Saturday, September 24, 2011

CBR Angel & The Ape (1991)


Here's an oldie but a goodie.

They sure do love their talking gorillas in comic books :P

Comic title: Angel & The Ape 
Art by Phil Foglio & Keith Wilson
Story by Phil Foglio

Published by DC Comics
From 1991
Lineup Angel & The Ape
Format: Four issues run of a '90s Angel & The Ape mini-series.

Angel & The Ape was originally a comic strip series from DC, created as filler/back-up stories for Showcase in '68 by cartoonist E. Nelson Bridwell.
The characters never truly went big of popular but they manage to have their own share of loyal fans to follow them nonetheless.

Their stories were comedic "detective" stories. This Angel and "The Ape" being a duo of private investigators.
Then they were offered a very short-lived series of their own around the 1970, until the series drop "The Ape" of its title to become Meet Angel simply.

In this review, I'll talk about the '91 mini by Phil Foglio who reintroduced these characters, and fully grounded in the larger DC Universe.

Meet our heroes, Angel and "The Ape"!

Our story opens with a flashback of sorts, as a young Angel O'Day discovers a mysterious talking gorilla, while in an expedition in the jungle with her dad Professor Theo O'Day.
The gentle gorilla was quickly adopted and became part of the O'Day family, you see, our heroine grew up with this ape they dubbed Sam Simeon.

Now, in the present, Angel and Sam manage a little Detective Agency, O'Day and Simeon's.

And they are far from your usual boring stereotypical detectives.
Angel is a beautiful blonde detective lady who swore she would never become a "damsel in distress", she's quite a good martial artists as well and is the brains of this operation.
Our big gorilla, Sam, is a great character. The muscle of the O'Day and Simeon's partnership, Sam dreams of making it big into comic books and draws cartoons for DZ Comics.

One day, she would marry Ambush Bug..but that is a tale for another day...

This series is a return in due form for Angel and Sam.
It is a comedic comic book mini, zany and fun. The art by Phil Foglio is quite cartoony and suits these characters perfectly.

The story follows our Angel & Ape as they interact with some of the DCU in their corner of the company.
An on-going mystery drives our characters as some light reveals some of their past.

Angel is actually the half-sister of Dumb Bunny, another comedic character from DC, a super strong simple minded and naive heroine.
The rest of her gang, the Inferior Five do actually also appear in the book and are quite well used in the overall plot.
Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd, a famous and formidable foe of The Flash and the Justice League has is eyes set on Sam and has some plans of his own in the future for his...grandson?!

The story ties nicely our detective duo to other elements of the DC Universe and perfectly naturally.
Nothing is really forced, the story is entertaining. Humor and adventure at its finest!

It is a nice comedic title and doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet it does a great job establishing our heroes, their origin, their current situation, etc.
It tries to make some sense of the original comic strips from the 60s, like the fact Sam is a talking gorilla from Gorilla City and also has/uses mental powers like Grodd to live amongst humans undetected. (in the original comic strips, it was a fact simply ignored since it wasn't really serious stories)

I really like these characters. They're some true underdogs of the DCU, which unlike Ambush Bug or the Metal Men for example don't get much cameos in other titles/adaptations in cartoons.
The concept behind them is truly a Silver Age origin in fashion and terms.

Some elements are mentioned but barely touched upon in the course of these four issues.
I would have liked if the fact Sam wants to follow his dream in "man's world" of being a comic book artist could have had some role in story...but I guess that's the kinda thread left open the creative teams would have used had this comic been turned in a regular on-going series.
(which was actually the plan behind this mini afteral in fact, a test run like many other minis from DC of that time)

Overall, it a lovely entertaining little mini-series.
If you can't find the original comic strips (no reprints!), this serves as a great introduction to these characters.
And one of their rare and only appearances anyway!

The story is fun and makes a great use of the larger DCU, if you're interested in that sort of stuff!
(clever Green Lantern tie-in with the plot!)
The characters had other little cameos, once or twice, outside this story. Backgrounds mostly.
Also a funny "in-story" movie based on them Clark Kent and Lois Lane went to see if I remember correctly.

It was wacky and humorous.
But sadly no on-going followed it...

Angel and Sam were given another mini-series more recently in the 2000s, but we'll see that another time....
(a Vertigo mini-series by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman and Philip Bond)

It's exactly the kind of comics that is seriously lacking in the industry these days.
Specially in DC's current lineup with this DCnU revamp/relaunch-thingie "The New 52".
If you come across some old issues in bargain bins or on ebay, don't hesitate. Give it a try ;)

I give it:

  2 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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