Charles Marshall

Planet of the Apes Annual 1 (1991)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Interesting.

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.