I found an old letter I had sent to Warren Ellis upon the release of Planetary #26 (#27 was still in production):
Dear Warren, John, Laura, Richard, Scott and Jim:
What can I say? Planetary #26 is the book I’ve been waiting for all of my life – and I mean that. I’m going to purchase Absolute Planetary so that I can pick up some other things that weren’t elaborated upon in my readings.
So…let me just say that this book should be mass-produced, bought by every school on this planet, translated into whatever language comic book font can handle, and sent home with every child of reading age. THAT’S HOW GOOD THIS BOOK IS. The learning curve on this issue isn’t steep at all. You start with our heroes (even though I’d hesitate to note that Snow, et al, wouldn’t refer to themselves as such) doing something that could totally be their undoing, yet, they forge ahead. We’re introduced to the villains of the piece. A confrontation ensues. The bad guys take the bait, believing themselves to have the upper hand. Fearlessly, the heroes outmaneuver, outsmart and outwit the villains – and then use them to warn off an even worse threat! Fantastic! And the adventure has only just begun.
Now, I was so juiced reading this book, I had to go back and read #s 21-22 for some recent back story, but I’m going to pull out stuff from my memory…
Let’s start with the Planetary Preview – I guess the Four were confident that David Paine wouldn’t regain some sense of self and rewrite himself some wings or something, eh?
Number one has so many gems, I’ll just say that OF COURSE Elijah’s not just sitting in some desert dive swilling rancid coffee – but who knew? Snow knew. What planning!
Number two – an example of man despoiling nature, perhaps?
Number three – now, as I re-read #21 this morning, the part regarding the ghost cop was interesting – did the cop actually not witness the same thing that Snow did, or did he say that there was nothing but the physical life so that the evil ones would despair? Maybe we’ll find out in #27.
Number four – a very key issue. I know I’d sent in a letter wondering…just where was that bloody shiftship? Just think of The Bridge from Houses Of The Holy for what I call my clever aside…but I never picked up that the whole robbery looked…suspect.
Axel Brass was the focus of number five, and one of the people Elijah needed to acquire to cement his eventual victory against the Four, who of course, were the focus of issue six (now I need to go back and check Leather’s questions to Snow again).
Seven was a nice homage to both John Constantine and Spider Jerusalem (nice color by David Baron, by the way), not to mention the magickal and mystical folk.
Number eight should have been one of those issues that I should have realized wasn’t just you playing with genres…you clearly identified the future pilots of the shiftship! Fantastic!
Well, not-so-lucky number nine. Considering what’s happened this issue, I’m looking forward to seeing a very interesting family reunion soon (flying figures and all).
Issue ten was chilling – what the DC Universe could have been without their top three defenders of justice. So casually done, their demises…
I love Nick Fury, and I adore Jim Steranko’s sensibilities, so it was tres cool to see John Cassaday work his magic upon that issue. Even better was the (almost verbatim) rehashing of the scene in StormWatch #46 (yes, I have a LOT of Ellis material – the man is GOLD!), though I’m sure televangelists are still screaming about you evaporating their base of non-thinkers. Oh boy…that last panel – “I know who the fourth man is”.
So you can only imagine how that wait for number twelve was…I made that my desktop for a while (the clean Snow version without the issue representation (how much planning did it take to reproduce the first eleven issues as a backdrop?) until that book came out. Once again, a chilling last panel (the Four’s satellite, looming in space with the ice “4” reflected in its surface. Nice.
We’re treated to nasty versions of the Frankenstein monster, Dracula and Sherlock Holmes in number13 – great referencing of Doyle’s original wishes for his creation.
Now here in issue fourteen, you really got me thinking…Thor, Miracleman (would you be interested in finishing that?) the X-Men and (I know this must really make you and Grant go nuts) what people will call the Matrix scene – like all that wasn’t done before! I need to go back and try to reference some of the weapons. This issue is important in that Leather is not invulnerable, and also when Snow has his first victory/failure against the evil Randall Dowling.
Number fifteen introduces us to Ambrose’s family, and also to the Four’s desperation in attempting to access the Bleed. Nice work in explaining the dreamtime, though I was hoping for more Carlton Marvell. But I guess he’s busy on Mars…
Hark – is that number sixteen? Great juxtaposition between Hark’s physical battle and the psychological battle with Snow, but the most touching scene was between Anna and Jim.
Blackstock, Blackstock…oh, what a bad boy you’ve been. You just couldn’t resist Elijah’s little darling – but the world is lucky Elijah has a kind heart. Otherwise, we wouldn’ve been treated to the likes of Jakita Wagner.
Mix in a little Jules Verne, a tad of 2001, and stir with a healthy dose of vengeance…and you get something close to The Gun Club. And his first real victory against the Four…but it doesn’t stop there…
..because in numbers nineteen and twenty, we are witness to wonder and madness all at once. The angels. The worldship of the planetary devourer. And Jacob Greene. Wow. Can I say that, given his expertise, we may have NOT seen the last of Greene? We’ve still an issue to go…
Twenty-one featured a consultation with Melanctha, the scientist (magic is merely unquantifiable science, yes?), where she broadened his horizons in regards to his origins and his true mission in the world. I also thought that she actually illustrated how to remove Dowling and Suskind right at the beginning of her visit (the fingernail in the teacup, along with her description of the microverse – she was hinting to him to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID – don’t try thinking of some amazing way to outsmart Dowling – because you can’t, thanks to his abilities); I’m also going to read some of Richard Feynman’s writings (have you read Martin Gardner’s The Ambidextrous Universe?).
The Torture of William Leather – number twenty-two is a book I can read over and over again. Ellis wasn’t kidding when he mentioned just how rich the history is; it was just the timing. Warren and John have created the foundations for some fantastic nuanced ideas for entertaining a new generation, and I for one am glad for it. The Dead Ranger (what do you mean we, paleface?); Bret’s Dark Arachnid (did he ever get a name?); the possibilities are endless!
Well, we had to wait twenty-three issues to learn the origin of the Drummer, but that’s just the way it works sometimes (Warren definitely paced out the series with mysteries in mind; we don’t find out anything until it’s necessary to do so); and this story is no exception. Just fantastic is the witty repartee between Ambrose and Elijah.
I guess things were getting a tad dicey in Dowlingland, because he just lasered one of the Planetary buildings to its foundations in number twenty-four…but it is there that we learn a very important distinction in regards to the Planetary Guides – Elijah didn’t write down EVERYTHING…after all, where’s that bloody shiftship? You’ll recall back in number fifteen, the one thing Dowling hasn’t mastered is the Bleed, and so he’s trying everything he can without really acknowledging the fact. But it’s become abundantly clear that his frustration is overriding his caution. Why else try the Big Bolt From The Blue?
Number twenty-five is a pivotal issue, as we learn exactly how the Four obtained their myriad abilities. We also get the return of John Stone, though he’s not quite so happy to be back. So much in this issue…I told myself, “There’s no way Ellis and Cassaday can top this issue”.
Little did I know…that number twenty-six would hit me like a blue whale from Uranus. I can’t stop talking about this issue. It’s really made an impact on me (yes, I know, it’s a bloody comic-book story – get over it, man), but it really hits home. If I ever had any notion of not staying the course when it comes to saving the world, they’re dead and buried (of course, they’ll just come back as weeds, right?); because the world is too beautiful to let the scumbags have their way. That, I think, is the message Elijah’s been hammering at us all this time.
The world must be protected, whether it’s Monsanto, Halliburton, or just idiots logging the Amazon rainforest (“well, when the ecosphere dissipates, I won’t be here”… how about your descendants?!?); the world is beautiful, and we have to do our part. Warren, John, Laura, Richard/Bill, John/Scott and Jim have done their bit. What will you do?