Friday, October 24, 2014

Review # 144: "Planetary"

"Planetary" is a love letter to pop fiction. From superheroes to monster movies to spy thrillers, it touches on so much. But instead of leaving things as they are, writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday take to the project like master chefs. They offer a classic flavour with a bold new twist: What if all these wonders existed in society, yet were hidden from the public eye? Such is the heart of the Planetary organization: documenting the "true" history of the world.

From DC heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern to Marvel icons like Thor, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four, the reinterpretations of "Planetary" are brilliant. Seen through the eyes of superhuman archeologists Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer, fictional worlds become a lot more frightening. Particularly Ellis' version of the Fantastic Four, distorted reflections of their original selves.

I never expected to find an angle of horror in Marvel's first superteam, but Ellis manages to shine a spotlight directly upon how dark they could be conceptually. Impressive, since he beat Mark Millar to the punch who did the same thing a few years later in the introduction of Marvel Zombies. "The Four" here are a nightmare. Malicious and remorseless, they're the reason why this segment of DC's multiverse is as bleak as it is. Simply put, these are some of the most chilling villains I have come across in a comic. That's impressive.

"Planetary" is not limited to an examination of superheroes. How does Dracula fit into this universe? Sherlock Holmes? James Bond? Tarzan? Godzilla? They're all there. It's an "anything goes" mentality. Each concept is broken apart issue-by-issue, and can be read individually or as part of the greater whole. Again, it's amazing how Ellis approaches these ideas from a different angle. A group visits Monster Island, seeing the remains of giant beasts and walking through them; Dracula and Sherlock Holmes in the same place for a plausible reason within the fiction; It's mind-blowing.

And then there's Cassaday's art. I'm a big fan of his work, and this omnibus - which covers years of material - shows his progression from great artist to one of the best. Comparing his work on faces in particular. For my money, Cassaday is the best in the business when it comes to that department and seeing marked improvements in his style is a joy.

I recommend "Planetary" heartily. It will change the way you think about many-a-character you've seen before.

Rating: 10/10

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