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Millarworld book club: Planetary issue 26 - The end!


#343

So, we’re back into familiar planetary territory, extended references to a theme or genre of cult fiction, around which we get basically a sketch of a story.

In turn we see Castle Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, and Dracula, with references to The Invisible Man (this time the original book rather than the 60’s movie from issue 8), Robur the Conqueror, and Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (who, oddly enough dates from 1910). The Sigsand Manuscript, which Snow pulls out of Holmes’ bookcase is another reference to Carnacki, The Open Conspiracy which Holmes refers to is an actual book by HG Wells, a non-fiction egalitarian manifesto.

As Planetary issue 1 was about the end of the pulp era and the dawn of superheroes, issue 13 is the end of the early SF, horror and fantasy stories of the Victorian era as they give way to the 20th Century. Snow, as a Century Baby is a pretty clear metaphor here, That Snow learns from Holmes is the difference between his interaction with the prior generation and Brass’ one with the next - he creates a synthesis instead of a protracted conflict, but he does this from a position of power, like he did in keeping Jakita and Drums off-balance last time.

It’s worth keeping Planetary’s internal chronology in mind here. We learned in issue 12 that the first Planetary Journal was published in 1925. Snow found Holmes and Dracula in 1920, and Holmes died five years thereafter. So that first journal was published the same year Holmes died. Maybe this was part of the open conspiracy?

Structurally, we’re tied back into issues 11 and 12, where we’ve seen the “To be a Detective then, my boy?” panel before. Book 3 is titled Leaving the 20th Century, and we’re going to do that by way of the Secret History of Elijah Snow, having been given the Secret History of the World in book 1, and the Secret History of The Four in book 2. There are some flashbacks left to be unravelled over the course of the next five issues, before the future beckons.

As Sherlock Holmes says: “This is your Century, and it needs you”. In The Four, Snow has a major piece of unfinished business left from the 20th century before the 21st century can come to fruition.


#344

As Lorcan has said this is very much an issue in the standard planetary format.

There are lots of pieces in the second half of the issue, also noted by Lorcan, which could quite easily be skimmed over during a casual read.

I was surprised that Dracula, who is considered by Holmes to be such a great strategist, was so easily dealt with by Snow. That Dracula was entirely unaware of the powers that Snow possessed.


#345

Stopped 'im cold …


#346

Comparing our reading experiences based on your reviews, I feel like a nine year old in a wheel chair next to Batman.


#347

Once again, i think i´m not gonna say something that it hasn´t already been said in the others fantastic reviews.

Planetary Meets “The League of extraordinary Gentlemen”. It´s funny how Ellis could take the characters that moore din´t use for his work (Let´s remember, Moore uses Auguste Dupin, Ellis Sherlock Holmes, Moore uses Mr Hyde as a Muscle, here we have The creature Dr. Frankenstein Created); and we still can see the reference.

I will add, despite i think it will be polemic, that the idea of Elijah not beign British (As Jenny Spark IS), but beign told how to “speak properly” by Holmes can be read as a kind of meta joke were (Once again) British writers “Teach” they american counterparts how it´s done.


#348

What the hell was Cassaday enjoying to draw all those cool bricks? Loved that sequence - so very Wrightson!


#349

I like the way this issue is split into two separate showcases for the Planetary creative team: one for Cassaday’s amazing art, and one for Ellis’ engaging writing.

The opening sequence is relatively light on text and really lets the art do the talking. The page Miqque referred to is just stunning.

And it sets up a great action sequence that plays out as a great bit of swashbuckling fun.

In comparison, the section with Holmes is far more sedate, although I do love Snow kicking Dracula’s ass in a very literal way. It’s also interesting to see a rougher and less refined Snow at work, again adding to the sense that we’ve got pieces of the overall puzzle but we’re still not quite sure how it all fits together yet.

Most interesting though is the meta commentary on the reuse of old characters by new creators (Moore’s LOEG feels like the most obvious parallel given the context here), and to what extent it’s artistically justified or desirable.

It’s difficult not to read this panel as a comment on that.

Planetary has mostly created its own characters and concepts, although it relies heavily on analogues of existing characters and concepts throughout, so it feels a bit like Ellis is having his cake and eating it here.


#350

I’m presuming John Carter is in the list of references too, as the guy Snow mentions who has been to Mars?


#351

Ok, shall we move on?

Planetary #14 - “Zero Point”


#352

A good solid issue.

This issue mostly fills in the blanks directly leading up to Snow having the memory blocks put in.

Again we open with something familiar to comic-lore, a stick which transforms into a mighty hammer, which is in fact another way that the 4 are exploiting the multiverse.

We see in this issue another massive influence from The Matrix with the world Snow is teleported to looking incredibly similar to the construct of the “tool-up” sequence.

Except, as Snow said, the 4 have destroyed an entire planet to act as their own storeroom.

We also see a glimpse at just how powerful Planetary can be in a well organised and planned situation. In fact, up to the appearance of the ship (I assume the same ship, or a similar ship as the one referenced earlier in the issue with regard to Brazil), we could be witnessing the end of the 4 as major members of the group are easily counteracted and subdued.

I wonder if the reference by Dowling to “enjoying the game Planetary represents” actually shows that they are a bigger concern to the 4 than they would ever let on. If they enjoy the game why go to such lengths to end it and why not just destroy them? Are they hoping that further along the line that the members of Planetary will come realise the 4 are correct and join them?

The final panels being a call-back to earlier scenes really rounds out the whole issue nicely and the last two slightly extend the scene, turning what originally appeared to be Snow’s submission into quite a chilling prediction of what will happen if he ever remembers.


#353

I think #14 is where I started reading this, then went and caught up


#354

So, the overall theme for this episode is The X-Files. The cover is more generically 90s weird fiction than the standard promo shot of Mulder and Scully, but it’s spelled out in the first line of dialogue of the issue: “The Truth is in here”, which is followed up a few pages later with the Four’s weapon being retrieved from a downed craft referred to as an abduction vessel, and a reference to cattle and people - UFOlogists frequently point to unexplained cattle mutilation as the work of aliens experimenting on terran life. And, of course human abduction has been part of alien conspiracy theories for decades. Similarly, the Antarctic research facility could be a direct reference to the final setpiece in the 90’s movie, and the creatures in the tubes being Süskind and Dowling’s children has parallels to the hybrid plotline in the X-Files specifically, but it’s a common enough trope in SF beyond that.

The professor in the wheelchair could be any number of characters, but he’s likely a reference to Charles Xavier and/or Niles Caulder

The stick that turns into a hammer is, of course a direct reference to Mjolnir as seen in Marvel comics. Like many deconstructions of superhero tropes in Planetary the glib line about surviving the weapon’s transformation by being superhumanly resistant to damage is a reflection back onto the story from whence the trope originates, in this case Thor’s own abilities.

Similarly, Kim Süskind’s goggles are a pseudoscientific explanation for a common question around her originator’s powers. There’s no explanation given for why the goggles can absorb and reflect light while invisible, but Süskind’s eyes can’t. But still.

Beyond all this, we have the second explanation of a flashback from issues 11 and 12, another important moment. If issue 13 was the birth of Planetary, this issue is the temporary end thereof. It’s the start of Snow’s 4-year exile, and we don’t know if the Planetary Journal was published for those years. These two issues, side by side are almost bookends for all the work Snow did in the intervening 70 years.

It’s also interesting to see Snow’s relationship with his colleagues in this issue. He’s curt with the Professor, but is on a first name basis. Clearly he and Snow are friends, and he recognises Snow is somewhat effected by the gravity of their discovery. Also, Snow’s “Let’s ride” line before transitioning to the dead world shows he’s still got a wry sense of humour even in a serious moment. He and Jakita are much the same, but The Drummer is far more reverential, calling him “Mr. Snow” and far more professional sounding than he is in the present.

It’s worth noting that, as @Chris notes Planetary is a bigger concern to the Four than Dowling lets on. Snow’s orders just before the Four’s flying fucking saucer shows up suggests that he’s intending this to be a precise decapitation strike, defeating the entire Four in a single battle. Three pages before, Süskind is saying “I don’t know how they got this good, but this is beyond the pale”.

It’s the same thing Snow did in issue 12, or in being prepared to defeat and kill Dracula in issue 13. He knows more than his opponents assume he does, and he holds onto that information until he needs to use it to his advantage. It’s just bad luck that The Four had one more ace in the hole than he did. Dowling definitely sees Snow as a bigger threat than he lets on, but Dowling is something of an egomaniac and has good reason to see himself as ruler of the world. Why would he admit that Snow came damned close to beating him?

The end of the issue is very much a case of Ellis’ abrupt endings working for a change. Snow’s last words to his team are powerful, even knowing after the fact that Jakita and The Drummer disobeyed his explicit orders.


#355

Like Always, There is little to nothing i can said that hasn´t being said by the others.

I always ended Up learning something with the reviews and, some of the references that i got, get expanded.

Only a few things; despite the obvious Matrix reference of the “Weapon Planet”, it is woth saying that Ellis use this scene to show of the cruelty of the Four (The have killed a whole planet, we know) and, at the very same time, give us a glimpse of the powerfull weapons they can wield at any momen (Wich i get the felling that are references too).

To end things; a question i always had : It´s possible that Elijah feels a little responsible for writting the “Planetary Guide”, given that it´s currently beign use by the Four?


#356

I don’t think I really have much to add on this issue, other than to say that Cassaday really nails it on the art front yet again, especially the staging of the battle towards the end of the issue.

Is everyone ready to move on to #15?


#357

Ready and waiting…


#358

Ok then.

Planetary #15 - “Creation Songs”


#359

After a couple of issues that have taken their time with laying out their ideas, this a pretty dense issue. After a few chapters that have disclosed quite a bit about the history of the team, I feel like it really kicks off the second half of the series proper and sets the stage for everything to come.

There’s lots to unpack here, and Ellis continues to show how brilliantly economical he can be when he wants to convey a lot in as few panels and pages as possible.

This following page is a great example: it may not be the most obviously impressive sequence of the issue - that’s got to be the climax as Uluru awakens, and Cassaday gets yet another chance to wow us - but it shows Ellis’ skills at their sharpest. Look at how much is said in so few words.

That whole scene is a beautifully human moment that shows how a newly-reawakened Snow is seeking to make things right. That also extends to him checking in on Jim Wilder and Doc Brass (clarifying some backstory in the case of the latter, including by way of a reference/retcon that stretches back to the first issue), and making enquiries about Anna Hark, too. There’s a real sense of momentum and progress and Stuff Happening with these plot threads now, after the fairly relaxed and unhurried pacing of earlier issues.

Given all that, the main plot about Dreamtime and Carlton Marvell could risk feeling like an afterthought, but it’s actually one of the most compelling we’ve seen in a while.

(While the obvious allusion of Carlton Marvell would seem to be either the Marvel or Fawcett Captain Marvel - especially given his costume - Ellis says the character was directly inspired by Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars and Carson of Venus, which makes sense given the historical context of this issue.)

The plot involving Planetary striking back against The Four’s attempt to gain an advantage from one of Snow’s old journals is a good one: it not only shows how ruthless and powerful they are, but also gives us a hint of how Snow and his crew can exploit their arrogance and Snow’s greater awareness (and secret knowledge) to get the better of them.

I also loved the way the Planetary crew function as a team here, with Jakita’s strength, Snow’s knowledge and the Drummer’s way of seeing the world all combining to make their plan work.

Dreamtime is maybe a bit more spiritual and religious an idea than we’re used to seeing explored by the book, but Ellis imaginatively ties it in with the framework we already have for the universe of the series, and it ends up being handled fairly lightly.

The conclusion of the issue is a bit abrupt (although that’s par for the course for this series), but I like the way things are left hanging and The Four are put on the back foot. I also love the continuing choice to keep the villains off-panel to a great extent: it really helps to build up their mystique and make them feel like a more unknowable threat.


#360

A really beautifull Issue.

As it was said before, it gives us a much more driven Elijah (There are four yeears to set right and he starts in the right place; Ambrose family) and the very first opportunity of seeing The Four beaten in a game they tought they know all about (It appears thatr the Planetary Guides DON`T say everything Elijah Know).

But the part i like them most it`s the beginig; where we get a glimpse of the Dreamtime (A concept that has been Used by Alan Moore, Paul Jenkins and several others) and the Creation Songs.

PS: I don`t knopw how many years have passed since i read the comic for the first time, but until today, i use a translated version of the “Creation Song” to teach my estudents about myths and legends.


#361

I don’t have much to add here with one exception.

To me the opening sequence seemed quite clumsy and almost tacked on to preteach the reader the necessary information for the issue to make sense.
Maybe this is just me, I have some passing knowledge of the Aboriginal creation story and dreamtime and this may have played some part in this.
Maybe it is the pacing of the issue and the movement, very quickly, two four separate time zones and settings that made this opening seem so out of place. I’m not really certain.


#362

According to the Planetary resource page that I linked to at the top of the thread, between issues #15 and #16 coming out the series released its two other crossover specials: Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta and Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth. Shall we do a double-header and handle both of those next, before moving on to #16?

(Lorcan, you’re usually pretty knowledgeable with whereabouts these stories should fall - it’s been years since I read them so I don’t know whether they fit best here or somewhere else?)