Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #5 Review

It’s All Kicking Off!

Written by: Justin Jordan and Robbie Thompson

Art by: Barnaby Bagenda, Alex Gumaeres and Ed Dukeshire
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 14, 2017

DC Comics’ and Boom! Studios’ Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern crossover has been, if not exactly ground-breaking, certainly fun so far. While certain elements (e.g. Hal repeating Taylor’s journey in the first film; Sinestro doing his whole moustache-twirling villain thing) have been predictable, others have been much less so. The introduction of Gorilla Grodd; the presence of the Red Lanterns; the un-named Green Lantern who first brought the Universal Ring to the alternate Earth; the centrality of Cornelius to the action: these have been the elements that, for me at any rate, have been genuinely intriguing. Now that we’re nearing the series’ climax, it’s time for those disparate elements to come together. Will the creative team have more surprises up its sleeve? There’s only one way to find out.

Not for the first time this series, the issue starts off with an exchange between Sinestro (this time powered up as a Green Lantern) and Gaius. Some smooth talking from Gaius saves him from Sinestro’s attempt to crush his neck, but it remains to be seen just how useful to Sinestro Gaius could be. This section does raise one of my main problems with this series, which is that, despite being the one who uncovered the Universal Ring in the first place, Sinestro has actually done relatively little up to now. His function seems to have been to fill in the background with the plot with Gaius being a decidedly unwilling proxy for the reader. This issue’s ending makes it clear that we are going to get a much more involved Sinestro next time, but, dammit, we’ve had to wait a long while for him to reveal what he really wants.

With Sinestro essentially bookending this issue, it’s up to others to pick up the slack plot-wise and there are no shortage of willing candidates. Last issue ended with the revelation that Gorilla Grodd had gained control of the Red Lanterns as well as, almost superfluously, the bulk of General Ursus’ troops. Facing him initially is Cornelius and his Universal Ring- wielding friends including Nova, Zira and some of the underground mutants from the second film. Grodd’s mental abilities prove too much for them and he subdues them easily leaving only Cornelius (as the wielder of the original Universal Ring) to confront the super-intelligent ape. What follows is pretty impressive. Grodd reveals himself to be so dangerous and so powerful that it makes Guy’s decision to take him with him and his fellow Lanterns look all the more insane. Indirectly, Guy is responsible for a number of deaths and an awful lot of psychic enslavement – all because he made the fundamental (and slightly racist – speciesist?) mistake of assuming that forcing a super-intelligent, telepathic gorilla to travel with him to a planet ruled by intelligent apes would work out fine. Cornelius puts up a reasonable fight, but it’s clear he’s going to need help and he duly gets it when Hal and the other GLs show up.

Quite appropriately, Guy takes it upon himself to deal with Grodd, although it remains to be seen whether his efforts will completely atone for bringing him in the first place. A pitched battle between the Reds, Grodd and the GLs ensues which is eventually ended when Grodd, despite having been attacked repeatedly by Guy’s constructs, gains control of the mutants and, using their psychic powers to amplify his own, takes down the GLs. There is some pretty exciting stuff here. Bagenda’s artwork is nicely kinetic and there are some very involving moments, not least the stand-off between Grodd and Cornelius which Zira ends in a decisive – and tragic – manner. Things look astonishingly bleak for the GLs and, especially, Cornelius when a certain moustachioed puce-skinned anti-hero turns up to save the day.

There’s not all that much to say about this issue, really. It’s action-packed, a fun read and does a pretty good job of communicating just how evil and powerful Grodd is. And he is evil. His malevolence and manipulative prowess are very much to the fore here. Of the three established villains in this story (the other two being Sinestro and Atrocitus), he is easily the most compelling. The rest of the cast are portrayed reasonably well, too; Thompson and Jordan have made the relationship between Cornelius and Zira a focal point for the series and the payoff in this issue is genuinely touching. Other characters, admittedly, don’t come off quite so well. Ursus has been sidelined for most of the last couple of issues, but he’s given a moment of pained dignity here. Gaius is completely superfluous to the plot, and Arisia and Kilowog are not given a great deal to do. With the possible exception of Dextarr, the Reds are not particularly clearly defined, a fate from which the mutants suffer, too. In that sense, I suppose it could be argued that this series is just a little too ambitious, but there’s no denying that the creative team have mixed things up to good – and entertaining – effect.

Bits and Pieces:

As penultimate issues go, this is pretty exciting stuff. With Grodd centre stage (Sinestro will presumably (finally) come to the fore next issue), there’s a lot of action and some genuine drama. Bagenda’s art continues to be good and, at times, it’s very impressive indeed. The odd niggle notwithstanding, this has been a fun series and its finale has been set up very effectively indeed.


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