#315- This is Why (Planetary, pt. 2)
By now, many of you have read the final chapter of Planetary, wrapped in that gorgeous Cassaday cover, so it’s time to properly finish our look back…
The first installment, which covered chapters 1-15, as well as the crossover with The Authority, can be found here. Ton of ground to cover, so let’s get started with the impressive prestige issue featuring a certain Dark Knight… Remember folks, SPOILERS AHOY, but we've got bolded titles separating each issue...
Night on Earth (Planetary/Batman)
“Forgive me if I don’t use the presence of inexpensive hookers as the yardstick of a thriving district.”
Really, just the prospect of Jakita engaging in a bit of hand-to-hand fighting/flirting with Batman would be more than enough (and it is), but having the famous Dark Knight cycle through several versions of himself in the process effectively seals the deal. Cassaday has more then proven at this point that he’s capable of drawing anything with great skill, and his impressions here are fantastic, as is the future incarnation of Batman that’s all his own. No idea if Ellis always planned for Planetary to visit Gotham City, but what would an excavation of some of the greatest characters in modern fiction be without a Batman appearance? This is a pairing that manages to easily transcend some common crossover clichés with clever plotting and inspired artwork.
Hark (Chapter 16)
“Your father was a marvelous man, not always surrounded by people of his own caliber. Like yourself.”
There were a number of ways for Elijah Snow to secure the cooperation of Anna Hark in his personal war against The Four, and both of them undoubtedly know this. Flirting with outright intimidation and bribery, Snow ultimately chooses a more thoughtful approach, offering Anna some additional details about her father’s death, and a long-awaited reunion with Jim Wilder. It’s the last bit that proves the kicker, and the smile on Snow’s face in the final shot says it all. This half of the series often featured a more kinder, gentler Elijah Snow, which most definitely provided a stark contrast to the increasingly ruthless and aggressive natures he directed at his enemies. In this case, it was obvious he knew that Hark could be made the former with some gentle nudging.
Opak-Re (Chapter 17)
“He loves us, in his own way. But part of him is a king ape that expects allegiance. And part of him is the white man who believes we are all there for him. One day, I will change his mind, for he is brilliant and valuable. But he is not you.”
Ellis has been hinting that Snow might actually be Jakita’s father for a while now, but the truth as revealed here is a bit more interesting and even tragic. Though Elijah falls hard for Jakita’s mother, she ultimately ends up having a kid with the other white dude periodically hanging around the mystical African city, Lord Blackstock. Who naturally is a bit of an asshole, and initially is puzzled that Elijah would share his bed with an African when there are English girls. So yes, it is hopelessly ironic that Snow will ultimately rescue a young Jakita from certain death, and ensure she’s raised by a family that will turn her into the ultimate surrogate daughter for himself.
The Gun Club (Chapter 18)
“CDC. He has diseases. He gives them to girls. You don’t want to know how.”
The violent and precise takedown of William Leather is a great moment, mostly because of the combination of new and old alliances that make it happen. John Stone provides the intel, Anna Hark supplies some tech, The Drummer handles the explosives, and Jakita Wagner brings the speed and power. After seeing Leather handle Jakita way back in chapter six, it was good fun watching her return the favor. Snow’s little kick at the end reminded me a little of when Cap pounds a defenseless Banner in the face with his boot in The Ultimates #5. It was funny in both instances.
Mystery in Space/Rendezvous (Chapters 19-20)
“Jacob Greene is stranded on that object. It’s on its way through and out of the solar system. The Four are now three. I’m not sorry.”
In the case of taking down Jacob Greene, the trap is even more elaborate, but Snow and company are ultimately no less successful. The major difference is that in the process, Elijah crosses a major ideological line, consciously and aggressively destroying what could be a major archeological find, in addition to marooning a trio of “angels” thatPlanetary has worked with for a number of years. Obviously, behavior like this is something more synonymous with the actions of The Four, so it’s a huge and slightly out of character decision for him, which is made clear from Jakita’s reaction to it. And from how adamantly Elijah insists that he only cares about the results of what he’s done, when his body language leading up the big explosion says otherwise.
Death Machine Telemetry (Chapter 21)
“This is archaeology, Mr. Snow. Dream archaeology.”
So in the wake of the above event, Snow seeks out scientist magician Melanctha, in an attempt to find some additional perspective, and perhaps a clue on how to proceed next in his personal war against Dowling’s crew. After she drugs him with a cup of tea, two very important things happen, one of them a revelation, and the other a word of advice. The reveal is that Snow’s true nature as a century baby leaves him in a unique position, possibly soulless, and not truly human. Snow and his contemporaries are defense mechanisms of a sort, and she advises him that his ultimate goal in life should not be to simply seek revenge, and that there are much larger things that he’s supposed to do. And so after drugs and deep knowledge rock his world, he vanishes into the cold, ready for the next step.
The Torture of William Leather (Chapter 22)
“Now you’re going to tell me where Suskind and Dowling are. Whether you like it or not.”
Under torture, William Leather gives up everything. Starting with his family’s tragic origins, which effectively melds the backgrounds of several popular fiction heroes, and presumably ending with any and everything pertaining to his super powered teammates. Lot of nice moments and action here, but what’s always given me a little shiver up the spine are the goggles that Elijah Snow places on William’s face. You know the ones I mean--- the ones that have pins lining the inside of them? Note to everyone: do not piss off Elijah Snow ever.
Percussion (Chapter 23)
“Worst. Rescue. Ever.”
Let’s talk about Ambrose Chase again. This is the leg of the series where he becomes incredibly important, and this issue, which also features the origin of The Drummer, has a fantastic sequence of him, Elijah, and Jakita all working together like a well-oiled machine. Obviously, Ellis can do big action, and I think Jakita kicking out a man’s spine, then quickly preventing a kid from getting his head blown off certainly qualifies. Which doesn’t even take into account Chase’s time distorting, or his cool guns, the kid’s final bit of business for Dowling, the escape out the window, the fall into the retrieval net of the giant plane, and Chase’s last second rescue of Elijah. Despite all my yakking about great writing and crisp dialogue, stuff like this reminds you just how powerful a visual medium comics actually are.
Systems (Chapter 24)
“Because I need you to understand everything now. There’s been a time for secrets and mystery. That time’s past.”And here all is revealed. Similar to the vibe of chapter 12, when Elijah revealed that he knew that he was in fact The Fourth Man, this timely chat with Drums and Jakita signals that it’s all coming to an end. Jakita learns who her father was, and that The Drummer knew the truth all along. Snow defends his torture of William Leather, and his relentless pursuit of Dowling and Suskind, as they hold the information he needs to find and rescue Ambrose Chase. As he very accurately points out, he’s rescued every other member of his field team at some point in their extraordinary lives, and Chase deserves no less. Anything he has to do to accomplish this is on the table. It’s a classic pep talk to find out if his people are down with him…then The Four attack the building they’re in with a giant death ray, murdering hundreds of innocent people while trying to kill the three of them. If they weren’t already with him (and they were naturally), that was a good way to make sure.
In From the Cold (Chapter 25)
“Well, if anyone was watching, John, they got a good show. I figure you’re covered.”
Just barely edging past the fantastic little sequence where Planetary “retrieves” John Stone, is the big untold tale of how The Four got their powers. To this point we’ve been given many a broken interpretation of a popular character’s origin, and that really culminates here with Dowling intentionally crossing The Bleed into the multiverse. With very little convincing, his shipmates agree to seize powers they obviously don’t deserve, and to sell out the entire population of Earth as well. So a traumatic experience in deep space is not what made them assholes at all, those personality traits apparently came pre-loaded. Combine that with a small description of what Randall Dowling can actually do with his abilities, and you have an obvious winner.
Untitled (Chapter 26)
Everything comes back around to the beginning, and then ends in absolute excellence.
“Well, I’ve been sitting here pulling together everything we know, and everything we’ve done…and it’s really simple. Make that work. You’ll see.”
“I’ve seen heaven, Dowling. And it’s not a place where you exercise any power.”
“We’re mystery archaeologists. And the last mystery I have to share with you is buried very deep. And it’s a really, really good one.”
“We could agree to work together on planetary defense. Save the world. What do you think?”
“You think this world matters so much, don’t you? There are millions of Earths. Millions. It’s an accident of birth that puts us here, nothing more.”
“Look around, Mr. Snow. A crew of superhuman ancestors of the City Zero survivors, saved by you and Miss Hark to pilot a sailing ship of the multiverse itself. A fine time to be alive: strange and beautiful, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
“Your agents are dead. You are not welcome. Leave us alone. This is your only warning.”
“You’re thinking like Dowling. Shoot something. Destroy something. That was his concept of power. Knowledge towards destruction. Me? I discovered and saved these people, located a lost ship of the Bleed and pulled it from its tomb. Archaeology.”
“Just one loose thread to take care of. One last thing to take from the soil of the 20th century. And then we spend the rest of our very, very long lives on that strange world we love. Keeping it that way.”Untitled (Chapter 27)
“It’s a strange world, Drums. Did you think for a minute that I wasn’t going to keep it that way? Turn up the power, boy. We’ve got an audience now. Bring our man home.”
I will always love great time travel stories. It is the one facet of science fiction that fascinates me the most, so it was very cool to see Ellis and company construct and power a time machine to retrieve Ambrose Chase. Having the stasis field that Chase created around himself actually power the machine was only one of a number of neat touches in this final installment. Couple others were Drums channeling his inner Elijah, Jakita’s fears that the grand adventure is now over, and the Planetary organization quickly improving every area of human life. Obviously, the biggest moment of the piece is watching dozens of iterations of Snow, Jakita, and Drums emerge from time portals, all bearing witness to the rescue of Ambrose. Who also emerges from the future to join his compatriots, but does so without spoiling the big surprise. Great conclusion to a great series, that ultimately concludes on a highly emotional note, with everyone together once again, and truly ready for the next big adventure.
Congrats to the entire creative team for finishing as strongly as they began, and for creating something that will stand as an undeniable classic for years to come. Again, I encourage everyone to re-read the series from beginning to end, as the pacing and development of the characters and central mysteries comes through much clearer. Might have a few additional thoughts in the future once I put everything away, but at this point, all we can do is wait for DC to reprint the first Absolute and hit us with the long-awaited second. Thanks for dropping by, and hope you enjoyed the series as much as I did. Boards are open for any further thoughts, as always.
Planetary, by Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, and Laura Martin---this is why I love comics.The Fiction House