Shall we set aside this weekend for anyone else who wants to jump in on this issue (or indeed any issue up to #25) and then move on to #26 early next week? Okay? Okay.
One thing that stands out about issue 25 is how quickly it gets to the point. The whole discussion at the start of this book club was how much Planetary managed to pack into short issues but this feels even more pacey than usual. Snow has made his allegation/revealed what he knows by the seventh panel. But as I, and others noted upthread, the tone is actually quite calm considering the implications. It almost has a Columbo “One more thing” feel to it.
We yet again see just how smart Snow is with all his contingency plans covering almost every eventuality of the encounter “Mines?”, of course they weren’t expecting the Devil’s Paw reveal. Even the post fight encounter shows respect between the two men despite a shift in the balance of power of the relationship.
The stand-out parts of The Fours origin, for me, are how quickly the rest of the crew accept the deal Dowling has done but also the willingness to go through the transformative apparatus despite Dowling’s comment that the process is entirely random. Obviously the reveal of Dowling’s own change is as expected “he stretches” but the description of this is certainly a weird twist of the Mr Fantatic model especially the idea that he maybe inside your mind.
The final two panels once again go a long way to show the respect and friendship between Snow and Stone despite everything that has happened to this point.
Issue 26: Oh kids. We’re Mystery Archaeologists.
What an opening, nothing like playing someone’s biggest weakness, the reason that everything that has happened so far has happened, against them.
I had never noticed but there is a certain John Pertwee-ness to Snow. It is particularly apparent in some of the panels during the “peace talks” with Dowling and Süskind.
Everything comes together really well here although some of the intricacies of the plan may have been lost due to the pace of the issue. Which is a shame, but without the standard pace we have come to expect the impact of these events wouldn’t be quite the same.
It is almost disappointing having this huge build-up to finally meeting Dowling, only to have it all over so quickly. However it once again proves just how much smarter Snow really is than Dowling especially now that he has fully embraced his Century Baby status and the role that Melanctha revealed to him.
The final thing that struck me about this issue was the familiarity of the device dropped onto Earth Toilet-On-Fire. It bears a striking resemblance to the companion cube from Portal, although a brief search tells me issue 26 pre-dates Portal by a year.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.
As always, i got here late and there´s nothing that i can say that hasn´t been said before…
Never the less, i love the mix up between FF/Apokolips"New Genesis that is the origin of the Four Powers. They have been building to this but the fact that they are willing to sell his earth to destruction gods practically without hessitation really depicts them as the Monsters they are (And also ties up nicely with the ongoing conspirancy theory that the higher Hierarchies of men in power work with invaders to facilitate their conquest of humanity (maybe i´m reading too much in this, but yesterday i caught “X Files: The movie” on Fox and the connection hits me like it was crystal clear).
Just one tought (One question, really): Is there any explanation to John´s stone “Dwvils Paw”?
I mean, i remember looking at it and inmediatly thinking “Hellboy”, but i think i was WAY off… if someone could explain the refference to me i will be very gratefull.
To sum up, i also like how ellis (and he is and expert in doing this) took a known power (Stretchability) and gives it his own little F— Up Twist, making this Mr. Fantastic Analog, creepy as hell.
The Planetary Appreciation Page offers this explanation:
One of the few courses I took at UCLA was Mythology and Folklore. (I hate the quarter system, it’s why I matriculated.) The core principle is to keep digging into the folklore to find the germinal tale, or, even, the event that may have started the story.
The Hero With One Hand is such a basic idea. Siegfried, Beowulf, Egil One-Hand, Klaw, Davos, Jamie Lannister, Gilgamesh, all have elements. Greek theater. Hindu - MF (as we called it) notes to look for opposites as well. So multi-armed and multi-swords gods go far into roots of a myth. The Hero With One Hand means to be literally “dis-armed” and rise again to victory. Mike Moorcock had an Eternal Champion with one hand. Frodo lost a finger.
I could go on to a classic Long Miqque Post. The point here is a replaced hand is a potent symbol to many a culture.
Right, Mr. Skywalker?
Nrgh, effort, Nagle! Remember that?
As was discussed upthread, the cover this time is a reference to 90s action movies, particularly Armageddon. Though the issue will riff on some other movies instead.
In order: the Planetary Field team sneaking in through the bathroom is Goldeneye (IIRC Bond snuck into the dam base at the start via a toilet stall), the blitz attack on the room with the children hooked up to the computers is The Matrix, and the airplane rescue in the city is about 50/50 Matrix and True Lies.
This is of course contrasted with Snow and Stone meeting in the middle of a high-tech car chase, which is of course pure 70s and 80s Bond (even though the gadget-strewn car would be a feature of some 90s - modern Bond movies)
There’s not a lot of background for this issue, it’s really about the Drummer, even more than issue 17 was about Jakita. This is signalled from the get-go by the first three panels being from the Drummer’s perspective, with all the data that he picks out of the world presented to him. And if he’s getting passive information like the temperature of a cup of coffee, then the phone that he turns off is probably loud as a result of actively pinging the network.
The plot with Jakita being suspicious of Elijah continues here, and while Drums is mollifying her, I don’t really buy his arguments - especially his allegation that trapping Jacob Greene on the Rama analogue saved Greene - I get where he’s coming from, but we saw that there were primitive humanoids living in that ship too, and Greene was killing them. Are their lives worth Greene’s, or is it a convenient way to rationalise the decision?
The section where Drums is rescued by Planetary has some interesting symbolism. The guards seem like throwbacks to a prior age - notably in their hairstyles, and not being able to grasp the idea of a computer network. Later in the issue Drums says he’s known Snow half his life. Assuming he was 15 when he was rescued - which is probably the oldest he could have been, then that rescue took place in 1985 or so. And these guys look like greasers and can’t grasp the idea of a computer network? The idea of using computers to communicate was all over pop culture by that time. So I see them as a slight visual nod to the Americana of 60s and 70s US TV giving way to the paranoid cyberthrillers of the 80s and 90s.
Also, one of them notes Dowling’s smell, which may tie into something we learn in issue 25.
And after that, the issue’s pretty straightforward. There’s a couple of amusing moments - Snow saying this won’t be the first time he’s rescued kids - to two adults he rescued as children, one of the Drummer’s complaints being rough toilet paper, and the easy banter between Snow and Chase. The last point is especially nice to see at it gives more weight to Snow’s reaction when Jakita tells him Ambrose is dead.
What’s interesting at the end is the contrast between Drums as a child and as an adult. As a kid he’s clearly struggling to understand why there’s all this data flying around him and moreso what to do with it. So he blurts things out. As an adult, he’s synthesising and interpreting, and waits until the right moment to tell Jakita his theory.
So this issue, as indicated by the cover is a Planetary Guide - as in a guide to Planetary, the comic as opposed to a catalogue of the odd events of a specific year.
As such it’s really Snow monologuing to Jakita and Drums about what’s been going on, his perspective on his decisions that have been worrying her, and the secret parts of his history that he hasn’t shared - things that we know in part because we’ve read the comics from his POV.
As such, this issue is straightforward as hell. The main thing is getting Snow’s commentary, with handy superimposed art from prior issues in the background.
There’s three main new things in here - Snow suspecting that Dowling has been using Planetary to find more mysteries to hoard, and that he likely has a collection of Planetary guides. We know this to be true since issue 10.
Second is that Snow suspects that the Four have something that can bring Ambrose back, which turns Snow’s motivation in destroying the Four from combative to a means to an end. He was definitely aggressive before Dowling wiped his memory - that last encounter was an attempt to defeat the Four in one fell swoop, of course. But now, he’s cutting Dowling’s support mechanisms away one by one.
And this leads into the last point - the
FourTwo are beginning to get desperate. It’s no longer a game to them, and Planetary have graduated to being an existential threat.
This issue is very much a sweeping clear of the table. Jakita’s suspicions are allayed here, meaning the plot is a bit of a damp squib - the resolution is basically Snow says “don’t worry”, and then The Four zap the building and she’s motivated to go after them again. But we’re all set for the final confrontation with the Four, and the tension has been suitably ratcheted upwards.
One of the more brilliant points to Ellis’ writing, which shows up with other creative geniuses. Quitely, IIRC, said he did anatomically-correct sex act drawings with both humans and aliens. Morrison turning things upside-down. Millar (particularly when younger and more likely to jump without looking) with some of the wilder, unpublished ideas.
It seems reasonable to me that an event that alters anatomy drastically would do so quite thoroughly. Skin tone(s). Oxygenation. Hair or lack thereof. Aroma. Their tactile feel to others. That primal sense of all humans that tells us whether another close critter is human - or other. I should think there is always a rather primitive reptile brain reaction to “other”, cognitive dissonance at the very least.
I think various writers have touched on this, mostly in X-Men projects. Knowing the world as I do, I should think some 95% of any externally-triggered mutation would be both ugly and most likely lethal. The other 5% (5% the typical definition of “chance” in statistics) would be little or no apparent effect, and within that 5% perhaps another 5% of positive mutations; and once again 5% of that (we’re moving decimal points real fast here) might manifest as an “ability” or “power”.
Events, then, like the Four all gaining divergent powers would then reveal intent. We know there are all kinds of space aliens in Planetary. However, I am reminded of Robert Heinlein’s Number of the Beast, wherein a crew of four in a ship with an improbability drive explored the possible universes. Their main fear, revealed quite late, was that they would have the misfortune to encounter an Author. A being of such power to erase or re-write all reality.
I find that to be quite accurate,
A nice write-up here that the folks in this thread might appreciate:
It’s a book from top to bottom that’s stubbornly resistant to the present, while also feeling perfectly contemporary. It’s weird and opaque, and you can’t shake the feeling that the writers and artists’ conception of it changed from year to year and month to month, but it keeps pulling you along. I might recommend other books first, I might think of other characters and stories more quickly, but there’s no comic I can think of that I love more than I do Planetary.
Come on and let us discuss the crossovers like the Batman issue and the JLA one.
At this point let’s just open it up all the way to issue #27’s finale and the two remaining crossover issues (Batman and JLA). A Planetary free-for-all.
After that, I’m happy to hand the next ‘book club’ thread over to someone else to run. I’ve done a couple of them now and I feel like this one started to run out of steam towards the end, possibly because I wasn’t very good at keeping it moving regularly and keeping everyone interested.
Anyone fancy stepping up?
What did we decide on for next?
I thought it was Ultimates but that might have been brought up in another thread cause I can’t find reference to it here.
At the start of this thread it was suggested that the next book be a Millar title.
Indeed it was. How’s about American Jesus?
Maybe not a bad idea to use a shorter work if these threads tend to tail off.
I did actually start a re-read of Planetary when this thread started but had no patience to wait chapter by chapter and read it all in one go.