Thursday, July 2, 2009

Planetary Vol. 2 - The Fourth Man

Planetary Vol. 2 - The Fourth Man
By Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

When I first settled in to read Planetary Vol. 1, I did not know what to expect, I only knew that my expectations weren't high. Though I liked a good deal of the Warren Ellis work I had read, his work on the edgy-and-epic The Authority left me cold. For whatever reason, I had the impression that Planetary was a kindred spirit to The Authority.

Turns out they're nothing alike. For one, Planetary is awesome whereas The Authority isn't.

But I digress.

After reading volume one, the reader gets the distinct impression that there is a larger story at work here. Sure, each of the six issues in that collection was a standalone, but each also dropped a little hint at a broader tapestry. Secret histories. Character backgrounds. Conspiracies. A bigger story. It was not unlike Hellboy in that respect.

Though again dishing out an array of six unique standalone stories, The Fourth Man makes clear that Planetary absolutely has a larger narrative, and that if we keep reading we're going to peel back all sorts of interesting layers from this big, tasty onion. Even moreso than the superb quality of these tales -- these six almost all knock it out of the park and to a story are better than the first volume's -- it is the idea that something larger is at work that has me eager to keep reading.

Which isn't to say the stories wouldn't still be awesome as a series of one-shots, because damn are they good. Ellis takes all sorts of geeky cool stuff like '50s sci-fi movies and classic superhero comics and more, shoves handfuls of magic mushrooms down their throat, and turns them into something familiar yet alien. It's like an bad dream, only it's an awesome bad dream from which you never want to wake. A killer twist on those giant insect movies, complete with Red Scare secret government projects. What would really happen to the Justice League arose in a dark and sinister world of conspiracies. Snow coming to realize who and what he is.

This is wall to wall great.

Consciously or not, word of mouth that is too good often results in me scoffing, sometimes even hoping to dislike Flavor of the Moment. All that gushing and fawning and "you've got to read this!" makes me a bit ill, like when you drink too much and then have a five-egg omelet and then try to swim the English Channel. And with the final issue of Planetary announced just before I started reading this, the buzz was building. I was ready to break out the Pepto. Sickness time approached.

But it passed. I get it. Planetary is, like, really good and stuff. So, like, I totally get it. 'Cause it's awesome.

Read my regular, everything-and-anything (usually on writing and music) blog right over here.

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