I was looking forward to this in a “just so crazy it might work” kind of way. I mean, it was pitched in Dark Horse’s solicitations as the story of two brothers — Tarzan and Caesar — raised together and then torn apart by the war between man and ape. It sounded ridiculous, but kind of endearing in its own way. That it was coming from two respectable writers, Tim Seeley and David Walker, also gave me hope that it would be something I could recommend to fans of both franchises. So imagine my disappointment when what could have been a gripping story of tolerance and brotherhood torn apart winds up being a confusing mess of time-travel jibber-jabber and additional concepts from Burroughs and the “Apes” franchise cluttering it all up.
Things get off to a confusing start with a brief scene of Tarzan fighting the good fight against ape oppressors in the future before flashing back to the early 20th Century. This would be back when he was growing up in the jungle with Milo, before he took the name of Caesar, and the two encounter some dinosaurs which came through a glowing portal. After telling this to the adult apes, Zira and Cornelius, we find out that this is a colony of intelligent apes from the future that traveled back in time to escape the destruction of their world.
The investigation of this incursion is subsequently interrupted by the arrival of the future Lord Greystoke, Sir Clayton, and his hunters which herald murder and the return of Tarzan to civilization. Years pass, Tarzan grows up, Milo adopts the name of Caesar and leads the fight against humans in the jungle. Then Tarzan returns, more dinosaurs show up, we find out they’re from the interior world of Pellucidar, and the apes’ great Doctor Milo shows up to let everyone know that things are stuck in a time travel loop which ends with the annihilation of both ape and man.
If all this sounds like a confusing mess, then let me assure you it’s even less fun to read and experience all of the needless complications that Seeley and Walker add to the story. This isn’t a story that needed to have Pellucidar thrown in or any kind of time loop added to it. I’d expect writers who have done as much genre work as these two to be able to recognize when their time travel story is getting out of control, or when a crossover becomes too indulgent. Apparently the idea of throwing everything and the kitchen sink at this story was too much fun for them to resist. Regrettably, fun is one thing that’s in very short supply for this comic.
It would’ve been for the best if Seeley and Walker had left time travel out of the story completely. I’m guessing their hands may have been tied because BOOM! Studios (the other publisher in this crossover) appears to only have the rights for the classic “Planet of the Apes” movies and not the current ones. Which is a shame because it would’ve been much easier to do this story in that context. Having Tarzan be some rich lord’s kid who is lost in the jungle and raised by apes is easy enough to do in the modern day, and you can have his acclimation to civilization coincide with the plague that facilitates the decline of man and the rise of the apes. Tarzan’s knowledge of ape culture will make him invaluable to the humans when the fighting begins while the ape brother he was raised with will fall in with Caesar’s band. When they finally reunite on opposite sides of the war, prepare for drama!
I would’ve loved to read a story like this, but it’ll likely never happen due to licensing issues. With Seeley and Walker limited to the original “Apes” films, I’ll have to concede that time travel was probably the only way combining the two franchises could’ve worked. Still, there had to be a better way to do that than the mess they delivered with this story.
This volume at least boasts decent art from Fernando Dagnino. He looks to be working in a style where his work is being colored straight from his pencils, courtesy of Sandra Molina, and it comes off pretty well. The shading and detail in his work is easy to appreciate and even if the story he’s illustrating is confusing, Dagnino appears to be committed in making sure all of the dinosaurs and apes look like they belong in the same world. His work does bear the signs of rushing to meet deadlines as it goes on, but it’s easily the best part about this volume.
Dark Horse has been putting out quality licensed work for so long that I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt when they announce a project like this. Particularly when it comes to something that springs from the aforementioned “just so crazy it might work” school of thinking. Yet Seeley and Walker ultimately delivered something that had too much crazy and not enough working in the end. There was real potential for a quality story here, and now we’ll likely never see it realized.