A GRAPHIC NOVEL/COMIC SERIES
Planetary is a comic book series whose odd name disguises an exceptional piece of fiction. It is about a group of 3 covert superheroes who investigate the hidden wonders and superhero mythology of the 20th century. Written by Warren Ellis of 'Transmetropolitan' fame the strength of this series comes from his ability to tell a gripping yet self-contained story in each issue, each of which contributes to an overall story-arc. There are no throw-away lines, unintentional references or even stilted plot explanations- the action and narrative proceeds smoothly and naturally.
Planetary is a comic book written by Warren Ellis and drawn by John Cassady. Now, I am a fan of Warren Ellis and his many products so I may be biased but I consider him to be a clever man with interesting ideas. I consider Planetary to be one of his most clever and interesting works. As inspiration Ellis draws upon nearly a century of comic-book history. The premise is that the Earth is that of the comic-book world. Strangeness abounds, just below the visible surface.
Planetary focuses on the investigative activities of a three-member team made up of some most extraordinary characters. The characters are both extraordinary in the usual comic-book way, that is to say they have powers and so forth, but they are also extraordinary in that they are portrayed in great depth. They possess clear and, more importantly, interesting personalities as well as genuine emotions. The characters are self-professed mystery archaeologists; they search the world for fragments of its secret history, the legacy of a world whose reality is a skillfully-realised merging of that of the comic-books and our own.
The episodic format of the story is also enlivening. The reader experiences only the crucial and entertaining parts, while retaining a sense of involvement in an ongoing storyline. This feeling is enhanced by the fact the Ellis has insisted on the entire series being drawn by the same artist, John Cassady. Ellis uses both old and new techniques of design and writing to give Planetary a fascinating format and layout. When this is combined with a truly innovative setting and well-realised characters we are able to read what is not only one of Ellis' best works, but also one of the best comic-book stories still being written.
Imagine if you will an earth with modern superheroes. They fly around, foil crime and occasionally save the earth. But as far as anyone can remember, they are a modern phenomena. Back in the '40's and '50's they were just imagined in comic books but now they are real, having emerged into the public eye over the years.
Suppose you are one of those superpowered types. Suppose you suspect that there is more to history than is revealed in the text books. That superheros existed in the 1920's, 30's and 40's. Perhaps earlier, but back then there was less communications and governments were better at covering things up. Indeed perhaps there are still undercover super-individuals with agendas who have yet to reveal themselves.
Then, for the sufficiently curious and conspiracy minded, you might set up Planetary- an incredibly wealthy, secretive organisation with a field team of 3 discrete supers funded by the never seen enigma- the Fourth Man. Their mandate is to uncover the secret superheroic history of the world, to be mystery archaeologists who uncover alien spaceships buried since the Triassic Period, or the exploits of 19th century Victorian savants. Government efforts to harness superpowers since covered up, smooth-talking 1960's superspies with incredible gadgets, evil conspiracies of villains who secretly rule the world- these are your stock in trade.
Then focus your attention on the primary character. Clad always in white, Elijah Snow is a grouchy 100 year old with the figure of a man half his age. His coffee is always cold and air conditioning always works for him as he exudes a freezing temperature- a side effect of his heat extraction superpowers. Happily ensconced in the middle of nowhere but without all the memories he should have, he is visited by a young woman who makes him an intriguing offer- she will make all records of him disappear and let him vanish properly, if he helps uncover the secret history of the world and his own past.
This is the Planetary concept.
Planetary latest reviews
[CaRP] XML error: undefined entity at line 70 - This appears to be an HTML webpage, not a feed.