In Planetary 26 we finally see Dowling, for the first time other than in a flashback, after a six year buildup. We have been teased with his weird power, some kind of mind worms ("Everyone who has ever met Dowling probably is Dowling."). We don't get to see his power at all. He scans Elijah for anything dangerous, finds nothing, and hands over all his secrets. (?!) Why he does not scan the Drummer is beyond me. * Then Elijah announces the Drummer handed him a special device that means that no information will work in this area save one kind. That was an awfully powerful magic chip Dowling forgot to scan for. Then Elijah takes a door out and the ground rumbles and the shiftship from issue 4 appears and Dowling and Kim Suskind just fall to their deaths. After six years they die off screen. We get to see their bodies later. In the first few pages of the same issue Elijah just announces that Greene and Leather are dead. All four of the Planetary's main villains die off screen.
In the last quarter of Planetary Ellis established a new theme -- Elijah realizes the Four are just not that big a deal. In the big drug trip issue Elijah learns he must have a bigger purpose than hounding these four people. So on one level the end of the Four in Planetary 26 makes sense -- if they are no big deal their deaths should be no big deal. But I think the narrative demanded a better end for the story's big bad guys, and I don't think theme is a good enough reason to go to the zoo. Planetary 26 is just lazy writing.
It's not the first time: Remember when Wonder Woman was stabbed through the spine in JLA/Planetary and then at the end she was suddenly fine, saved the day, and then the book ended? You know how she survived? I don't either and Ellis does not leave so much as a clue. John Stone had an evil magic red hand in Planetary 25. Do you know what it could do to people? -- I don't either because we never saw it in action. ** You cannot just tell the audience something is scary. You have to show them. You cannot build expectations for the arrival of Greene, then have him "arrive" in broad daylight, suddenly, a threat to no character I have spent time with, and then unceremoniously blast him into space. For that scene to work something needs to be at stake. If I am to take Greene seriously as a threat, I must see him be a threat to a character I care about. Once again, I cannot be told that he is bad news -- I need you to show me that he is bad news. Anything less is lazy writing. That is basic storytelling, and Ellis should know better and I am ticked off about it.
You can tell me I am wrong, but you better back it up with reasons or you are getting yelled at.
[* Added November 1, 2006: People are right to yell at me and tell me there is an explicit reason why Dowling does not scan the Drummer -- in the issue he says he can't because of the Drummer's powers. I should rant more accurately, but I think the point stands: if Dowling can't deal with the Drummer at all he should be smart enough not to come, or have some kind of plan, knowing that the Drummer could be concealing just about anything. My problem is not really about the Drummer it is about Dowling being phenomenally stupid when he is supposed to be the series Big Bad (as they say on Buffy). I apologize for my inaccurate and sloppy hyperbole. ]
** [Added Novemer 1, 2006: Yes, I know the claw is from another comic book like everything in the Planetary is. My point is that before issue 15 Ellis would reinvent these things and now he is just reusing them, relying on old comics to do his work for him in a way that, prior to 15, he did not.]