Planetary: All Over The World And Other Stories

Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by John Cassaday with Colours by Laura DePuy

Published by DC/Wildstorm

Planetary-Vol1Cover

Nowadays Warren Ellis is New York Times best selling crime novelist who is far too busy to write comics. This is to comics great detriment. For a period at the turn of the millennium I would argue that he was the best mainstream comic writer in the world. This comic and its semi companion piece The Authority* are my evidence.

The book opens in the late 90’s with a grizzled old man, dressed in white from head-to-toe, complaining about the coffee in a run-down diner. He’s getting recruited by a tall, dark-haired woman in a leather coat. His name is Elijah Snow and he is as old as the century. Jakita Wagner wants him to join her three-man team of Mystery Archaeologists and aid the Planetary Organization in uncovering the secrets hidden beneath the surface of the world.

PlanetaryDogleakcoffee

“Dawgs gotta go someplace.” Ellis is at his usual snarky best with the dialogue and the hard-bitten characters he creates. I think he is the best around at naming his characters too-Elijah Snow, Jenny Sparks, Paul Moses, Miranda Zero-many have traditional first names tied to a noun as a surname. It works at creating strong characters.

Ellis creates an amazing world filled with apocryphal secrets and hidden wars. Each of the issues here takes a familiar trope from popular Pulp/Sci-Fi culture and weaves it into the tapestry of this story. The world seems so rich and deep, for everything we learn there is obviously much that we will never know. But it’s not just the World that has secrets. Who is the Fourth Man in Planetary? Why does no-one seem to have been there longer than four years?

Planetary5Secrets

The art in this book demonstrates why John Cassaday is one of the biggest artists in Comics. He has a thick strong line to his art yet can also manage a wispy etherealness. And his panel selection is great. I love the change of camera angles and shots in the page above. Plus his action scenes kick arse.

Planetary-GhostCop

Re-reading for this review I came to a great appreciation for the craft of both creators, the pure technical skill. Because I only read trades (collected editions) I don’t often get a sense of individual issues, more the story as a whole. Here each issue is a separate case while still moving the over arching story along, the team are all subtlety introduced each issue, everyone is drawn distinctly there is room in each panel to discern the action. This all adds up to great story telling.

*I found it interesting to read, while the team are unearthing a mysterious tower of information under the streets of Hong Kong, the ghost cop refers to it as God. At the same time in the pages of the Authority, Ellis was writing God as an enormous entity, larger than the moon, returning to cleanse Earth of its infestation by humanity.

Should I buy it? If you would like to get a taste for some excellent pulp/action stories or you just like rad comics, Planetary is highly recommended.

Next time: Desolation Jones wraps up the Month of Ellis with a bleak look at a private investigator, twisted by military experiments and masterfully drawn by J.H. Williams III.

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5 Responses to Planetary: All Over The World And Other Stories

  1. This and The Authority appear to be Ellis’ seminal works – Transmetropolitan is too divisive – and I have shamefully read nothing of neither. If you had to choose one, and you now do, which would it be?

    • Damn, now that is a hell of a tough question.

      Planetary has such depth and makes me want to read classic pulp novels, old Kirby comics and watch Japanese monster movies.

      But the Authority is the sharpest and for me just flat out most enjoyable take on superheroes I’ve ever read. And I think that fun factor gives them the edge. Also because Ellis did a lot fewer issues, it feels as if it has unused potential, storytelling fuel left in reserve.

      Ok, that was a wickedly good question. I might have to investigate it further.

      Thanks man.

      • No, thankyou for the answer. I now know which one I’ll have to look out for in All-Star next time I have a quiet week.

        Thankfully though he was able to write both and I will eventually read both; reality applying no such restrictions. It is a shame that he doesn’t appear to have that kind of freedom to juggle projects anymore and from the sounds of things will be sticking to prose for a while, already hard at work on his next novel.

        Will you be making a similar shift anytime this month and reviewing his non-comic material? Will be interested to hear the thoughts of a fan on Gun Machine.

  2. Rui Esteves says:

    Great review Joe.

    I love all you pointed out. The art, the episodic story telling, the awesome characters, the snarky dialogue. I still believe he is the best comic book writer out there.

    Now that you talk about Miranda I have to re-read Global Frequency.

    • I am bummed out I couldn’t fit Global Frequency into the Month of Ellis. He just has too many great comics. It’s a hell of a great comic and I will definitely get around to writing about it this year.

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