practically upbeat. It makes the comic seem light and slighty naive.

The comic, even with the awful art, should have been much better. It’s too bad Marshall fell off the quality wagon, though his dialogue’s fine.


Battle; writer, Charles Marshall; penciller, Kent Burles; inker, Barbara Kaalberg; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Dan Danko, Chris Ulm and Mickie Villa; publisher, Adventure Comics.

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