The latest offering from Avery Hill Publishing, Steven Tillotson’s Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure sees a ghostly purple ape creature head off on a globe-trotting journey to try and find his family in the jungle, with the help of a sarcastic cat companion. It’s a book that defies expectations and take you to places you never knew existed, but will it be an adventure of epic proportions or will it be over before it even begins?
Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: Steven Tillotson
Artist: Steven Tillotson
Price: £12.99 from Avery Hill Publishing
Our rating: [star rating=”4″]
Trying to sum up Steven Tillotsons Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure into a handy summary is no easy task. After all its surreal and quirky, but also beautiful, dark, poetic, frightening, sinister, scary, heart-warming, magical and most important of all, really rather funny. All of which makes for a compelling and absorbing read and helps overcome the fact that it is also, really quite bonkers in a lot of places!
The story sees our titular ape, who is a kind of purple gorilla like creature with a skull-like face, head off on a journey to find his family in the jungle. Along the way he encounters a sarcastic cat (also with no name) who becomes his travelling partner, as well as a encountering a lonely dog, a narwhal, a mammoth, a yeti and a villainous bird in a pork pie hat who is following our ape and knows a little bit too much about his past. You see, it turns out that the ape has just been returned to earth from hell, and they now want him to return.
The addition of this hell-bound element could fool you into thinking it is much darker and more gothic than it actually is. In actual fact it is much more of a surreal and dream like travelogue, than a journey into the depths of hell, as our two heroes head across ice fields, survive a Noah like flood in the city and visit a cloud world populated with birds, all of which are beautifully rendered by Tillotson and packed full of lots of dry humour thanks to cat’s wicked sense of humour as well as several surreal scenarios which provide many genuine laugh out loud moments.
Having started life as a webcomic Untitled Ape ebbs and flows in a way that print comics are often unable to, as they are restricted by page counts and the need to create appropriate beats and cliff hangers to keep readers attentions from issue to issue. Although Untitled Ape is divided into neat chapters, and each location has its own section, the story meanders along at a much slower pace than you might expect with Tillotson periodically breaking out of his incredibly structured panel designs to give the reader a glorious full page splash. Whether it is the hellish vision of ape in the after life, a surreal top down view of a flooded city, or the almost Bill Watterson-esque vista of them climbing a mountain, it makes the whole thing feel much more free form and unrestricted, which a book like this really benefits from in order to help it make more sense.
Tillotson’s artwork is beautiful throughout with a sublime digitally painted style, mixing some classic, almost vintage line work, that makes it feel timeless, but with character designs that feel contemporary and cutting edge – especially the ape, the design of which gives Tillotson plenty of room to push the boundaries creatively.
All this brings us back to the issue of how to accurately sum up a book like Untitled Ape. The thing is, that this inability to pigeon hole it is what makes such an interesting read. Although on the surface it may appear to have some of the quirkiness of Adventure Time, or the tone of a Studio Ghibli or the aesthetics of an underground comix, it really is its own beast (just as its hero is) and for that reason we heartily recommend that you just take yourself on a journey with Untitled Ape, as its definitely an epic adventure that you will not forget in a hurry.