Thursday, June 1, 2017

An Alternate Reality #16: Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes

Dark Horse/Boom!'s "Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes" is now contained in a complete, softback (144 page) collector's edition. For alternate-reality fans, and those who hold an interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs' works and/or the initial, cinematic incarnations of Pierre Boulle's novella, this crossover stands as a recommended treat-and-a-half. 

The adventure was penned by Daniel F. Walker and Tim Seeley, with artwork by Fernando Dagnino, assisted by Sandra Molina and Nate Piekos, with cover-art insertions by Duncan Fegredo. The collaborative effort is a moving and exciting offshoot that redefines the mythologies of both Lord Greystoke and those world-shaking, speaking simians. At the same time, the story nurtures many of the familiar elements that made both franchises engaging, allowing the parallel structure to click on all counts.   

The comic's events initiate during the early part of the 19th Century, with Cornelius and Zira having spun back in time about seventy years prior to what we encounter in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes". Their son, Caesar (aka, Milo) is for all intents and purposes, a youthful version of Roddy McDowall's persona, but this time positioned in Africa, where Cornelius and Zira have adopted young Tarzan. Other famous apes, like General Ursus and Kerchak enter the story, along with several immoral humans, as the adventure weaves swiftly through its dimensional portals.  

This alternate-reality experiment also features creatures from Burroughs' Pellucidar, but their exciting assaults never deter from Caesar's pursuit for liberation. From this, civil-rights concerns surface: a resonating component in all of the "Apes" time lines, but such holds equal importance in Tarzan lore, for would the ape man ever ignore the persecuted?

The authors present Tarzan as the ideal companion to Caesar and his cause: a superhero not only raised by loving apes, but one who employees a strength and insight that rivals other humans, while the son of Cornelius/Zira projects a tactical reasoning beyond those he champions. Walker/Seeley's insightful storytelling also acknowledges (albeit subtly) that both heroes are defiant outcasts and in their own right, underdogs: a common denominator that's made these icons empathetic, regardless of their extraordinary traits. 

Throughout, Cornelius, Zira and Caesar behave much as they do in the original "Apes" movies, though we never got to see them interact as they do here. (Dagnino's detailed storyboard helps bring credibility to the merger.) Tarzan, on the other hand, becomes a surrogate George Taylor, but otherwise represents his literary source. Of course, how can one not superimpose one's own favorite, cinematic Tarzan in lieu of Dagnino/Fegredo's renderings? And there's no doubt that Walker/Seeley's fable would make a swell action/adventure film.

With that said, why hasn't someone yet taken the plunge and made an animated movie of this? While we're at it, "Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: Prime Directive" (see "An Alternate Reality #11": Aug '15) would work wondrously, as well. Fans would line up around the block to see/purchase such time-twisting tales, especially now that multiverse sojourns are en vogue.  

Nevertheless, the existing "Tarzan/Apes" is satisfying and rewarding in its own brilliant way: an inspired, page-turner from start to finish. And man, oh man, the finish is as memorable as any a reader could desire for Tarzan and Caesar: two of the roughest, toughest freedom fighters to ever occupy the jungle or for that matter, the altered centuries. 

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