Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman turned many heads with their Ape mini "Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes," which had a killer '70s political vibe to it and delivered a sorely needed twist on the Ape genre. They now follow it up with "Exile on the Planet of the Apes" where we see a continuation of "Betrayal" two years later. This book looks to be the action-packed revenge tale straight out of the '70s the first miniseries deserves as a follow up.
It is a shame Hardman cannot illustrate this book as he did the previous miniseries. However, the replacement of Marc Laming is solid as his line is evocative of Hardman and colorist Jordie Bellaire keeps everything in sync. The artistic glory is held in sequence and we can enjoy "Exile" as being every bit a part of the world established in "Betrayal." This continuity helps the book and makes the entire saga feel that denser for its sameness.
The first half of this book centers around human raids on gorilla encampments and the illegal trade of goods that takes place afterwards. Much like "Betrayal," the story takes center stage instead of talking apes being the major factor of entertainment. Watching the chain of command decide who to blame for recent attacks and then slowly iron out details of how to stop this madness is intriguing. This tale might be a sci-fi epic in genre but it is enabled through a micro-scale of character interactions and minor decisions.
The character of Prisca, who taught the human Tern to talk with his hands in "Betrayal," gets her character continually developed in this issue. She is a strong female but is still firmly entrenched in a world where she is looked down upon. Her strength becomes more of a symbol as we see the idiocy she fights against.
Laming is able to commit the same level of cinematic scope Hardman brought to "Betrayal." His panels hold depth and his silent panels carry the story completely. The apes continue to feel majestic, yet flawed and the scavenging humans are worn down and working their hardest. Bellaire continues to shine through as a storyteller with her colors -- the work on the eyes and gunshot flares are superbly brilliant.
"Exile on the Planet of the Apes" #1 begins another victory lap around for this masterful Ape team. If you enjoyed "Betrayal," then rest assured this is the sort of sequel without a sophomore slump. Bechko and Hardman take us forward in time two years and then continue the next great aspect of this delightful Ape saga. If we’re lucky, this miniseries won’t be the last tale they tell in this world with these characters.