Comics Creators

Millarworld book club: Planetary issue 26 - The end!


This was my first issue of Planetary, when it came out. The minimal cover design appealed to my graphic design sensibilities, but the book itself had me hooked, and I bought every issue after that. I loved the concept of a world-sized ship, which I thought was terribly original until I read Rendezvous With Rama last year and realised where Ellis got it all from.

Having tribes living on the corpse of Galactus was inspired though. Unless that’s a nod to something else too?


I’ll talk about it more when I finally get to issue 19, but there’s more than a couple of SF novels about people going feral inside gigantic spacecraft on centuries or millenia-long journeys


Steve Gerber’s Topographical Man?


Maybe Ellis had a reaaally advance copy of Children Of Time?


There was a little God-munching in the brilliant Towing Jehovah by James K. Morrow (1994).


I think the whole point of Planetary is that everything is a nod to something else.


Not gonna say much about the references and links that are all around the issue (the entire post is full of people that did it better than i could); I just want to notice that these number works in tandem with the previous one revealing, little by little Elijah´s Hand concerning The Four.

A Hand that, in subsecuent issues The Drummer is gonna make clear and give us a little twist in respect of how we conceive (Or at least I conceive) the Charcater or how he has evolved.


Ok, it’s been a week so let’s move on.

Planetary #20 - “Rendezvous”

(Oh, it’s a good one.)


Planetary #20: Not Easy Being Greene

Like I mentioned previously, I would not like #19 as much without this issue. This is an incredibly tightly put together piece of plot movement and just a fantastic visual/momentum filled read. Put together this duet creates a very tense, brutal, and visually stunning whole - from the carefully placed out beats of Greene’s descent into the worldship to the escalating horror as more and more of his design is revealed. When it finally is all of the intentionally obscured yet obliquely blunt bit become a horrifying entirety.

It’s very nicely structured and really the issue serves to put more dramatic weight and emotional stakes in the conflict. Looking to see if the reader questions Snow’s methods like Jakita does at the end. Or if they can understand given all that we’ve learned til now. It makes the main “war” as it were ever more personal.


What a great issue this is. A prolonged tease that builds up to a fairly shocking reveal, which promises to have quite an impact on the dynamic of the book as it enters its final stretch of issues.

We open with a single image stripped across the centre of an otherwise blank page that feels similar in design to the cover of issue #19, and which also evokes for me the Bryan Hitch intro pages for Ultimates that were so defining of that series in the early 2000s. Again, it’s part of the ‘widescreen’ comics storytelling style that had become so popular during that era.

After that, it’s a fairly gradual lead-up to seeing Jacob Greene for the first time.

It’s a huge tease, but it’s pulled off well, with some great shots that show us the effect of Greene on his environment (and the inhabitants of the Galactus-style craft) and build suspense before the full-page reveal. We know already (or can have a pretty good guess) that Greene is going to be a Thing-like character, in keeping with the Fantastic Four analogue model, but when his appearance comes it’s probably more grotesque than most people imagined.

The gnarled features, the barely-contained bulbous organs (?), the fiery red eyes, the thick grey hide: it’s a much more horror-oriented take on the concept than we usually saw in the FF, (even if the earliest issues of Fantastic Four did show the Thing to be a more monstrous thick-skinned beast than the rocky, cartoonish creature he soon became).

The fact that Greene seems to move clumsily and have trouble speaking all adds to the body-horror element of his appearance.

But it’s the second part of the issue that really makes it a cracker for me, as we see Snow enact his ‘Trojan horse’ plan to get rid of another member of The Four, even if it means making a pretty big sacrifice in the process. Readers will have got the sense from recent issues of Snow liking to play chess with people, and his decision to cut the ‘angels’ loose to get rid of Greene is another good example of that.

But while we’ve seen Snow use his freezing powers plenty of times in the series so far, I don’t think we’ve ever seen him be this cold. Sacrificing the angels is a pretty big deal (I like the fact that the early section of the issue makes sure to play up the sense of wonder and otherworldliness of the aliens, so that it feels like something of value has really been lost when Snow cuts them loose - that scene with Kwelo admitting that he’s run out of language to describe them is a lovely little moment), and it’s obviously something that has a big impact on Jakita, on top of her frustrations in the previous issue that Snow has been keeping so much from her.

(Cassaday’s wonderful shot of her lashing out at the end is a great, swift bit of violence that effectively sells how big a deal this is for her.)

Jakita obviously feels that Snow is a quite different character since his memory blocks were put in and then removed. It’s interesting to consider though that we’ve seen comparatively little of the pre-memory-blocks Snow in the pages of this series, which calls that into question a little bit. Maybe Jakita never knew the real Snow? (Even from what little we’ve seen we know that he’s done some pretty nasty stuff in the past, like his antics with the Invisible Man and Dracula, and killing the woman who attacked Stone in that flashback scene.)

Either way, there’s a sense of the series really moving into its final phase here. We’re seeing serious cracks in the Planetary team, and Snow is now actively drawing the Four out of hiding in an attempt to pick them off, which raises the stakes considerably (and is surely going to put a target on his head).

It’s a little odd though that the team doesn’t mention Leather at any point, after they took him prisoner a couple of issues ago. Snow’s comment towards the end that The Four are now three seems to ignore that one of those three is already in Planetary custody, which makes me wonder whether some of these issues were written out of order, or that development involving leather was inserted into issue #18 quite late on.


I tend to read the issue summaries at the Planetary Appreciation Page after I’ve read the issue and posted about it here, and the entry for issue #19 brings up the interesting theory that Planetary actually takes place in its own spinoff Wildstorm universe rather than the WS universe proper.

Around halfway through Planetary, a lot of the more overt references to wider Wildstorm continuity start to get dropped, and we get indications that the history of the Planetary universe isn’t exactly the same as the rest of the Wildstorm books. The reason issue #19’s summary brings this up is that there’s a fairly big discrepancy in terms of how Earth’s contact with alien intelligence is discussed in Planetary compared to stuff we’ve already seen elsewhere in Wildstorm books.

[quote]The revelation of the angels brings up yet another point where Jakita is out of the loop: when Snow says he plans to send the angels out in a spacecraft recovered from a failed alien invasion in 1951, Jakita is surprised, unaware of any spacecraft or confirmed alien contact (presumably excluding contact via the Bleed, with which she’s had first hand experience). This is surprising for two reasons: first, giver her personality and long association with Snow, it’s amazing that she hasn’t simply stumbled on this before naturally.

Second, it’s surprising because the Wildstorm universe is not without its’ share of alien races who have representatives on earth–how are they not considered here? This second point reinforces a belief that’s been growing amongst Planetary fans on the internet that Planetary is somehow outside the regular continuity of the Wildstorm universe. This is hard to deny; early-issue references to Wildstorm characters, including Jenny Sparks, The High, and The Authority, have completely vanished from the title over time. The last regular Wildstorm continuity references may have been Issue 11’s setting in The Last Shot bar (an old StormWatch reference) and John Stone’s early affiliation with S.T.O.R.M., presumably intended as a StormWatch precursor. So it seems that Planetary’s association with regular Wildstorm continuity is one of convenience. Given the quality of the Planetary story arc, perhaps this is an arrangement we can all live with.[/quote]

I can’t really disagree with that final sentence. If it makes for a better story, I don’t really mind Planetary not always aligning with the rest of the Wildstorm books on this stuff.


Continuing to play catch-up!

Issue 17

There’s a few layers to the references here. On the surface it’s all Tarzan and hidden cities, but there’s a subtle (ish) one hidden in Blackstock’s name. His birth name is Kevin Sack. Sack is a synonym for Plunder, and Kevin Plunder is the real name of Ka-Zar, Marvel’s Tarzan rip-off analogue. With that in mind, the sabre-tooth tiger Snow fights on the cover can be seen as Zabu, and Opak-Re can fit in for the various high-tech elements that show up in The Savage Land in Marvel comics (see the High Evolutionary, and the pre-continuity sundered Transformers).

Timeline-wise, this is 1933, 8 years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, 2 years after Snow met HP Lovecraft and the alien war-automota eggs, at most 6 years before Brass and his company come together (the only dated instance of their actions in issue 5 is them fighting Daemonites in 1959), and 12 years before they take on the ersatz JLA.

This issue is more about that twist at the end - that we’re really seeing the secret origin of Jakita Wagner rather than exploring Opak-Re or Blackstock as a person. We get some interesting reversals in the plot - the people of Opak-Re see white men as savages, are somewhat racist - they don’t want Snow or Blackstock’s white legacies in their genepool, and quite notably Anaykah is sexually aggressive when Snow isn’t. She’s also quite frank about also wanting to have sex with Blackstock. Anaykah is also more than willing to abandon her child rather than give up living in Opak-Re, which is a subversion of the traditional notion of a doting mother.

This issue also gives us context to the last flashback from issue 11 and 12 that the book is going to explore. At the time all we knew is that a woman with exotic tattoos was declaring her love for him. The reproduction of that panel adds a caption: “And so I left the first great love of my life”. And while the issue tells us all we need to know about Anaykah and Snow’s relationship, given that it’s the only time we see Snow in a romantic situation, it leaves a wealth of unasked questions around the man himself.


Well, there’s that, and then there was the classic scene where Snow and Jenny Sparks wake up in bed together - and do not seem to be at all happy about it. I wonder if this might be some quirk of Century Babies?


(shit, I forgot about that)

Uh, that clearly wasn’t romance


How could we possibly know?


Issue 20

On my first read of this issue I really didn’t like it. I can’t really explain why but something didn’t sit well with me.

I don’t have a huge amount more to add but I did pick-up on a few things that have yet to be mentioned.

Firstly, the initial appearance of Greene,
stepping off the ship, is very reminiscent of Gorn’s first appearance in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Even down to the perspective of the panel. This obviously gives quite a good idea of what to expect from Greene (well apart from the obvious FF analogue).

The scene with Drums changing his mind is great and really humanises the character while Snow’s response (or lack thereof) speaks volumes, especially when viewed with the full knowledge of the issue.

The reveal of Greene shows us pretty much what we were expecting but with a more than a pinch of Hulk and Swamp Thing thrown in for good measure. One of my issues with this issue is his trail of destruction, why? Clearly the change has left him with more than just the immediate physical transformation and has left him damaged. I suppose one possibility is that seeing these humanoids running around naked reminds him of the man he once was thus triggering the violent reaction.

It is in this sequence that we see one of the angels with a different facial expression, bug-eyed, with the appearance of Greene.

My final thoughts is how this entire storyline has been borrowed by Marvel for what becomes the prelude to Planet Hulk. Luring the monster off planet and then sending him off to another solar system (and avoiding any stickly issues with Civil War).


Almost there: Issue 18!

Reference wise, we’re clearly in Jules Verne territory, From the Earth to the Moon being an effort to travel to the Moon via ballistic launch, though there’s a fair bit of HG Wells’ First Men in the Moon, notably the spherical nature of the ship, plus La Voyage Dans la Lune by Georges Méliès (which was partially an adaptation of From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon by Verne).

The idea of using a gun to fire a projectile into orbit has some basis in fact. Verne did some calculations to at least suggest there was feasibility to the idea, and there were a few attempts to build a ballistic launch system in the 20th century. The Germans experimented with it in WWII, A US project in the 80s managed to launch projectiles at speeds up to Mach 9 (which Snow refers to in the issue), but did not successfully get anything into orbit, and the infamous Iraqi supergun in the first Gulf War was an attempt to build a space gun.

In fiction, HG Wells used a similar concept for the Martian attackers to reach Earth in War of the Worlds, and many SF writers have had mass drivers or railguns on the Moon used to launch payloads towards Earth or other deep space destinations, including James P. Hogan’s The Two Faces of Tomorrow, and Allen Steele’s Lunar Descent.

The first line of the issue sees John Stone using James Bond’s idiosyncratic way of introducing himself to a young woman, who’ he’s presumably intending to bed.

Drums mentions LaGrange points when he’s explaining the capsule’s translunar orbit to Snow. These are 5 points in the orbit of a smaller object around a larger one where the gravitational pull of both objects negate each other. L1 is halfway between the smaller and larger object, L2 is half the distance again out in a straight line that starts at the larger object and passes through the smaller one, L3 is the opposite point in the smaller object’s orbit, L4 and L5 are about 30 degrees in front of and behind the smaller orbit, in the same orbital track. Drums’ comments suggest the capsule is passing through one or more of the Lagrange points, but the diagram of the orbital path doesn’t look to back this up

The Capsule destroys the Hubble space telescope on the way back in. I think something else destroyed Hubble during The Authority, but given that the Wildstorm universe had a massive orbital station which was sending regular flights to the moon, it’s possible they had more than one such telescope in orbit (or nobody in the creative team cared)

There are clear parallels between this story and issue 10. In both cases a space capsule lands on Earth, and William Leather intercepts it. He has a snarky conversation with Dowling, and there’s soldiers and helicopters there. But this time the soldiers and helicopters are Planetary’s rather than The Four’s. I wonder if their defeat at Uluru has dealt them a more severe blow, resource-wise than the story lets on?

An interesting point to consider is that early in the issue, Stone tells Snow that he should consider asking for help, because he’s got the whole planet on his side. This suggests that Planetary fought a shadow war against the Four and may have won if they’d asked for help. It also suggests that he’s unaware of Snow’s alliance with Anna Hark, which has borne fruits in the shape of the weapon Jakita uses to disable Leather.

I’m going to take a moment quickly to note the art, which is superlative this issue. I especially love the page where Leather lands beside the capsule, he’s got great expressions, there’s always a little bit of him on fire, and the colours are breathtaking. I also love the sepia-toned flashbacks at the back of the issue. And the expressions on Snow and Jakita’s faces when they move in to capture Leather are phenomenal.

This issue marks the end of book 3: Leaving the 20th Century. Each issue has been set in the book’s past, or has had a flashback or been centred around an event in Snow’s personal history. Like I said at the end of book 2, the Four represents unfinished business for Snow, and he’s gone from sending them threats to actively going after them, foiling their plans and diminishing their numbers. The last line of the book shows that everything is changing now as we move into the new millenium: Strange world, and it’s always going to be that way. The mantra has changed - does that represent a more forceful restatement of Planetary’s mission, or is it acknowledgement that because Snow never knew about the gun club, the world will be strange regardless of how much effort he puts into documenting it and the Four try to suppress it?


All I can add to that is the staples in my issue were nice and shiny.


Goddammit, you goth, that was great analysis. I’m mostly “I love book with analogs.” Thanks.


I´m putting this by memory (Like all the other entries i did), and, once again there is much, and better things to read that this comment.

One or two things Altough.

One. The apearence of Greene, like it was said before, is far more monstrous that (I belive) everyone expected but not an “Alien” (Yes, i did that) notion for Ellis, with the tumors and the overall look, this issue reminds me of a hidden gem of the Ellis Catalog “Ruins” (Also, the Fallen Galactus “God Dead in the sky”, is obviously another refference) in wich Hulk it´s just a collection of tumorous muscles.

Second. I like The cold and calculating Snow; the guy that keeps hidden his agenda from his teammates, the one willing to loose an asset like The Angels, and i agree that it all points out to someone whose methods towars ending The Four are getting more and more ruthless.

For everyone except the Drummer…

But i´m getting ahead of myself.