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Planetary #19
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: John Cassaday

Planetary is a book with a lot going against it: It's ass-dragging release schedule makes The Ultimates look like a bi-monthly, the semi-episodic storytelling hits a lot of the pitfalls that a series of entirely standalone issues wouldn't suffer from, and when the plot lags, it's poison.

Sure, it's a damn fine book! Sure, it's breathed life into the medium! Sure, most of the issues manage a single issue plotline while somehow brilliantly building on the main arc of the story! This just isn't one of them. In fact, this is the first issue to end with those awful words no book with deadline problems should ever use: "to be continued…"

The story kicks-off with the discovery of a giant alien space… thingy… passing near Earth. Planetary spots it and sends some mute extra-terrestrial Angels (who kinda look like lanky homunculi with wire-sculpture butterfly wings) they just happen to have sitting around to investigate.

Now, if that sounds weird… well, it is.

Ellis has to spend a little while getting us acclimated to the strange notion of collaborating with alien angels, but it works, in the end. What doesn't pan out is the conversation immediately after they shoot their alien friends into the cosmos, wherein they discuss the nature of the multiverse as being built on information, which is two dimensional like a snowflake, which is the model of the multiverse as we know it and grains of sand… uh… something about the hard drives in Hong Kong... hell, it's freakin' bizarre. Sure, it adds up, in the grand scheme of things, but it's a cumbersome notion to drop in the middle of the book; especially when the rest of the dialogue is sparse and/or conversational. It's kind of like reading one of those weird Grant Morrison rants from Doom Patrol or The Invisibles, except that Morrison usually had the good sense to make the entire issue about the rant. Here, it feels like Ellis is jamming important exposition into some dead air. (Hey, they need to talk about something while those Angels rocket into space, right?)

Then there's the striking similarity this new plot bears to Ellis' final arc on The Authority (giant alien space… thingy… comes to Earth). Now, I'm not accusing Ellis of rehashing, but, when you consider that we're supposedly nearing the end of the series and consider the implications of the latter half of the issue… well, I won't go into detail, but it's a little too similar for comfort. Planetary and The Authority ARE very different books about very different teams, but they've still gone down the same paths more often than you might expect. Let's just hope Ellis does his usual job of surprising the crap out of us and turns the all-too-familiar setup into something we wouldn't expect in a million years. Well, two years, minimum.

The visuals, on the other hand, live up to everything we've come to expect from the Planetary team: Big, glorious panels, powerful compositions, and gorgeous, vibrant colors (nice to see that the cover lists colorist "Laura DePuy Martin", since the previous issue's "Miss Laura J Martin" credit confused the hell out of me). Cassaday's work is striking and evocative, as always, and the subtle details make your mouth water. Heck, they even manage a rather amusing Apollo moon mission visual reference just before they cram those aliens into their flying tin can. Of course, the best visuals occur in the latter half of the book, but, I REALLY can't go into detail without giving it all away… Just think grand, huge, massive bigness.

Unfortunately, this is an issue without an ending and, thus, it's hard to judge its merits. However, the wait between issues will be so grueling… so much pain… oh, man, that next issue better be amazing.

Of course, we'll probably look back on these days of waiting, years from now, collected TPBs in hand, and laugh out loud…

No. No, I don't believe that either.


Jason Schachat

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