I will be catching up with thoughts on the last two once I’m home from my little excursion by the sea.
Great, let’s leave these two issues open for another couple of days then.
Ok, later today I’ll put up #24’s cover to get the thread moving again after the summer break.
Yeah keep it moving. I’ll do a Lorcan style catch-up series of posts soon.
Are you sure? I think they are strikingly similar. More so than most cover homages, especially with the ELIJAH SNOW text where the BRUCE WILLIS text is…
Looking up the Planetary resource page for issue #23, it looks like Cassaday confirmed at a comic con (and it was subsequently reported as part of a discussion on a previous iteration of the Millarworld forums, no less), that it was indeed an intentional homage to that poster. Presumably to reflect the slightly more action-movie tone of the issue, with the big rescue setpiece.
Have to be honest with you guys…
The last issues of the series are really Foggy to me…
I should have to read them again…
If only y remember where i put them…
But, don´t worry, i´m on the case!
Issue #24 is another issue that (like #23) reads to some extent like a recap of the entire series so far. Which feels a bit unnecessary when you’re reading the whole series through in quick succession (like we are here), but was probably far more useful at the time, with the “monthly” schedule of Planetary getting less and less regular and the gaps between issues growing larger and larger.
It makes explicit lots of connections and theories that have only been implicit in the series so far (and in doing so, destroys some of the ambiguity around certain elements, like Jakita’s parentage or the nature of the Century Babies). It also uses lots of art from previous issues to remind us of key moments in the overarching story, and to tie it all together to set the stage for the series’ denouement. As a result, it can feel a bit like a tour of Stuff We Already Know, which is slightly frustrating after so many issues of buildup.
At this point in the series, though, it’s probably a good thing to have this material set out clearly and concisely like this, so that readers are all on the same page before heading into the final few issues. Those who worked it out ahead of time can pat themselves on the back about it, and those who didn’t can be dazzled by the reveals.
Anyway, the first chunk of the issue is a fairly wordy conversation that details the many ‘systems’ of the series, and gives us some strong hints about how they will all come together in the climax of the overall story. It also answers some interesting questions that people may have had about the characters’ motivations so far - particularly when it comes to the reasoning behind Snow’s erratic behaviour of late, as well as the question of why The Four don’t just kill the Planetary crew outright if they’re such a problem.
The answer given to that last one - that The Four want Planetary to do the hard work of discovering all this weird and wonderful stuff so that they can swoop in and take it - is convincing to an extent, even if previous issues have shown Dowling & co. sometimes finding this stuff by themselves (like the analogues of Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern that they discover and then kill off in that issue).
It also makes the payoff of this issue even more impactful when it comes, effectively selling the idea that The Four (or more accurately The Two as they are now) are irritated enough by Snow’s antics that they’re ready to kill him off permanently (as well as who knows how many other people to get to him). The laser-from-space attack is a stunningly effective sequence due to the way it’s drawn by Cassaday, using slim vertical panels to really sell the drilling-downwards motion of the laser and the chaos it causes to the tower block above our heroes. It really sells the idea that we’re getting serious now, and things have gone so far that something has got to give.
Cassaday gets quieter moments that impress too - I love this shot of Snow remembering his former memory-blocked self:
There’s also a lovely little moment in the Planetary archives where we see the trio behind shelves of Planetary files, many of which carry auspicious dates that help us to deduce their meaning.
I sense this is running out of steam a bit - do we want to maybe throw in one of the remaining tie-in issues (Batman or JLA) for a change of pace? Or shall we keep on through to the end? There’s only a few issues to go to #27 now.
I’m still involved, just got a bit of a backlog.
OK, let’s get back on track. hashtag making an effort
The references here are pretty obvious - John Leather is The Lone Ranger, his origin tweaked slightly (in the original material, the Lone Ranger was the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, though he did have a hidden silver mine, and cast bullets from said metal). The Potwatomi tribe that Ellis’ ersatz Tonto is said to hail from is a real tribe, though Wiki doesn’t mention any settlement in Texas. There are roughly 28,000 Potwatomi alive today
By comparison, as noted back in issue 1, Bret Leather is based not on The Shadow but on another pulp hero, The Spider, who first appeared in 1933. The Spider of the Pulps has none of the Shadow-like abilities here - and neither of the influencing characters were newspaper publishers in their civilian lives. That last point might be a reference to the radical progressivism of the earliest Superman stories, but that’s quite a stretch, really.
The back chunk of the story - when William Leather talks about himself - isn’t a specific callback, though the setting of his conversation with Dowling calls forth images of movies like Casablanca. The narration saying it was after the war makes me think of treaty cities like Tangier, but it could just as easily be a dive in America. Dowling’s rant about punishing the world by becoming great calls forth Syndrome’s motivation from The Incredibles, of course, but it has parallels with many supervillians, most notably Lex Luthor.
Like many issues of Planetary, this has a three (and a half, sorta) act structure. 11 pages for John Leather, 7 for Bret, and 3 (or 4 if you count the first page) for William and his interactions, such as they are with Snow.
And there’s a defined colour palette for the transitions. The present is blue, not only for the lighting in the torture chamber, but also the background behind Leather in the first two panels of page 1 - being the two times he’s appeared in the present of the comics - issue 6 as he burns off his beard and his arrival at the Gun Club’s launch site in issue 18. John Leather’s section opens with a page that affects black and white photoraphy, complete with three panels affecting an early cinema look, with a rounded border, a silent movie-style caption, and film scratches. Only a splash of blood breaks this tone. When the story switches to Bret Leather, the first two pages have a red wash, only broken by the cold blue of the mansion interior in the last two panels, the red exterior spilling inwards through the open door and windows of the last panel. Finally, the page showing Leather and Dowling’s meeting after WWII is presented in a more sepia-tinged monochrome. Square panels and no scratches compared to the rough cinematography of the Western.
One more thing to note on the transitions. they all take place on three panel pages, with the transition panel - the blue closeup of William Leather’s face - getting lower each time. The first page of Bret Leather’s story has the panel at the top. The page where Bret’s story shifts to William’s has it in the middle (and one can argue that the panel of Brass and his company is more part of William’s story than Bret’s), and the page that shifts from William’s past to his present has it at the bottom of the page.
This issue raises a lot of questions. There’s some similarity between Frank Dowling - Paul’s killer and John’s first victims - and our old friend Randall Dowling. Is there a familial link? If that’s the case is Randall’s recruitment of William a symbolic subversion of an old family foe? It’s clear that Randall knew who William’s purported father was, and he used William’s resentment of that lost legacy to recruit him, so it’s not unrealistic to think he’s know one more generation of family history, especially if he was already planning to take over the Secret World hidden inside the Mundane one.
Secondly, there’s a nature vs nurture thing going on with William’s last lines to Snow. He says how he struck out on his own, how his legacy should be more than just Dowling’s heavy, but it’s ended with him in Planetary’s custody. So was he doomed to fail because he doesn’t have John and Bret’s genetic legacy? Or maybe it’s because Bret neglected him and then vanished?
It’s interesting to note that Snow uses the phrase “this is the news” when he starts to speak on the second-last page. This was also used in the second issue of his run on Stormwatch, right in the middle of a moment of brutality. And then the next page happens. And this last page has our last callback - to an event we’ve seen a panel or two of but know no details of. The Nautilus, which weighed heavily on Snow’s conversation with John Stone back in issue 11. It’s clear that whatever happened there - we know know Leather shot someone Snow cares or cared about, and it’s colouring his actions here. He doesn’t have to hurt - to torture Leather, but he does it anyway.
I’d just like to say how much I’ve been enjoying the chat on Planetary.
I bough the book in floppy format when it came out, so by the time it finished I didn’t care.
I don’t think I’d bothered to reread it until this thread and I really enjoyed it.
It’s a great book and I have many thoughts about it that I guess I should join in with…
I think, in a way, that everyone has a significant War in their personal life - one that had an impact. For a long time I thought mine to be Viet Nam. That was just an aftereffect. Mine was, and so sadly remains, the Cold War. Sneakiness. Poker, chess and jousting all at the same time. Same as it always was, it is a war of ideology, of what makes up a human being, of Weltanschauung. (Too early for umlauts.) Do we gain power and dictate to others, or do we form a society for individuals to thrive?
Time for a catch-up.
The Torture of William Leather - I know next to nothing about the Lone Ranger except for Tonto, Silver (the horse, or is it Hi Ho?) and that there is some genetic link to Green Hornet.
There is an interesting call back to the previous issue within the early back-story element of John Leather with the flowers which become the snow flake. This gives a nice suggestion that John’s trip also told him something interesting about his purpose as it has Snow.
I like the Rooster Cogburn, reigns in the both and hands full of iron panel from John’s massacare of the Dowlings. The man clearly means business.
The way Dowling uses William’s resentment of his situation, that his mother’s infidelity cheated him out if such much, shows how manipulative and controlling the character is. The fact that Leather says “we all had our axes to grind.” gives the idea that Dowling is possibly manipulating all the members of the four.
Obviously the issue ends with a glimpse into just how cold Snow can be and just how far he is willing to go.
Percussion - As already noted this issue starts with some familiar iconography in the form of the green text around the devices. In the same way it shows the communication with machines in Ex Machina here it is used to show how Drums interacts with tech. It’s also a great signpost to the direction the issue is headed, a Drummer origin episode (the Armageddon cover does this too with the “and introducing The Little Drummer Boy” text).
One of the things that surprises me is Snow’s use of a gun in this issue. We get a clear demonstration of just how precise his powers can be at the start of the rescue so why not use a similar device here? Of course you would have to lose the visual aspect and instead have a piece of dialogue “That pain is me freezing your heart” etc but it would do the job. Hell if you wanted to keep it visual you could ice cube the guys hand up.
As a fan of Timothy Dalton’s Bond I got a kick out of the The Living Daylights planes moment as part of the “worst rescue ever”.
The final sequences are more of an opportunity to show the depth of Drums’ powers and explain why he is a member of the team. Last page however stands out most for me with a recall to the idea of the role century babies have in the world and on the final panel the image of the flower. For the third issue in a row.
Planetary Guide Number 24 - No real build-up to this issue, just a quick piece of scene setting and then straight into the confrontation. My first thought as this issue progressed was regarding the disorganised manner in which the shelving is laid out especially when seen from the aerial angles.
There is the wonderful dropped in line which tells us that although Drums was aware of Jakita’s heritage from the files he would also have been able to use his ability to read genetic information to work it out too.
If anything this issue is a recap and refresher for the first half ensuring we are aware of all the little threads which intertwine into the bigger story. Then it changes tack first with Snow explaining his change in tactics and the reason why. Then with Snow’s theory about Ambrose. Finally with the attack from the four, which I am certain Snow knew about hence the basement. The final panels with Jakita seem to confirm this and make it appear a play by Snow (who already said he doesn’t care who gets hurt so that he can save people) to get her fully onside.
C’mon guys… finish upon this title! Planetary is dragging.
I want to get to the Batman crossover and then move on to other books (this time shorter ones)
like the original Dark Knight Returns or even Kingdom Come.
Planetary #25: a brief summary for Al’s benefit.
My earlier comments were correct not only about friction between Snow and Stone but also about the whole “ko’ing a pigeon shows he has some underlying power” thing.
Good issue, nice reluctant villain edge to it.
This was a good issue, even if it feels like the overall story should be a little further along by now (with only one regular issue and one epilogue issue to go).
Still, there’s quite a lot of important work done here to service the larger plot of the series, not least the big reveal of how The Four got their powers (and how they sold out Earth to do it, seemingly to some multiversal analogue of Kirby’s Apokolips).
It’s Stone who’s the centre of the story here though, and this chapter goes a long way to pulling together some of the previous appearances of this half-James-Bond-half-Nick-Fury super-spy, and making sense of them all. Not least via the revelation that he’s been compromised by The Four.
I love the action sequence where they apprehend Stone - it’s always exciting to see Jakita meet her match.
Ellis also walks the line of friend-or-foe well with Stone. He remains a sympathetic character even when we know he’s been working against Snow to some extent. And his description of Dowling’s powers is nicely creepy.
Talking of which, the flashback to how the Four got their powers is a brilliantly unsettling sci-fi sequence that Cassaday handles really nicely. A great inversion of the original FF origin mixed with some of the darker New Gods stuff.
By the end of the issue, we’re definitely teed up to see how Planetary is going to deal with The Four in next issue’s big conclusion.