Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Classics - Planetary #1

One of the best gifts I gave over the holiday was a set of Absolute Planetary books, which I was lucky enough to find for a reasonable price (and not the overinflated charges you'll find online).

It's a series that's well worth that kind of printing - something that was obvious from the first issue, cover dated April 1999.

Written by Warren Ellis, the book features the mysterious Elijah Snow. The man in white is 100 years old, has a mysterious past, a sharp tongue and (as we would discover later) some amazing abilities.

He's lured out of his hermit-like existence by the promise of the unknown. The second member of the group is Jakita Wagner, a beautiful, intelligent and powerful representative of the secret organization called Planetary, which seeks out and solves mysteries, monsters and mayhem.

Snow is the brains, Wagner is the muscle, and the third member of the team handles the tech end of it - he's The Drummer.

For their first investigation they travel to a newly-discovered hidden lair in the Adirondack Mountains. There they discover a connection to a team of heroes (well, I think they're heroes) whose roots lie in pulp magazines.

It's the kind of thing that's easy to do badly - ripping off the creations of others, making them pale images of once-great figures. But Ellis treats them with great respect and intelligence, and lets the reader enjoy their "return." (I would rave more about this part, but I don't want to spoil the surprises.)

It's a story with its roots deep in heroic literature and comics legends, all wrapped up in a remarkably clever science fiction story.

The writing is outstanding, and it would take an outstanding artist to keep up with it. Luckily, Ellis managed the perfect marriage as he teamed up with John Cassaday, and artist I hadn't seen before this issue.

His work in this issue boosted him immediately into my top ten list. My first reaction was that Cassaday was channeling Steranko, because his art has that same kind of impact, with powerful, vivid images and layouts, heroic figures, great characterization and expression, terrific action sequences - I could go on and on. He's one of the best in the business today, and I automatically buy any comic he draws.

And even more impressive: he just keeps getting better all the time.

So, if you're looking for intelligent stories with incredible art, you can't go wrong with Planetary.

But if you want the Absolute versions, start saving those sheckles - they're steep!

Grade: A+



Superman Fan Podcast said...

The first issue of this series I ever saw was #19, titled "Mystery In Space". Its cover was in the style of the classic 1960's science fiction movie "2001: A Space Odyssey". I was able to get the earlier issues, mainly through trade paperback. I still re-read it several times a year, and it never gets old.

Chuck said...

The thing about this series that I didn't mention was that whoever designed the covers did their best to hide the comic. Almost every issue used a different style for the title, and more than once I almost missed an issue because I didn't recognize it on the shelf.