With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of each “Adapt This” column, you’ll also find some thoughts from the industry’s top comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: Guerillas by Brahm Revel
The Premise: Meek, gun-shy Private John Francis Clayton is on his first tour of duty in Vietnam when his platoon is ambushed by enemy forces. Surviving out of sheer cowardice, he discovers that he’s the only survivor of the massacre, left alone in the jungle with enemies all around him. All is not lost, however, as he soon encounters the simian soldiers of an experimental squad of military-trained chimpanzees. The bizarre unit takes him under their protection as they continue to wage war against the Viet Cong, but the U.S. military is also out to recover the apes – dead or alive.
The Pitch: Created by The Venture Bros. cartoonist and storyboard artist Brahm Revel, Guerillas is a gritty take on one of America’s most controversial wars that manages to be both thought-provoking and deadly serious despite its fantastic premise. Pvt. Clayton is far from the gun-toting hero we’ve come to expect in war films, and his frightened, fish-out-of-water observations of the way human and chimp soldiers handle the war experience make the story amount to so much more than the “apes with machine guns” premise.
Given the visual accomplishments of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” it’s easy to see the CG possibilities for something like Guerillas, in which the emotions and subtle actions of both the human and ape characters play a big role in the narrative. In order to stay safe from both the enemies and his fellow soldiers (human and chimp), Clayton needs to learn the ways of both the battlefield and the animal kingdom… or become just another one of their casualties.
Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t a hefty dose of action in the story, too. While reading Guerillas, it’s easy to envision the fast-moving, bloody battles involving the chimps and enemy soldiers unfolding on the big screen. While Revel is a talented artist, many sequences are practically begging to make the leap from page to screen, with chimps dashing, climbing, swinging, and jumping around the jungle while firing off rifles and tossing grenades, alternating between their hands and feet as they dispatch their enemies with ruthless efficiency.
Along with the tension of Clayton’s predicament and his interaction with the squad of chimps, Guerillas also features a pursuit subplot that only adds to the richness of the story. Developing parallel to Clayton’s narrative, the story also follows a group of soldiers tasked with recovering the experimental chimp unit. With each piece of information they discover on the trail of the chimps, the audience becomes more aware of the danger Clayton is in.
The Closing Argument: Guerillas could easily work as a serialized television project or a hybrid live-action/CG film. Its human and chimpanzee characters are equally compelling, and the story succeeds well beyond its simple premise. To its immense credit, Guerillas offers a brilliantly unique take on the “war is hell” story that combines the potential for impressive, jaw-dropping visuals with a fascinating story.
This Week’s Comic Creator Recommendation: Queen & Country (Oni Press)
“The book I would like to see adapted most out of my library is Greg Rucka’s excellent Queen & Country series. Already an ‘adaptation’ of a sort, based heavily on the world seen in UK series The Sandbaggers, this is a comic series that is more than the adventures of Tara Chase — this is a series where you believe in every character and feel loss when they die. Factual, moving, and filled with action, I demand a Queen & Country film or series right now.”
– Tony Lee, best-selling author of the ongoing Doctor Who comic book series at IDW Publishing, as well as From The Pages Of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’: Harker, the graphic novel adaptation of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and an upcoming MacGyver series for Image Comics.