In the interest of full disclosure I must confess that Planetary is my favorite comic series of all time. I will do my best not to let this run of reviews become pure homage to the Warren Ellis/John Cassaday altar of comicdom.
Thus we begin the new (and improved?) Bin Fodder. It seemed only fitting to kick it off with a book I am very passionate about. Bin Fodder originally started out as a way for me to bring comics of an unknown or at least a lesser-known quality to a new audience. This will still very much so be a part of what I am doing but I will no longer be so stringent in keeping to this mindset. Thus, I shall start by reviewing Planetary (not to be confused with Planet Terry) which was one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved books ever produced by Wildstorm/DC.
It’s possible that the love for Planetary waned for the majority of readers when the wheels fell off the proverbial train when it came to produced content. But the quality of the product didn’t ever diminish. If anything it improved with age, like a fine wine. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let us start where all things do, in the beginning.
The tagline on the very first issue of Planetary says, “Archeologists of the Impossible”. Such is a clear and concise summation to the endeavor of the characters in the series. With a series as intricate and far-reaching as Planetary I chose not to break up the volumes of my review in the way they have broken up the series in collected editions. For this first installment I will break you in and go up through issue six, the first real arc of the story involving Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer.
One of the beautiful things about the Planetary series is that whereas there is an overall story in play, along with several mysteries playing throughout (such as: who Elijah really is…where Jakita comes from and what her connection to Elijah is…what The Drummer is; yes, that’s a what, not a who) but each story is a microcosm of the DC/Wildstorm universe. All the weird stuff in the world is real, and this team of explorers unearths them.
“It’s a strange world, let’s keep it that way.”
In issue one we are introduced to Elijah Snow. He is a century baby (like Jenny Sparks of Authority fame, and a host of other heroes) who has control over cold, which may sound vague but his powers are really the limit of your imagination. We also meet Jakita Wagner who is “the muscle” of the team. She has incredible speed and strength beyond measure. She likes beating things up because it keeps her from getting bored. The Drummer is the technological side of the team. He understands information.
The first issues span a wealth of incredibly cool situations. The team discovers a hidden base in the Adirondack mountains built by heroes from the early 1900’s They travel to Monster Island in northern Japan where the creatures from Godzilla movies are real and all but extinct, their corpses still rotting away on the island. And they travel to Hong Kong where they meet a ghost and discover the true meaning of the afterlife.
In issues four through six the team uncover a shift-ship buried deep within the earth (and Ellis plays with the idea of what really wiped out the dinosaurs), Elijah attempts to uncover the truth of what the Planetary organization is really all about while the reader gets more insight into the secret events of the early twentieth century. Issue six introduces the enemy of Planetary, simply named “The Four”.
The Four are Ellis’ adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, gone evil. In this version The Four have been harboring technology and knowledge from the world at large. Not for profit or anything so passé as that, it’s simply to keep themselves superior to all the lesser people. The reader learns the secret history of The Four and how they were involved with the darker and much more advanced space program not known to the public.
The kicker of issue six is that Elijah starts to realize that who he thinks he is and what he knows about his past is not entirely true.
As I wind down this initial delving into the world of Planetary I feel inclined to tell you of another change in Bin Fodder. During multi-part reviews of books there will be no longer be grades for the individual sections, but rather a grade for the entire book upon review of the last section. Thus, you will see no grade at the end of this review, though, sufficed to say, you can be assured of what my final grade will be here.
This is your Bin Fodder Guru Tim Blacksmith signing off.
Playlist: Less Than Jake – “Mostly Memories”, Shiny Toy Guns – “Starts With One”, Gameface – “The Problem With Me”, Saves the Day – “Shoulder to the Wheel”, Incubus – “Under my Umbrella”, Sense Field – “No Longer Now”, Chevelle – “Forfeit”, Zoli Band – “Walk Away”, Longwave – “Here it Comes”, R.E.M. – “Half a World Away”, Stabbing Westward – “Control”
….I AM THE FOURTH MAN!
Shhhhh….you’ll ruin the surprise!