Saturday, November 29, 2003

Another ordinary week in the life of the unemployed....

Oh, well, at least I'm starting to catch up on my blogging.



includes Planetary issues #7-12 and Planetary/Batman crossover

I include the Planetary/Batman one-shot in here because it ties in thematically to this act, and in terms of continuity it would seem to occur somewhere within this span of the regular series.

Without a doubt, these are the strongest issues of the series to date if for no other reason then the strength of the plot work. There are two main themes in this act: Who is the Fourth Man/Who are the Four? As we find out, we must solve the latter to truly arrive at the former.

Already, we see some significant changes from the first act. As opposed to the "done in one" approach used in the first act, we see the plot tighten as we learn more about the Four, and their subtle (and not so-subtle) actions. Our knowledge stems for a series of first hand accounts of their atrocities, and some imaginative flashbacks (particularly issues 8-10, and the inference of City Zero in the Batman crossover book). Of course, what we see is the Four essentially strip-mining the inherent wonders of 50's sci-fi (issue 8), modern science fiction and philosophy (issue 9) and superheroic fiction (in the incredibly sad and moving issue 10). Even those with a passing knowledge of the concepts in this issues is made to see clearly the impact of such losses.

Secondly, in this act, we start to get some insight into Jakita Wagner, though it is still relatively sparse. Issues 7, 9 and 12 lead us a long way into getting a glimpse of the mindset of this character. Though she is still easily viewed as the "action junkie", we can also see in her interactions with some of the other minor characters that such a lifestyle has isolated her. An interesting and subtle point from Ellis: Is it power, or just the willingness to use it that truly creates isolation?

However, again the focus is on Elijah. To a man like him, having to view the grisly evidence of what the Four have accomplished is a torment that truly ignites him, and in that, we see a transformation slowly take place as he comes to terms with what has passed, climaxing in the absolutely mind-expanding issue 12. I really can't understate how cohesively it ties together at this point. Ellis creates a tapestry that spans 20th century popculture, and even touches on elements of earlier work.

Again, John Cassaday shows us why he is one of the modern masters. In this set of issues, his style is clearly put to it's best uses as he gets to create brief but dazzling views of the bizzare universe he and Warren created. Whether it is the grimmy streets of London or a magic alien landscape, Cassaday makes it convincing.

While issue 12 is the big reveal and the climax of this act, issue 10 is the centrepiece. It is in seeing the depths of the Four's depravity that ultimately leads us on Elijah's journey of self-re-discovery that results in the revelations of issue 12.


Michael Paciocco

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