Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The game's afoot.
"We just have to make sure we're not the game.
"No more time for games at all."
Elijah Snow has been patient.
He has been terse, grouchy and suspicious, but he has been patient, collecting all the clues he's needed to exhume his own past: the fragments which he was once robbed of. They spanned the entire 20th Century, for Elijah Snow was born on January 1st 1900 in order to protect it - to gather information and save it. Mostly he succeeded, until he failed and so sacrificed the lot.
Now he knows why he failed, how he lost it, who stole it from him, and the unspeakable horrors which they have wrought in the meantime.
Now Elijah Snow is going to stop them. And then, after that, he is going to do something very clever indeed.
For me this is the work of Warren Ellis's career to date.
Cassaday's and Martin's too.
Science fiction at its most wondrous, inclusive, mysterious and thrilling, it is meticulously composed, vast in scope, broad in appeal and spectacular to look at. It also boasts a mordant wit, with superb cadence in conversation as the three members of Planetary's field team play verbal sabres at each other's expense. It's one way of staying sane.
I told you everything you need to know in PLANETARY BOOK 1 (collecting #1-14) while giving little away.
Each chapter was a relatively self-contained mystery, approached from a different angle, to be solved with lateral thinking, ground-level detective work and the occasional forced entry or fist; each individual investigation also provided a piece to a much larger puzzle which is by now coalescing ever more swiftly, so that if I add too much more I risk clueing new readers in too quickly.
Seriously, read my review of PLANETARY BOOK 1 instead which is infinitely more coherent than this, encompassing form, structure, art, architecture and the fun of each episode being a riff on earlier science-fictions, extrapolated from and repurposed here for their specific roles in Ellis's own masterplan. While you do so, please remember that there is a vertical scroll bar between the words and interior art, for that review is twenty-four paragraphs long.
Meanwhile, a quick summary as but a flimsy excuse to present you with interior art from Book 2, followed by a few further observations.
Planetary is a covert, private organisation seeking the 20th Century's secrets. Funded by an unseen Fourth Man, they are archaeologists of the unknown, travelling the globe to unearth all the weird science which has been foisted upon the Earth from other dimensions, or which we have visited upon ourselves. Though some of their discoveries prove breathtaking treasures, few are less than horrific, yet Planetary is determined to salvage as much as they can disinter for the betterment of mankind.
Unfortunately they find themselves up against The Four, astronauts secretly launched into space in 1961 using physics developed by Nazi physicists exported to America and led by a manipulative, scientific genius in "disciplines as long as your arm". They returned... changed... empowered... and they do not have our best interests at heart.
You may have guessed from the details who they are dark reflections of. If you haven't, it truly doesn't matter. The little winks and nudges are but Easter Eggs: this is thoroughly accessible to all.
As PLANETARY kicks off, its surviving field operatives Jakita Wagner and The Drummer invite Elijah Snow to fill their recently 'vacated' third place, leaving Elijah is entirely unaware that he has been a key member for years. During the years that Snow was... incapacitated... they lost a fellow field operative, Ambrose Chase, during an assault on an experiment to create new fictional worlds. While using his abilities to create localised bubbles which manipulate universal laws of physics, Ambrose was shot and disappeared, leaving no informational trail behind him.
Here, have some suppositional science written a decade and a half ago:
"There's a theory that the universe's underpinning is information, no matter and energy. Matter and energy move in volume, but the informational capacity of the universe has been found to rely solely on surface area.
"That means that the universe is two-dimensional. Matter, energy, time, you, me and the floor are holograms. Everything in volumes is an expression of a two-dimensional plane of information."
Ah, it's all about information and coding these days, isn't it? Elsewhere and elsewhen:
"The old Aboriginal Dreamtime stories say that their ancient ancestors sang the world into being. The gate seemed to be on the same operating system."
"It's all operating systems. But you don't just shoot wild information into operating systems that big just to see what happens."
"Sure you do. I've read all about it. It's called a "virus"."
A few extra notes:
This reprints PLANETARY #15-27 plus JLA / PLANETARY and BATMAN / PLANETARY at the back. Both the add-ons are much earlier, inferior works than the rest of the material and should be read first, if at all. In all honesty I suspect that they were but corporate commercials for the more accessible central series. The latter at least boasted the benefit of Cassady art, and a reminder that Batman once looked much more like a bat. Later iterations / variations of Batman only resembled Batman. If you read those last, you will only feel anticlimactically let down, so keep glancing at the covers for each chapter as you read through to note how near you are to the real finale, #27.
John Cassady and Laura Martin:
I had far more to say in PLANETARY BOOK 1 but JLA / PLANETARY proves beyond doubt that any other interloper could only cause you to cry. Cassady and Martin are indispensible, and their never left the main series once.
The sheer range of their keen, clean excellence is unquestionable: spectacular sunrises and sunsets; quiet, one-on-one conversations while quaffing coffee, sat outside a cafe, eyes locked; digging deeper, sinking down, for something far more profound during drug-induced discourses on underlying micro-universes; then the sheer scale of an alien object passing through our solar system whose interior architecture is revealed to encompass an entire ecology as vast as any country's in merely one of its multiple chambers.
They bring some of their very best to bear on the chapter which seems to me to be a tribute both to Edgar Rice Burroughs's 'Tarzan' but also Joseph Conrad's 'Heart Of Darkness' with its own twist, as always, as well as a surprising link to another member's past. The vegetation is lush and science is shiny.
Yes, the sheer wonder of it all, reflecting the so often reprised and emphasised Elijah adage that this is a very strange world and we must all keep it that way.
Snow, as I say, was born at midnight at the very beginning on the 20th Century. That's now come to a close, but although it has left behind its scars it has also left behind surgeons.
Surgeons determined to cut out the rot, like The Four, and save the seemingly unsalvageable.
"Some Century Babies are defenders. Some are pioneers.
"Elijah saves things.
"I think he wants to save Ambrose Chase."