Saturday, December 20, 2014

Planetary Vol. 3 Leaving the 20th Century Hardcover Review

Planetary Vol. 3 Leaving the 20th Century
DC Comics - Wildstorm
144 pages
$75.00 (2014) Omnibus
$75.00 (2010) Absolute Edition Vol. 2
$24.95 (2004) Hardcover
$14.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781840239768

Contributors: Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, Laura Depuy (later Laura Martin), Richard Starkings, and Bill O'Neill

Reprints: Planetary #13-18
Elijah Snow assails the summit of a creepy castle

Synopsis: Elijah Snow was a mysterious recluse until he was recruited into the Planetary organization as the third man on their field team.  Snow has uncanny abilities and is a rare 'century baby' born on January 1, 1900.  That makes him...really old, but surprisingly spry.  He was an adventurer in his younger days and has significant, unknown memory gaps.  Jakita Wagner, perpetually bored superwoman, personally recruited Snow and the other member of the field team is The Drummer, technology savant and grunge rock burnout.  Planetary is a semi-covert group of modern archaeologists focusing on uncovering the secret history of the world.  They seek to wrest knowledge from clandestine organizations coveting alien technologies, extra-dimensional objects, ancient supercomputers, and more.  The organization is funded by the anonymous Fourth Man.

Snow visits a certain address on Baker Street in London
Planetary has run afoul of the Four, the most powerful superhumans on the planet and the secret manipulators of the world.  They enjoyed toying with Snow before his memories returned, but now he knows who the Fourth Man is and nothing will ever be the same.  We learn of Planetary's history with the Four and what really happened to Snow's memory.  The Four are brutal adversaries and willing to commit genocide to further their goals (or store their weapons), but not above playing with their food.

Snow's memories have started surfacing and we learn of his first encounter with Sherlock Holmes.  The famous detective was embroiled with a group calling itself the Conspiracy.  They ran the 18th century as the Four run the 19th century.  In a modern adventure the Planetary field team interferes with an experiment to access the Dreamtime by the Four causing some spectacular results.  Later Snow meets with the head of the Hark Corporation and wants to parlay a truce.  We learn the secret history of the Harks.

In a secret jungle there exists somewhere the lost city of Opak-Re.  Elijah Snow traveled there and became familiar with its citizens.  A self-sufficient and ancient society, the natives were super-intelligent and highly protective of their ethnic purity.  What happens when a young adventurer falls in love with a beautiful princess?
The Harks are a long family of martial arts masters

An object falls to Earth after 150 years in space.  How did it achieve this incredible orbit 100 years before the invention of rocket propulsion?  More importantly, what are the secrets of 'The Gun Club'?  We see the past and present of the Planetary organization.  They are running headlong into a monstrous confrontation with the Four, but the last scuffle ended in disaster years ago.  Snow's memories are still jumbled and will this time be any different?

Pros: Cassaday's art continues to be wholly incredible, Ellis writes intriguing history and adventure pieces, more secrets are revealed (including Jakita's origin), we get some actual character development, Victorian group the Conspiracy were interesting, lots of cool homages to various pop culture icons/genres (each issue's cover theme and log change to match the different genres)

Cons: Resolution to the Dreamtime episode seemed unrealistic (I don't think the Four would actually tolerate Planetary's direct interference while they were present), final issue to this volume was bland ('The Gun Club')

Mike Tells It Straight: This third volume of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary (here are reviews of the first and second volumes) is quite possibly the best yet for the series.  It's difficult to top the second volume's reveal in the final issue, but the reader is treated in this third volume to quite a few important pieces of Planetary history.  Art by Cassaday is top notch and Ellis puts in great writing as the main story progresses amid various flashbacks.
Elijah Snow cock blocks super-spy John Stone

One of the main themes of the series has been paying homage to various fictional pop culture genres (previous volumes covered Golden Age comic book heroes, Godzilla movies, and John Woo action films) and we're treated to a few in this volume.  The Conspiracy are an homage to Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Victorian age fictional heroes (Sherlock Holmes actually says the world 'extraordinary' when talking to Elijah Snow).  Additionally we have a pulp adventure story (Lost City of Opak-Re) with the character of Lord Blackstock (a Tarzan ripoff) and medieval Chinese Kung-Fu movies (Hark).

I liked the balance of prior history mixed with current events in this volume.  The reader gets to know Elijah Snow the adventurer and the events leading up to his memory loss.  The Four play a pretty big role in these stories, but they're not the main focus.  We finally get a little character development for Jakita Wagner and Drums.  I'm not sure this trade collection fits the typical six-issue story arc from previous volumes since the final issue ('The Gun Club') was a filler issue.  This series continues to be a great adventure and each issue is a new revelation.  The art and writing are a perfect complement (although the characterization is pretty bland).  Definitely looking forward to the next, final volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations: