What did you think of #13?
I loved it. I always knew it was the Sherlock chapter, but I didn’t realize how much more it captured, from the Universal Monsters to the true beginning of Snow’s quest. Instantly rose into my top five issues of the series on the strength of the Frankenstein passage alone, but maybe I over-loved it because it had a weird talismanic quality at this point.
Okay, it’s been a week and the thread is quiet so I’ll post the next issue so those who want to move on can discuss further.
Planetary #18 - “The Gun Club”
Attempting to get caught up!
The main referencing here is, of course Indigenous Australian myth. Uluru is the Indigenous name for the landmark named Ayres Rock in 1873. In 1993 the original name was reintroduced, with the official name being Ayres Rock/Uluru, and then reversed to Uluru/Ayres Rock in 2002. The creation myth shown here doesn’t appear to be based on Indigenous legends though.
Carlton Marvell has some elements of Mar-Vell, though back in the days of the WEF, Ellis also confirmed that Adam Strange was an influence. He bears similarities with any number of explorer of the unknown characters though. In more of Planetary’s deconstruction, Snow notes that he and Marvell saw horrible things through the portal, referencing the danger-filled worlds explorers always face in those stories.
There’s a lot of continuity in the front half of the book. Snow visits Ambrose’s widow and child (Whom we saw shortly after birth in the flashbacks in issue 9). The way snow talks to Angela show that even at 100 years old, he’s very good at talking to kids, suggesting he has experience raising some. Recall as well that in issue 12 he spoke of changing Jakita’s nappies.
It contrasts sharply with the next sequence, wherein he calls Jim Wilder with an intent towards talking about Anna Hark. He’s been interested in Hark since he spoke with John Stone, and he’s gathering information now. Note my theory on how Snow deals with his opponents - gather intel, find the upper hand, and then strike. He’s going after Hark here.
Snow’s meeting with Brass is another bookend moment in the book. This is the first time Snow’s seen Brass since issue 5, and they’re back on the same hillside. Here Brass is just answering questions, confirming his circuitous relationship with 1930’s and 1940’s Planetary. There’s a reference to the Hidden City of Opak-Re here, and a suggestion of a link to Jakita.
The first half of the book is building up to Snow’s first engagement with the Four since his memory returned. Interestingly, the title page is the halfway point in the book, and the start of the direct confrontation between Planetary and the Four.
There’s some nice moments in the back half - I love Snow and Drums’ back and forth. Drums has not regained the respectful tone he had with Snow in issue 14, though Snow is treating him like an equal in a way he hasn’t in the past. “You’ve been listening to me”/“Don’t expect me to admit it” is banter, not insults.
The actual conflict with the Four is perfunctory and is quite tension-light, but Cassaday’s art elevates it by virtue of the spectacular scale he imparts. The important thing here is the suggestion that Snow has changed his strategy - he’s made a bold move to confirm 100% that he’s back and gunning for them, but he hasn’t gone for a decapitation strike yet.
If I’m right (and I can always trust you lot to cover my footnotes); Doc Savage, Tarzan, Professor Challenger, Fu Manchu and the Shadow all pre-dated Superman. We saw in issue __ that baby Kal-El got snuffed in the spaceship. Are we on another level dealing with a world that lacks the Superman myth? What about Nietzsche? Has the concept of the Super Man been deleted from the world of Planetary?
Do we ever see what the ordinary folks are doing, other than standing on sidewalks or being victims?
Nietzsche’s Uber-mensch isn’t really a parallel for superman. It is an allegory for the enlightened man, no different to Plato’s theory of the cave.
The exception being that in Plato’s version the enlightened man is seen as a madman and a threat as he tries to explain his new knowledge, leading to him being killed by the unenlightened.
Issue 18: The Gun Club.
Another issue which can ultimately be linked to cinema (or possibly Verneian sci-fi). However some of the concepts explored very possibly link to the news events from the previous decade.
The opening conversation between Stone and Snow is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly Stone clearly has a huge number of well connected sources, the information he provides cannot have been easy to come by especially if the four are interested in it.
The way the pair interact initially shows a significant shift in their relationship since the last meeting, and very probably due to Snow regaining his memory. Stone’s parting words to Snow show that despite this shift he still has an incredible sway on Snow.
Finally the throw away image of Stone ko’ing a pigeon with a cigarette butt hints at a power in him that we have yet to see and possibly signalling something between the pair at a later date.
After the brief scene in Drums’ lair we then get the now customary pages of dialogue free action, letting Cassaday’s art do the story telling.
The dialogue we do see in the middle of the scene hints at something happening within the four which could possibly be weakening the team. The bickering and name calling.
The next sequence again shows the resourcefulness of Planetary and their brilliant planning. They knew the response to the helicopter would be a direct attack which makes turning it into a flying payload a fantastic way of (temporarily) knocking their opponent out of the game.
The single panel showing the device Jakita has reveals the new partnership between Hark and Planetary is in full effect…
Then we finally get the reveal, the 1851Astronauts. We then discover the launch technique right alongside Snow as he puts the clues together. While he himself mentions the research of superguns for space flight well into the 80’s it is worth noting that Iraq was trying to construct a series of these devices, for conventional weapon use, between 88 and 90. Which could have influenced the creative team here. However it is more likely that Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (and the film inspired by this book, A Trip to the Moon) is the main influence, including to the title of the issue.
What we don’t know, as Jakita & Snow discuss, is just how successful the mission was. Beyond all reasonable expectation the capsule reached escape velocity and made it into space but were the crew still alive? The bodies seem to suggest they were not “pulped by the launch” as Jakita suggests but (as Snow also points out) there is no way of knowing if they survived the launch and how they ultimately perished, especially after 150 years.
My only real question stemming from this issue is why are the four interested? It can’t be due to tech. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that they are gambling on the crew of this capsule also having been altered by their journey and they want to be in position to recruit (or destroy) whatever comes out of the capsule to help further their own cause.
Getting caught up
Issues 11-18: All good.
Not much to say that Chris hasn´t said just yet.
Altough, i have a theory about the interest of The Four in the “Vernian Craft” and it´s simple, in a matter of fact, it has been hinted sice the first fight between Elijah and The four and is this:
The Four not only predates on tech, or discovery; they actively work to make the world as mediocre as they can, and that, i belive, is the reason Elijah hates them the most… They not only took our possibility to make tecnological leaps, they have taken wonders from us.
Our genre fiction element this issue marks a return to the wellspring of Hong Kong cinema. While issue 3 mixed Heroic Bloodshed and HK Horror, here we get Wuxia, one of the primary exports of Chinese cinema to the westm with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as the most famous example.
Of course,the Wuxia elements at the start of the story are only vaguely linked to the back half, being Snow’s conversation with Anna Hark. The most important thing to note is the Hark creed - There will always be a Hark to make sure the sun comes up.
And that ties into the core theme of this issue - moral ambiguity. Hark Ah Lien made sure the sun came up by defeating Lo and keeping the secret of Night Forest School safe. In 1945, the Hark that was Axel Brass’ friend made sure the sun came up by defending earth from the Bleed-JLA. And Anna Hark made sure the sun came up by not going to war with the Four.
It’s the core of Snow’s confrontation with Anna Hark here. He even says so himself - “Including partnering with murderers, thieves, torturers and betrayers?”. He also presents Hark with proof that she engineered Jim Wilder’s transformation. And as I noted back when we discussed issue 4 you can see hints in the art as the mugger dodges around the plinth after running in a straight line.
Snow is trading in moral ambiguity himself. For all Snow says he comes as a friend, he also says that friendship has a price. Hark has to choose between him and The Four, and Snow is willing to intimidate - telling Hark that his people are in the building, and to emotionally blackmail - withholding access to Jim Wilder from her unless she capitulates. We know Snow’s moves are in service of The Greater Good, but they’re still questionable from an ethics standpoint.
At the same time, Snow hasn’t told Wilder that Hark arranged for his transformation. He’s allowed Wilder to keep that devotion and affection for his employer that would be shattered if he knew the truth. He’s got that “I helped people” smile on the last page, showing that at his core, Snow is a good man.
The Superman analogue for Planetary died trying to destroy a UN orbital platform in 1997 or so.
Issue #18 is one of the issues that always really sticks out in my memory. I’m not sure why - partly it might be because it was the last issue collected in the third TPB, after which it was a very long wait for the final collection (I originally read Planetary in trade rather than singles). Or it may be the attractiveness of the lo-fi premise for this issue.
Either way, when I think of Planetary I always think of this issue, although I have to confess that I had completely forgotten about the subplot involving The Four in this chapter.
Mostly what stands out is the great way the premise is laid out, and we start to realise what this strange craft is. A big part of that is down to Cassaday’s art, which is brilliant both for the ‘silent’ landing sequence earlier on in the issue and the lovely sepia flashbacks at the end.
(Although it’s interesting to note that, a few pages after we hear the Planetary team’s theory that the sphere may have had extra propulsion equipment on it that burned off or rotted off in space, the flashbacks at the end of the issue show it looking pretty much the same when it launched - so I guess that theory is wrong.)
Anyway, it’s nice to have an issue that goes back a bit further than the 20th century and in which Snow is genuinely surprised by the reveal of what’s been happening without his knowledge. The story maybe goes a bit far in acknowledging its inspiration with the Jules Verne signature at the end, but I thought it was a charming touch rather than a cheesy one.
And Planetary getting one over on The Four is a nice culmination of several plot threads so far, particularly in paying off the recent Hark issue. What is going to happen now?
Planetary #19: Starstruck
Now that I have a replacement laptop I can get back to fun stuff like this. #19 is an issue that I would like less were it not for the subsequent issue. At this point in the series everything is in full swing, and this and the next form a fantastic dyad, but more on that when the time for #20 actually does come. This is a sparse, but beautiful issue - the creative team assembled on the art side does a great job creating the look and feel of this ship and its environment. The “angels” are a marvelous design all in themselves, and the other entities in the issue vaguely reference pop cultural icons but are fully interesting concepts all in themselves.
Which is nice. Not my favorite issue but a starkly well made one, which is important this late in the game that it can keep up the quality in such a way.
Wow, this one came around quickly and has me a little caught out…
The opening pages hold two big elements for me, one personal and one to do with the actual book. Let’s start with the later. We get a great sequence once the Planetary team have first arrived showcasing the patches on Snow’s memory. Jakita is unhappy about being unaware of the facility and continues to ask probing questions, to which Snow has now clear response. He simply cannot remember why she doesn’t know. Then Dr Kwelo introduces himself, assuming he won’t be remembered, only to be greeted with clear recognition “You advised me on the Rendlesham forest event”.
This leads me into my more personal point here, RENDLESHAM FOREST! I was hugely into ufology in my early teens and this event was really close to home for me so always stuck with me. My Dad also used to work at RAF Bentwaters which is in Rendlesham itself and if I recall aspects of the Rendlesham event correctly was involved that night.
This main thrust of the story, this derelict ship, also has some bearing on tales told among ufologists of a large, seemingly crashed, object on a deep orbit around the earth. I find it interesting that in the same page we have a comment about only 5%'of the sky being mapped by “orthodox” systems while Planetary maps 75%. This seems very similar to one of the issues that Snow has with The Four.
The reveal of the angels, for me, brings a connection to The Abyss and the way the aliens were present and described in that movie although they bear no actual aesthetic similarity,
The way that Snow describes the angels makes it apparent that Planetary actually knows very little about them and this gives us a good understanding of how Planetary differs from The Four. The Four would have certainly experimented on at least one, if not all of the angels if they had the chance but in doing so would know a lot more about them.
We also see some more probing from Jakita, and clear frustration, after Snow hints that they have access to alien vessels.
I particularly enjoyed seeing Drums trying to figure out, through his own link to data, how the alien ship was able to propel itself but also the implications that has to their understanding of the known dimensions.
Later in the issue we have the image of the colossal corpse (the pilot of the ship?). As in previous issues this corpse bears a passing resemblance to a number of characters including Galactus and Eternals.
Finally we have the moment Snow has been waiting for and the real reason he sent the angels into the wreckage, the arrival of Jacob Greene in a vessel belonging to The Four. This throws up a few questions, How did The Four know this mission had been undertaken? Are they aware of the location of the base that the team are visiting? Is the location under surveillance by The Four? Are The Four simply tracking Snow, as was alluded to in an earlier issue?
This issue feels like a bit of an outlier compared to other Planetary issues, as it’s not as self-contained or satisfying in its own right as most other chapters have been. It’s mainly an issue of setup, although it’s good setup, and introduces several interesting new ideas.
The angels are nicely enigmatic, with a great visual concept and some interesting details in terms of how they operate. I love the sequence of panels that visualises the idea that their ship moves by processing surrounding information through itself: keeping the ship stationary while showing the background changing around it is a great way of suggesting that it’s the environment that is moving rather than the ship, even though it would feel like the ship was moving through its surroundings.
The Galactus ship is pretty cool too - there’s definitely an Arthur C Clarke feel about the whole thing, and I think the cover is referencing a Kubrick 2001 poster, although I can’t find a specific match. This is the closest I got:
The text style and imagery are both fairly similar.
Also, the cover and the opening few panels both feel like they really exemplify the early-2000s ‘widescreen’ storytelling style that became popularised through artists like Bryan Hitch. Very cinematic stuff.
The giant creature himself is wonderfully realised too, and I love the gradual build-up to his reveal.
My favourite part of the issue though might be the gentle note of irritation from Jakita in reference to Snow keeping some elements of Planetary secret from her. There’s a slight sense that she almost preferred things as they were with a ‘dampened’ Snow, and that she’s mildly put out at him assuming control again so fully. I think we see more of this next issue.
That’s a better match to the image, but the font feels like it’s been deliberately chosen to ape the 2001 posters. I guess it may be a bit of a hodgepodge pastiche rather than a specific homage to anything in particular.
There was a period, early 1950’s I think, where a bunch of folks took up the concept of a “generational ship” to solve that nasty relativity problem. Heinlein did Orphans of the Sky where the inhabitants were lost and forgot who they were, and Methuselah’s Children where the first of the generational ships was built and promptly stolen. Clarke came along with tales of Rama. Along with this were the first concepts of massive ships, later evolving into the Dyson sphere and things like Ringworld. Olaf Stapleton started this particular mess late 1930’s or so (a time of explosion of ideas).
We can see the evolution of space travel in classic science fiction and in Planetary. We have the big gun, Verne’s From Earth to the Moon. We have our own known standard rocketships. We have such rocketships altered to 1930’s-1940’s modernism, with fins and lots of interior space. We have flying saucers. We have hollowed-out asteroids with giant dead creatures inside. We have islands with giant dead creatures on top of them.
If we look over the whole panorama of Planetary we can see the evolution of thinking as applied to space travel. From firing humans like bullets at our nearest neighbor to creating massive societies to soar through space and conquer, this is human imagination. It is the power of human imagination that Planetary celebrates.