As a comic fan, I have access to a nearly endless supply of monkey stories to suit my desires. That also means, when you're talking about the best monkey comics of all time, you're also talking about books that are in the running for best comics of all time.
Any conversation about great monkey comics must include at least a reference to Art Adams's Monkeyman and O'Brien, which is easily one of the top monkey comics of all time. Leaving it out of such a conversation would be like talking about great cover songs and leaving out Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" or Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."
With that being said, I want to champion a great monkey comic that may not always get included in such conversations: Primate by "Manly Man" Beau Smith, Kevin Bernhardt, and Mitch Byrd, published by Image in 2001.
(Signed by the man himself!)
What I like about Primate is that it breaks the mold of your typical monkey comic. Most, like Monkeyman and O'Brien, Sky Ape, and Marvel's "Gorilla Man" involve apes with human intelligence. Primate, however, is about Bobo, who is a real gorilla who learns sign language from an anthropologist and then seeks revenge on the hunters who killed his family.
That's the high concept in a nutshell. And then there's this:
Bobo's weapons of choice are two giant swords with spiked handles.
And he uses them in such a way that exceeds expectations:
Bobo's favorite move, it seems, is decapitation, which he does at least 4 times in the course of the first issue.
But the best panel in the comic, which may qualify this as the best panel in comic history, is this:
We've already seen three decapitations in this comic, so to give this last one a little bit of a push over the cliff, we get the rolling head enunciating "ouch." There is really nothing better than that.
Except this: Bobo then signs a message that insults the dead guy's manhood.
What sort of anthropologist would teach a gorilla to sign that phrase? An awesome anthropologist.
What Beau Smith et al get about good monkey comics is that they should be about one thing: unrestrained primal violence. This comic is, indeed, awesome. I rest my case.
Update: Snell over at Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep includes some cool ads for abridged 16mm versions of the Apes films, plus a clip of the best Planet of the Apes parody ever. Thanks, Snell!