Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Planetary 27

[Jason Powell's next X-Men essay has been pushed to Thursday, because I have gotten a lot of calls for this, and I don't want it to be untimely.]

Major spoilers for the series, and this issue in particular.

More than ten years later, the series that got me to write my book on superheroes comes to a close with its 27th issue. The series began very much in the debt of the X-Files: the investigators look into the "freak of the week" which is culled from various pop culture while revealing an overarching conspiracy. It took so long to come to a conclusion that X-Files knock-off Fringe appeared, and became successful, in part because a chunk of the viewing audience was simply too young to remember the X-Files.

A third of my life passed between the first and twenty-seventh issues, which makes it very hard to review. People bitched about the long wait between issues, but I think the worst effect was that I can only guess what my 20 year old self would have thought about this issue.

At 20 I wanted good ideas to write about primarily, and the Planetary delivered. I was interested in how a work of pop culture incorporates, revises, and attempts to ultimately transcend its influences. Planetary put that theme front and center. The best example of this was issue 10, which showed how the Four (analogues for The Fantastic Four, but evil, and the main antagonists) destroyed three beings that could have been so valuable to earth -- beings who were analogues of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Green Lantern. Put that with the first issue in which analogues of pulp novel heroes -- The Shadow, Doc Savage, Tarzan, Fu-Manchu, G-8 -- get into a battle with a group of creatures that are clear analogues to the classic Justice League of America. The Pulps battle their comic book successors, just as the Silver Age of comics kills the Golden Age of comics, in order to supersede them. I argued in my book that Planetary made this battle between creators for imaginative supremacy into the plot of the story in order to establish itself as the herald of a new age -- because of course ultimately they would take down The Four just as the Four took down the Golden Age and the Golden Age decimated the pulps.

Planetary was great because of all the things we got to see along the way especially in the first 14 issues: Godzilla monsters, Hong Kong Ghost Cops, Vertigo comics, 50s B movies, Bond, Sherlock Holmes teamed up with Dracula and the Invisible Man, and the X-Files. It was fun getting to see Ellis and Cassaday riff on all these things, and organize them as a critic might: William Leather (The Johnny Storm analogue) was the son of the Lone Ranger, if I am remembering this correctly.

In the back half of the series, after the first major 2 year hiatus, the series had to head for a conclusion, had to begin to wrap up the overarching plot. Analogues were still there, but they were less important - -partly because it felt like Ellis was just sort of done with this thing and wanted it over. There was a ton of build of to the reveal of Jacob Green (the Thing analogue), for instance, but the reveal was pretty anti-climatic -- after many years of hearing about how evil and terrifying he is we see him in full sunlight, with none of our characters anywhere near him. And just like that he is blown up remotely without costing our guys hardly anything. In the end the Four went the same way just sort of getting their asses kicked pretty quickly, at no cost. Ellis has a point here about how it was never really about them, how they are just small things in the nature of the universe of the series. It is a nice point, drawing our attention back to those one off issues from the first half of the series and enjoying the journey more than the destination, but it does not make for satisfying storytelling. You can't spend huge amounts of time building something up and then just have it be no big thing, unless you have a really good plan for a left turn (e.g. Bill in Kill Bill turns out to be a very different kind of threat: the threat of forgetting about revenge and living happily ever after).

After 10 years I care less for ideas and themes, and more for the ability to deliver a good story. From its first issue Planetary had a bit of trouble with story just in terms of structure: a lot of the time, like Hellboy, the characters would stand around while something happened in front of them, or hear a story (like Doc Brass's story in the first issue) and then be done. The Planetary could be like that hanging Scrabble tile that you could use as part of the seven letter word you were building -- you need the letter but the letter is not the word. Ellis was always interested in ideas first, and because the ideas were good it was not so much of a problem. But when he had to wrap up the story, had to have his main characters be MAIN CHARACTERS he runs into trouble. He is just not interested. It is very telling that interviewers have gone to him for a statement now that the series has come to an end, and all he can say by way of getting excited is "it reminded me of a bad time, and I am glad to have it behind me." In issue 26 he even has Snow say something to that effect.

So here we are with 27, which is frankly a pretty bad story. Three panels showing us through news broadcasts and a conference that the Planetary have changed the world, followed by a long science lecture, and a mostly tension free experiment, followed by a happy ending, with no cost.

I am going to edit the text of the issue into something slightly different, and people are going to say I am being unfair, but I think there is something to the exercise. Here it is:

"He raised a non-physics bubble around himself. He was a natural description-theory engine; inside that bubble he could select what physics could actually do. He could slow down time. I saw his descriptor effect the second before he vanished. ... You cant go back in time beyond the point the where the time machine was switched on. If you're in the future and you've got a time machine, and you're interested in history what's the first thing you'd go look at? Dinosaurs? The Crucifixion? The Great Flood? You can't. Because the farthest you can go is the point where the first time machine was switched on. You would go look at that. You and everybody else. Everyone from the entirety of future history arriving at once, the second after you flipped the switch. Therefore the whole of the future can be said to have happened at once. And you can't change it because it already happened. That's planetary apocalypse condition. What's the point of anything if it's all already happened? It's Schrodinger's cat writ large. The future currently exists as a mass of probability waves, collapsing into choices and events one at a time as we move forward. Turning on a time machine collapses them all at once. An infinite number of dead cats all arriving on your doorstep at once. It's a loop of light, and moving along the loop moves you along in time. (We're all living on two dimensional planes of of information. The fact that we live and breathe is a side effect of the universe.) There should be Chernikov radiation coming off of the surface of the descriptor bubble. In order for the closed loop of light to do what it's got to do, it needs a massive amount of power. If the bubble is still up there's going to be something called quantum foam around it, the outward sign that something weird and disfiguring is happening to the fabric of reality. If we can visualize that it is going to look like 800 tornadoes in a box. Those vortices create vacuums that give off energy -- massive power from nothing. Supermassive Frame Dragging: big rotational objects pull the fabric of spacetime around with them. Frame Dragging effects time and objects. So we create a closed loop of light, make it incredibly powerful and it will do the same thing only locally -- supermassive frame dragging. These extend down into the quantum foam and draw off the energy we need to power the machine."


It's not that I don't enjoy the hell out of some mad-science / gorgeous-nonsense but a little bit goes a long way: this is a lot of undigested material, like an essay in comic book form. Drums even illustrates his lectures -- not too helpfully I thought -- with a magic pen writing on air, but it was still not so far removed from just a powerpoint lecture.

Plok wrote recently about how a lot of storytellers hit the beats of a story pretty mechanically. There are worse things -- Superman Returns failed to hit some beats AT ALL -- but Ellis seems to fall into exactly the trap Plok describes. Everyone has to learn something and so Elijah learns some science stuff from Drums ("I read your damn books!") and Drums learns to bark orders like Elijah ("You're starting to sound like me, Drums") all because that is what you have to do in the last issue of something. The real image of this issue is Jakita: she is feels useless because she doesn't have anyone to hit in this utopia of mad science. It feels to me like Ellis failed to give her anything at all to do in the first draft of this script, then writes the problem into the script as her discussion with Elijah (resolved in her future self telling her (not showing her) everything is going to be fine). But then he still wants her to have something to do visually (since a lot of the "action" in this issue is pretty hard to make visual, such as "putting more power to the pulse lamps"), so she gets to leap into action and GRAB A LAMP like a monkey.

And then there are the really pointless beats: one of the medical team telling Jakita DURING THE RESCUE "we've never had so much prep time for emergency treatment in out lives but it'll still be touch and go" in response to her "you know what to do, you're all briefed on his injuries." Why, you know ON EARTH, would they be having this conversation NOW except for the fact that Ellis needs to put some exposition in and he needs it in conflict form to jazz the scene up because there is not a heck of a lot going on here; it reminds me of nothing more than the Simpsons moment when the family goes to the library and Homer bemoans having to go as soon as they enter and Marge says "Why do you always wait till we arrive somewhere to complain" (or something -- Scott, help me out here).

And the "required" beats just keep on coming. One page of news broadcasts to telling, not showing, how the world has changed: on the one had this is lazy writing, but on the other hand I can understand why you would just allude to this -- it would take a bunch more issues to show how the world was different; and again, Ellis is just THROUGH with this now: all he can to is point ahead, because he does not want to write anymore. We get cameos of Hark and Doc Brass to bring things full circle (remember when we thought maybe Doc Brass would become an antagonist?). We have the recap of the fictional survivor plot from issue 9, and Elijah's dismissal of that whole storyline ("We never found out what happened to the person they brought back" -"Probably never will"): again, I get that maybe you don't want to explain EVERYTHING (sometimes mysteries are just better as mysteries) but you also don't want to feel Ellis's exhaustion with this whole thing -- he just does not want to write this book anymore and has no interest in following up on one of the most interesting and ominous things he introduced even a little bit.

There is the pointless callback of "It's a strange world. Did you think for a minute that I wasn't going to keep it that way" -- I am not at all clear HOW is he keeping it that way, except I guess it is strange to Drums because Elijah did not give him enough information to understand what is happening when the "future" arrives. (Snow has always been Ellis's stand in character, and here we see they are alike -- they keep the tension up by just keeping key information to themselves in the cheapest way).

And worst of all -- the doctor in one of the final pages saying of Ambrose "No. No, that's it. That's all we can do." I get that TECHNICALLY this is ambiguous but I cannot see why anyone with any sense would say something so ambiguous in front of friends worried about their friend dying -- except for the fact that the happy ending is forgone conclusion, which lacks tension: so Ellis goes for the cheapest kind of tension, one notch above the bait and switch of horror movies where you think the character is in trouble and it turns out to be the cat in the cupboard or something equally lame.

This is what my 30 year old self things of this issue. But I thought it would be nice to see if I could think back to what I would have said at 20. I am not sure I would have wholly loved the issue but I would have had some good things to say about it. I would have said that Ellis has always been kind of amazing with this book in terms of tropes of past and future. There are those I have already mentioned above about the Pulps vs the Golden Age vs the Silver Age, but there are others, particularly an issue in which Snow visits a woman who gives this whole trippy lecture about how drugs come from plants that are nourished by the dead, so that we are seeing visions inspired by the dead, literally eating and incorporating our precursors. He does not fail to deliver an equally, even more powerful image here -- because no one can go further back in time than when the time machine was switched on all of future history will come back to see it the moment you flip the switch: the end of all history essentially. The twist is that only future versions of the Planetary arrive, all of them intact, and the only difference between them and the current team slight changes in dress and hair. In my book I argued that Ellis was organizing all past comic book history to set up the fight between the Four and the Planetary that the Planetary would WIN establishing themselves as the future of the genre. That pretty much literally happens here: there is NO FUTURE BUT THEM. In the entirety of future time they are the only ones to have this technology -- they never share it, and no one else ever duplicates it. If they did --then where are they? The whole of Drums' discussion of the future collapsing is meaningless if this is not how we are to read this scene.

There was a time many years ago when noticing as Jog does the Four as the Comics Company metaphor (the people who rape and profit from a naturally imaginative world where people who can do amazing things should be able to control their own destiny); and noticing Ellis' mean streak (I did not appreciate what a sentimental guy he was back then) I imagined he might end Planetary with the Four winning. He is after all writing X-Men nearly ten years after he attacked Morrison for writing X-Men instead of creator owned stuff with the line "sometimes your friends fuck ugly girls." It feels like the corporate side is doing pretty well. Looking at the ending we did get I notice that the split second we get the Fourth Man back on the Planetary Team we get a vision of nothing but the Four of them on and on through all of future time, having shared the time travel technology with absolutely no one. It is probably over-reaching to say this, and even more over-reaching to claim that they also snuffed out anyone else coming up with this time travel tech at all points in all future -- but then where IS everyone else when the time machine is switched on? This issue could have ended with a big fold out tableau along the lines of the cover except with new stuff -- a vision off the amazing new world of new things that have opened up because of the Planetary, but it does not. "A long long future lies ahead of us all. It's taken a long time to get here but you and me and her and him -- we're just getting started." Ellis figures his 10 year Planetary run as prelude -- but prelude to nothing but more Planetary adventures, adventures we will never get to see. It is a new kind of Four that dominates all future time.

It is a strange world, and Ellis did keep it that way, but I am not sure he intended to keep it strange in THIS way.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've not read a page of Planetary, but this is an exhilaratingly good review.

You should bump me more often!

-- Jason P

Stephen said...

Geoff,

Fabulous review. As someone who got back into superhero comics (I was already reading comics again) through Planetary, specifically due to your book, I was incredibly eager to read it; and you did not disappoint. Further, most of the other reviews I've seen have said either that it's fabulous or that it will make a fine epilogue, and I've been tearing my hair out thinking 'Did they ship an issue with an alternate story that was actually good?' I thought you would see through it, and you did.

Personally, I think the main point, which you appropriately hit home several times, is Ellis's exhaustion with the idea. He just didn't give a gorram any more, and hasn't for a number of issues, and it shows. Personally I wonder whether I wouldn't rather have had him leave it unfinished -- so that the imagined shadow of the brilliance that might have been the ending would have been left unspoiled. Sometimes it's better to have no ending than a disappointing one.

A few quibbles with what you said.

I think you actually somewhat underestimate the best issues of Planetary. In particular, your complaint that "From its first issue Planetary had a bit of trouble with story just in terms of structure: a lot of the time, like Hellboy, the characters would stand around while something happened in front of them, or hear a story (like Doc Brass's story in the first issue) and then be done." -- which to be fair, you say wasn't that big a deal at first -- strikes me as somewhat beside the point. Lots of great stories are structured as stories told to their narrators (Conrad comes to mind here...), and the idea of having a series of these -- with the continuing characters being the ones to hear the various tales -- strikes me as totally fine; at least at first, as you said. When Ellis tries to make a plot of it, he struck out -- probably, again, because he no longer was trying.

A slightly contradictory quibble: I'm not sure the series divides quite as neatly into the good beginning & bad ending as you suggest. The lecture-about-drugs issue you refer to was late -- but it worked. So did issues #17 (Tarzan/origin of Jakita), #18 (19th cent. moonshot & capturing William Leather), the torture of William Leather issue, and others. Granted, the big plot issues -- most especially the last few -- didn't work at all. But there was some good stuff longer than you suggest.

Ah well. It was a great series when Ellis cared about it -- and, occasionally, afterwards. Once he tired of it, he ended it in a quick & slapdash fashion, and left us with a great beginning with a rotten ending. This is hardly unique in narrative (although perhaps it's unique *to* narrative?) -- there are lots of great stories (greater than Planetary, for that matter) that have bad endings. And it complicates, but does not erase, the quality of the openings.

I'm really glad I read Planetary. I agree with most of your review. And I wish Ellis had either put his best work into this, or simply walked away.

Stephen Frug

plok said...

Thank God for spoilers -- I really needed to know what kind of disappointment I'd be facing when I went into this issue. Even already knowing, when #26 came out, that there would be absolutely no room left to deal with the fugitive from Planet Fiction...

Surely inexcusable!

...Still I had my hopes. Well, actually from just about the point where the Drummer says "I know everything" I felt like, okay...there are three astoundingly wasteful words, what are they doing there? Oh God, it's all going to slip very drastically now, isn't it? But I thought, maybe a little Snowflake, a little 2D science...maybe it'll be fine in the end. And I confess I'm pleased to hear that the gorgeous "loop of light" time machine makes a return appearance (that's a great sort of time machine for a comic-book to have in it!)...but I'm not sure it counts as a win, as far as finishing Planetary off goes. I guess the worry we're supposed to have is that to save Ambrose Elijah will be willing to get rid of all the world's "strangeness" just as he was willing to sacrifice the Rama-planetoid in order to get himself anticlimactically rid of Jakob Greene, and that's fine...it isn't like there's nothing there, there's actually quite a bit there, and it's all stuff that only Planetary was ever talking about...but from your review I'm not confident it's there to be explored, so much as shut off. I also noticed people talking about #27 as an epilogue, and I've been trying to wrap my head around why anyone thinks the story got concluded enough to warrant thinking of this issue as an epilogue...when I've basically been hoping just for a good penultimate issue to close off the series. I mean, the anticlimactic nature of the way Elijah beats the Four...it's because Elijah vs. the Four never was the real story, and we're actually told this...so...

I'll read it anyway, of course.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason - -thanks!

SF -- Fair points. I think it WOULD have been better unfinished. The passive nature of the team though is not like CONRAD because the goal of the team is to CHANGE THE WORLD and plus they have superpowers, so they need to be ACTIVE. But you are right: those issues were not bad, it is just that you can see the problems that would later arise there hidden in the central structure of the book even at the beginning.

Plok, yeah when Ellis announced IN THE BOOK that the Four were not the point he pulled the legs out which can be fun, but he never put anything else in its place.

Also, as far as my Planetary becomes the Four thing, remember in the JLA/Planetary crossover the Four were the bad guys, playing with that villain is mirror of the hero theme that is so much fun in comics.

plok said...

Oh, absolutely! I mean, that's where we saw the loop of light the first time, right? So, I didn't mention it, but yeah: I'm pretty much in total agreement with your "Planetary Becomes The Four" thing, right down to the "they must have killed anybody who ever came up with a time machine independently". Absolutely they must have, and I don't see how the callback to the JLA thing can suggest anything else to us.

Somewhere, in some other universe, there's Planetary #27 in which using the light-loop is a horrible mistake, and all that saves Planetary is the "complicated relationship" we're in with our fiction. I really thought that was going to come out at some point, I really did -- not an "Animal Man" metatextual conclusion, but one a bit subtler and more science-oriented. I mean think what he's got in there, how many hints at a buried cosmological order...it isn't just "the pulps influenced the superheroes", it isn't even just "oh, the 2D science in Planetary is real, because it's a comic book"...there's something else there, too. All the "ominous bits" that the thing is studded with, right up until the final movement...it seems to be going somewhere, promising something. Then suddenly it's all just gone, somehow: forgotten about.

And on another note: how does Planetary keeping the light-loop to themselves not collapse the possibilities of the future anyway, eh?

There was a lot I think I disagreed with you about in re: The Four, in "How To", but your conclusion here seems hard to assail. Just Planetary, forever. It's far from a satisfying place to leave things.

Stephen said...

Their mission *becomes* to change the world, but at *first* it's just to learn the world's secrets -- their archeologists (a trope that gets lost by the end). In the earliest version just hearing stories would be a fine role for them. (And I don't think superpowers requires being active -- they have to be used, but their used sufficiently in digging up the stories.)

SF

Anonymous said...

Y'know, I'm not really sure if Planetary did keep the time-travel technology exclusively to themselves.

It could be that the reason you only see alternative versions of Planetary turning up when the machine is turned on is because it's Planetary's personal time machine. If Elijah did share the technology with others, it could just mean that those who built their own time machines with it are only visiting where/when their own time machines took them.

hcduvall said...

This discussion actually reminds me of the Gaiman and McKean Black Orchid, where the ending was consciously written without a typical superhero fight ending and just with a talk. I remember that being unsatisfying, but I like the attempt. Curiously, this Planetary issue has the physical activity crammed in (boy, hugging the lamp thing was dumb) and it could've done with a less "action packed" story. I wouldn't replace it with a lecture, per se, but since Ellis actually called Planetary #26 the ending and this was going to be the epilogue, I expected more strolling looking at changes made to the world, which funnily enough, would make Planetary the second such supergroup to do so, as Joe Casey's WildCATS 3.0 run gave it a go as well. It's almost as if in covering the influence of the pulps and the like, Ellis himself couldn't shake free of set up. I know a sense of responsibility for the characters is there, so they can't ride off into the sunset, but proclaiming themselves ready keep the world strange, atop their pillar of science, feels strangely regressive, or undemocratic, considering the feel of Planetary as some vast science/library, do-gooding organization. I'd hazard to say that whatever tonal changes/flaws it may have to feel more like exhaustion and weaker execution than anything else.

Pallas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pallas said...

"“It is probably over-reaching to say this, and even more over-reaching to claim that they also snuffed out anyone else coming up with this time travel tech at all points in all future -- but then where IS everyone else when the time machine is switched on?”

I don’t entirely get this position. Why would anyone else but Planetary go back in time to watch some random buddy of Planetary be saved from bleeding to death?

Granted, I don’t get the whole technobabble thing about the future becoming the present or whatever stupid thing it was, but I just dismissed it as Ellis being infatuated with his own pseudo-physics gibberish, a feature of the book since the first issue…

plok said...

Well, it's Ellis' rule that people would go back as far as they could, not Geoff's...

But, hey, maybe somebody else did create a time machine later on, and the world ended anyway -- you're just not seeing any Planetary staff from after that happened...

Pallas said...

Oh, right, I forgot that you can't go back before time travel was invented, and they just invented it.

So you'll go back as far as you can, and as far as you can is issue 27, so we'd expect all sorts of other critters to show up.

The physics in Planetary always bugged me. In the first issue a computer programmed wrong creates infinite parallel universes or something, while there are already infinite parallel universes, aliens, ghosts, and whatnot.

I find it implausible to say the least that Planetary is the first group to develop a time machine. Their world is chaotic, perplexing, vast, and unpredictable, as Ellis would presumably throw in any weird thing he felt was cool.

I would just look at the final issue as representing the character's (pointless) personal drama, and Ellis likes the dopey quantom imagery so its the same folks repeated cause it looks cool.

Why were the Four ever a credible threat in a world where the Authority ruled anyway? I don't think coherent world building is really Ellis's thing.

Marc said...

Plok: It's not Ellis's rule, it's the rule of the guys who created a great little movie called PRIMER. I find it sadly fitting that this voracious and unimaginative series should end with one final act of plagiarism.

I'm not a fan of PLANETARY, obviously--the Vertigo issue pretty much soured me on Warren Ellis forever--but I appreciated this review a lot, Geoff. It helped me see the appeal this frustrating series held for others; perhaps more importantly, it also showed the benefit of those intervening ten years.

plok said...

Ugh, I just bought it and pretty much agree with Marc. May post on the infuriating inadequacy of its technobabble.

Anonymous said...

Marc, it's not plagiarism / PRIMER's rule - it's a well-known principle wrt this theoretical time machine.

A good review, summed up some of my feelings about Planetary too; it's the weariness that shines through, even brighter than the sense of wonder (which is still there, if a little strained).

Nick Coulter

Marc said...

Well then, Ellis is just plagiarizing somebody else. Got a name or a link?

j.liang said...

Ditto what Nick says. Ronald Mallett is the physicist whose theories involve time travel via a ring laser/circulating light beam/cylinder of light.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Mallett

From the Strange Magazine article on Mallett's book:

"There was an important limitation to his concept of a time machine, in that nothing could theoretically travel back before the machine was first activated. If such a device was turned on and kept on, future things and people could be sent back as far as when the machine was put into use, but could not visit a time before it was working."

http://www.strangemag.com/timetravel/timetraveler.html

This American Life does a great piece on Mallett in their "My Brilliant Plan" episode:

http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1227

Marc said...

Thanks! This does absolutely nothing for my opinion of Ellis, but good to know.

Daiv Whaley said...

Gentlemen (and presumably, ladies) - what's all the griping about? Mr. Ellis finished the tale, and he tied it up nicely. They rescued Ambrose Chase, and the drummer's momologue about time travel and deascription engines and how Chase's reality bubble worked was great sci-fi writing, regardless if it was "just" in a comic book or not. Could ANY of you writing here have done better for an ending, let alone have created such a refreshing and refrential and twisted story to begin with? I think Planetary is probably the best comic book ever written, as much for what is not said as for what IS said. Bravo Warren Ellis!

Geoff Klock said...

"what's all the griping about?" -- the post above covers this.

I will admit that I am not smart enough to have come up with such a "refreshing and referential and twisted story to begin with" but me and about half the people here could have ended it better, because we cared about it more than Warren Ellis did.

plok said...

Really not very good sci-fi writing at all, although I think a good deal of blame for that must lie with the artist as well.

I am happy Ambrose gets saved, but that's about it.

Andy said...

I reread the entire series over the month of October in preparation for issue 27. I feel the same way Geoff does, I wish I could have my younger self read this. After 10 years, I have seen Ellis' ticks and tricks and have become less enamored with him. His protagonists are almost always grumpy old men and he often has characters quoting silence theories who have no business doing so (Drummer excluded). But going back and rereading the old issues did remind me how great this series was back then and how much enjoyment I got out of it. The first 12 issues are amazing, the back 14 have some great moments, but nothing like those first 12. The back 14 read much better in succession, but the dismantling of the four as Geoff said is a disappointment. I doubt any of us could maintain their creative level on a sequential story of this size over 11 years.

Then there's issue 27. I don't have too much to add other than what's been said b4. I think many are reacting to the sense that in the end, there was no consequence or threat. None of three main characters really suffered. I was expecting Snow to die in exchange for Ambrose to live. And if we are to infer that Planetary has become the four and are murdering potential time travelers, then Ellis needed to drive that home a lot harder.

Final point: Let's all praise the awesome talent of John Cassaday. To watch his art go from good to amazing over these 10 years was a real treat. He has a vast imagination and a great 3d space. You feel like his characters and objects have weight and curves to them. He does great dynamic poses and facial expressions for the quieter moments. I'll try any book he draws

plok said...

I actually think Cassaday just sort of hacked it out, in this issue.

No one else had that impression?

Max said...

After buying Planetary 27, I re-read the entire series. And after seeing the ecstatic reviews on the internet, I wonder if everybody just decided to love it instead of facing what it (and the whole series) turned out to be... not much. That's why I'm glad you're one of the few reviewers pointing out the severe drop in story quality after the fourth man reveal. Because I knew it was a finite series I kept buying it to read the whole story, even though I soon started thinking it was really poor on every level (except for the art). The last ten issues or so were just... empty. Uninspired, lacking energy. At best, Planetary was an amusing analogy (especially the Wonder Woman/Green Lantern/Superman and Hulk issues), but relying on riffs of other creators work isn't much of a story, is it? So if Planetary would work at all, the war with The Four needed to deliver in spades. It didn't. Issue 26 is surely one of the most anticlimactic reads you could find. Afterwards I felt like, "That's it?" Ultimately, there was very little point to this series. There was no interesting story arc, the characters were shallow (like all Ellis characters) and the creators' gradual disinterest shone through. A waste of time and money.

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