A beautiful, truly epic finale to The Chimpanzee Complex

Published On August 18, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Chimpanzee Complex Volume 3: Civilisation

Written by Richard Marazano, art by Jean-Michel Ponzio


After my enjoyment of Volumes 1 and 2, it’s going to come as no surprise to find I absolutely loved the concluding part of this. How much did I enjoy the series? Well, the quote from my review of volume 1 they used as the inside front cover blurb for this volume pretty much covers it:

I love big , epic Sci-Fi. Always have. And there just isn’t enough of it in comics to keep me satisfied. Every so often something comes along though that gets it absolutely right, does everything big Sci-Fi is meant to do – all the wonder, all the majesty of space, all the complex technical stuff, all the unanswered questions. And that’s exactly what The Chimpanzee Complex does. It’s Big, epic Sci-Fi done absolutely right.

The risk with a concluding part of anything this good is that it wont quite live up to the build up.

Not so here. This concluding volume is every bit as good as what’s gone before and manages to be both epic and heartfelt in it’s finale. The Chimpanzee Complex may well be one of my favourite books for a long time to come, and it’s certainly one of the absolute highlights from Cinebook’s range thus far.

(Alone, adrift and realising there’s little hope of ever seeing her daughter again, Helen reflects on her choices. From Chimpanzee Complex Volume 3, published by Cinebook)

Without giving too much away that I haven’t already disclosed with the previous two reviews, volume 3 finds Helen waking from cryosleep after the disaster of the Mars mission, most of her crew is dead and it’s at least 70 years later. Lost, alone, marrooned on a spaceship with dwindling oxygen, everything looks absolutely hopeless as Helen struggles to come to terms with the fact she’ll never see her daughter Sofia again, and all she has left are video messages from home, sent whilst everyone feared the mission was lost.

Suddenly there’s another ship alongside them, a massive ship, far beyond what the human technology they knew could manufacture, a ship where the scale is wrong, where everything seems too large. Where it’s come from and why it’s here will lead Helen to her conclusion, to her glorious finale, and to a sort of peace.

This third volume explores the complexities of the story, of that initial paradox of being within an experiment over which the subject has no control. It delves deeper into the reasoning behind Helen’s twin desires; to be with her daughter and to follow her dreams to the stars and finally, wonderfully, in a sequence that mirrors the first volumes beginnings, we return to the question of why Helen and her crew are there in the first place, following the trail started when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned to earth in 2035 and started all those difficult questions of who, or what returned back in 1969.

(A final goodbye? From Chimpanzee Complex Volume 3, published by Cinebook)

The science in here in suitably mind boggling; time, relativity, and probability all play a part. Yet in the end it’s more to do with the strength we hold within us, the power of our dreams to make us become more than we are, the power of hope to overcome.

As good as Marazano’s plot and writing is, it’s been matched every step of the way by Ponzio’s quite breathtakingly beautiful photo realistic artwork, capable of capturing all the grandeur needed to take your breath away or the smallest, most human of expressions. Just as I’d previously mentioned the only small criticism I can throw his way is a tendency towards too much static in his panels, a big risk for this style. But it’s a picky, small criticism, and the beauty of the art renders it almost pointless.

It’s truly a wondrous science fiction adventure. Epic merely begins to describe The Chimpanzee Complex.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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