Comics Creators

Millarworld book club: Planetary issue 26 - The end!


For sure. I know Fraction does it, and Levitz learned to write comics by backwards engineering I think Roy Thomas Avengers.


Sure. I think, for me, that really comes more into play when you’re trying to do formal flourishes. You’re very much ‘walled in’ by the proclivity and style of the artist, and need to play to that. Some rely more than others on an artist’s sense of those elements, by habit – Morrison’s scripts, if you’ve seen them, are now essentially just long plots with tons of information and no breaks or panels. It’s all up to the artists.

You’re relying on the artist a lot there, their sense of pacing and structure.

Recently wrote something that should see the light of day this year in the Marvel style and it was great fun, but most artists don’t want that these days.


I enjoyed rereading #3, largely for the action beats, which are handled perfectly. The big reveal of the ‘hard drive’ always loses me a bit though - partly because the big splashpage by Cassaday, while beautiful, is a bit too ambiguous for me to get a sense of what the thing is, exactly.

But the story with the Hong Kong ghost cop is a great little yarn, and it’s impressive that the issue manages to tell his story and give us several great action scenes and add some intrigue about the Planetary organisation (in that it’s older than Jakita realises), and give us a weird techno-organic concept to come away feeling a bit confused about, all in the space of one issue.

Ellis is already keeping a lot of plates spinning, and doing so with style and wit (the Drummer’s gag about his female stormtrooper fantasy is the funniest moment in the issue, largely because the joke just goes so perfectly with the image).


Y’see, that’s what got me. It was just enough to spark this nasty beast within me called imagination. It has gotten harder to do over the centu… er, decades but it was one of those “moments of wonder” we get in childhood, and not much later. There was a few books about these kids who built a rocket ship in the back yard out of spare parts. (Always wondered, if they had spare rocket ship parts, why not just boost the original rocket ship?) With a small amount of science, that backyard rocket simply becomes “not possible”. All that remains is the imagination which would have launched it. Same with Master Cylinder. Perhaps, if understood, the tech would be as impressive as a floppy disc. But, without such understanding, it is a spark for the possible.


By the way, has Farmer’s Wold Newton Family been mentioned here, yet?


13 days ago :wink:


Not one of the mi favourite issues. But, given that is part of one of my favourite series ever, i guess is still pretty Good.

The “Homage” Paid to the Hong Kong Action movies of the ´90s and the way they merge with the Myth (acctually, two myths. The “Revenge Myth”, goig from “The Count of Montecristo” To “Kill Bill”, and the “Enforcer of Beyod” Myth, from any ghost story to the characters like Deadman or The Spectre) Are magnificent.

And, while we see some of the best action scenes evere drawn, The overreaching plot just just keep on going… making things weird.

Just as Ellis wanted.


It doesn’t show up well in the scan @DaveWallace posted, but there’s a planetary logo faded into the black at the top of the cover. This is the last time the logo will appear on the cover until issue 27.

As just about everyone has noted, this issue is largely a homage to Hong Kong action movies, specifically the “heroic bloodshed” genre popularised in the 90s by John Woo movies such as Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow, both starring Chow Yun Fat. They generally don’t have ghosts in them, but ghost stories are often staples of asian horror and fantasy movies, so while it’s a bit of a stretch, it can fit into the HK cinema riff here.

This is the first time the Drummer notices information passing around a space, we’re starting to see a bit more definition to his powers. Also, we get our second mention of the number 196,833 - this is a reference to the Monster Group, the largest sporadic simple group in mathematical group theory. There’s a bit of dialogue in the explanation of the hard drives that brings to mind the holographic principle as well, but that will be covered more in later issues.

Snow noticing the discrepancy between what Jakita told him about Planetary and what Michelle says here is relevant - if nothing else it’s setting up Snow’s bona fides as a detective.

I think of the early issues with the formula of Planetary go somewhere, investigate phenomenon that’s linked to pop culture, this is probably the most successful. There’s frequently a feeling that the characters are just seeing a chunk of a bigger story, and it’s a bit of a letdown in the Island Zero issue because there we get a few glimpses - the Mishima stand-in at the end of his life, all these monsters dead, but wait, Rodan isn’t! And we never see any more of these people.

Here though, it works a lot better. There’s one through-line, Chi-Wai’s life, death and afterlife. The giant storage device keeps his spirit bound to the material world, to exact vengance, and he’s not even freed once he kills Mok. He’s stuck there until someone else gets betrayed. It’s incredibly nihilistic, and that fits the format of the story much better. At the end of issue 2, we want to see more of Rodan because it’s such an unknown. Here, we know what Chi-Wai’s afterlife is going to be. The final pun is a bit on the nose though. I feel like Ellis is having problems figuring out how to finish these stories as they end more than conclude. I had a similar feeling during my recent reread of his run on Stormwatch, where the more contemplative stories, like the one about Jenny Sparks’ history don’t conclude as well as the more action-oriented ones.

There’s great humour elsewhere in the issue. Drums and Jakita get some great dialogue, especially the stormtrooper fantasy bit, and the way Michelle offers up a correction to the grisly details of the film producer’s run in with the Triads is macabre, but also darkly funny.


[quote=“Lorcan_Nagle, post:150, topic:9506, full:true”]
The final pun is a bit on the nose though. I feel like Ellis is having problems figuring out how to finish these stories as they end more than conclude.[/quote]
That’s a good point. All three issue endings this far have felt a little bit theatrical, a little bit forced. I don’t mind it too much as it provides a decent ‘full stop’ for the story, but I agree that there’s a slight sense that they come in lieu of a more satisfying and natural conclusion.


OK, seems like it’s time to move on.

Planetary #4: “Strange Harbours”

This is one of my favourites of this early stretch of issues.


Rereading this last night, it cemented it as my favourite issue of the series so far.

It feels like Ellis is starting to play with the formula now - so we see the action begin with a separate set of characters who stumble across Planetary in the middle of their investigation, rather than the readers following the Planetary crew in a linear way as in the first three issues.

It feels like there’s a bit more cross-referencing here too: as well as callbacks to the earlier issues of the book (like Snow’s coffee gag and the reference to the trip to Hong Kong), there are stronger suggestions that elements of past investigations will continue to be through-lines in the series’ overarching story. We see the snowflake again (and a ‘snowflake’ reference in a new context), there’s another mention of Hark, we get the reappearance of Brass at the end of the issue, and we see Snow pledging to support Jim and take an active role in helping develop the amazing things that Planetary discovers, rather than adopting a more passive position. It’s a nice bit of development that sets up an important aspect of his character for the entire series.

Also, there’s referencing of other Ellis books, with the shiftship at the centre of this story having counterparts elsewhere (most notably the Carrier in The Authority) even though it’s quite different in design, and the comments about a team of seven also tying in with other superhero teams (including those seen in the first issue of this series). I guess we’re meant to wonder how the Snowflake and the Bleed tie together, and what it might mean that shiftships can be so different in design.

Also, after our earlier conversation about Ellis being comfortable with leaving Cassaday’s art to carry the story when necessary, this feels like the best example yet - I love the ‘silent’ chase sequence after the mugging, and there are several pages where Cassaday is called upon to convey the sense of wonder of this issue (and does so perfectly): the overhead teleport shot is beautifully geometric, the first glimpse inside the shiftship is dazzling and exotic (Depuy’s colours are a big part of this I think), and the big crash splashpage is a powerful image that also works as a good gag about how the dinosaurs were wiped out.

Plus, the main hero design is a lovely steampunk riff on Captain Marvel.

(My only complaint is a couple of images being reused as panels later on, but it’s a minor niggle.)

All the issues have been fun so far, but this is the first one where I’ve both enjoyed the main story and been really interested to see what comes next with the overarching elements.


I agree that the call-back to previous issues is done really well and helps tie the issues together so far.

The reappearance of Doc Brass, even briefly, is a nice reminder that he is still important to the story but also that Planetary are helping his rehabilitation.

The panels in the shift-ship open up a lot of questions. Clearly it arrived on earth a long time ago 65 million years (give it take) but it is full of contempary animals. Is the ship the source of mammalian life on our planet? While the ship maintains that the crew were all killed there is no evidence of this in the panels so could the crew, if any survived, be the source of powered humans on the planet too.

I find the art for the shift ship very reminiscent of the art in the later volumes of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when they have found the cross dimensional civilisation. I would assume that Kevin O’Neil found some inspired from the images in this issue.


Planetary #4: Conductors and Electricity

There’s not much I have to say about this issue, but unlike #2, it’s mainly because this is a good issue.
The art is good, the visuals are fantastic, and the story finally feels like it’s propelling in a direction that it is certain of, something that has no doubt root in Snow finally stepping up to plate. He’s been mostly an observer so far, but finally realizing his own desires and motivations at this point really brings in a nice start to dynamics and overall gives the characters some needed growth.

I like the Captain Marvel pastiche overall, but it does go by very quickly.


I completely forgot that I was going to mention Snow’s change in his approach to his role at the end of the issue.

This change obviously opens things up narrative wise, especially as he seems slightly off message in his approach.


Does anyone else feel like chipping in on #4 before we move on? I don’t want to leave people behind by jumping ahead too fast.


I’ll get my post in on it tonight.


No rush, we can maybe move on to #5 at the weekend.


Have been happily awaiting Lorcan’s pearls of great value.


Starting with the cover, we’re into full pastiche territory here. The cover’s meant to invoke pulp magazines, of course, and we’ll return to this mode of cover more than once before the end of the book’s run.

We’re back into Ellis’ economy of storytelling here, with the first 5 pages setting up a wealth of information. The first thing is that an office block has been destroyed right down to the foundations, without even chipping the glass on its immediate neighbours - to the point that it’s deemed safe to be in one of those neighbouring buildings.

The second is that the destroyed building belonged to the Hark Corporation, the first modern-day reference to anyone from Brass’ companions.

The third is that the cleanup crew are covering up the remains, which seems odd,

The fourth, and most important to the current story is Jim Wilder’s character. He’s very close to Anna Hark, he’s an orphan, and he’s selfless to the point of chasing after a mugger to retrieve heart pills. He’s a hero, even if he doesn’t know it.

The next five pages set up the fantastic elements of the story, presaged by Snow, Drums and Jakita’s appearance at the bottom of page 6. Of course, the cleanup crew is a cover for Planetary’s actions, they’ve uncovered an ornate plinth in the shape of a lightning bolt, which reacts to Wilder crossing it by teleporting him away. Note that the mugger runs around it despite being on a straight course for the plinth in panel 1 of page 7

The scene on page 9 is one of my favourite Warren Ellis funny moments. the Drummer jumping on the plinth, Jakita’s world-weary commentary and her bickering with Snow are all fried gold, topped off with the Drummer being flung away and getting up with smoke rising off him.

Page 10 is partially there to remind up that Axel Brass is still around, as much to hint that he’s going to be back in issue 5 as to remind us of his link to Hark.

Wilder’s story reads like so many superhero origin stories, I keep thinking of Captain Britain myself, but it could any number of heroes to be fair. @DaveWallace called out the reuse of panels as a minor niggle, but I quite liked it, especially the full page of Wilder inside the incredibly gothic Shiftship reprinted as a quarter of a page. This section also revisits the Snowflake and suggests that it’s an array of parallel universes, with the Bleed serving as the walls between them. Not hugely relevant here, but it does tie-in to Wildstorm and the second-last Stormwatch arc.

It’s worth noting as well that the last page of Wilder’s flashback has 4 panels in the shape of a lightning bolt, calling back to the plinth and, of course DC’s Captain Marvel.

The final five-page sequence returns us to the hospital in the present day, Wilder brings the team aboard the shiftship and Jakita attempts to leave him out in the cold only to be stymied by Snow. I’m not going to talk about it now, but might revisit it after issue 12.

Overall the only real issues with this story are that it just sorta ends again. Snow talking to himself in the last panel is clunky as hell, where another page or two would have allowed that scene to breathe, and there’s plenty of pages that could hev been truncated by the removal of repetitive panels. (and not just the recycled pages!)

Overall this is a vast improvement for the book. The story is paced better but the end remains a bit pat. Wilder’s transformation is a reference to Captain Marvel, but the issue itself is more looking at the common trope of the human granted a supehuman alternate form rather than directly ape one specific example, which helps keep it its own thing, a problem Planetary will face quite frequently.


The resolution, which boils down to “I will give my life to be your hero / champion /savior” makes this a tale of nobility. I watched Boorman’s Excalibur again recently, and realized to yet another level the way humans can be hideous to one another. There is balance to other endings, which may not seem exciting per se but end up deeply satisfying.