Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch......two and a half hours of kicking, punching and unbelievably painful joint locks later......and I can barely feel my wrists....or anything below my knees......
For the record, I plan on putting together my best/worst of 2003, after I've finished the Planetary blog series and I've had a little more time to think about it. Of course, I can't claim to be as good as ADD or Derek Martinez, as I don't have nearly their experience (or their budget for comics). I actually have some further comments on one of Derek's final comments, but I want time to write out a fully reasoned response....it'll be part of my pet theory as to the future of comics, and in specific, the (limited) role of superhero comics therein. That will wait for another time....
Oh, and please check out my EBAY auctions. You are getting a great deal.
So, without further rambling...
The PLANETARY BLOG
PLANETARY ACT 1
includes Planetary issues #1-6, Planetary Preview and Planetary/Authority, ruling the world.
In terms of pure analysis, this is very little to consider here. Ellis, Cassaday et. al. structure the first act....like a first act. We get to know the basic personalities, and get a glimpse of what it is about, and at the end of which we are introduced to the central conflict of the piece.
This act is probably what gives the series it's "X-files" vibe. The formula of the first few issues is pretty much given away by a throway line in the second issue.
"So this is the job? Get jabbered by some half-tame lunatic, get stuffed in a chopper, go somewhere with mountains and do goddamn nothing?"
The single issues mysteries compounded by hints of larger conspiracies (i.e. the true agenda of the Planetary organization) would be enough enticement to buy the series, but it doesn't end there. Surprisingly, Ellis and Cassaday manage to evoke the wonder of some of the fogotten works of popculture and superhero fiction (The Spectre, Godzilla movies, Doc Savage, Shazam) through a synthesis of staying true to the high concept (Ellis) and beautiful artwork (Cassaday). The irony of the greatest detractor of superhero comics producing such amazing superhero tales is not lost on an attentive reader.
Even the characters themselves defy Ellis' traditional one-or two dimensional characters. Outside of possibly Spider Jerusalem, Warren Ellis has never been able to make me believe that his characters have lives "off-camera" so to speak. Yet he succeeded beyond all expectations to make me 'believe' in Elijah Snow. In this first act, we see Elijah as touching, ruthless, sardonic, bitter, self-pittying, and even whimsical, many of these emotions occuring at the same time. It is to John Cassaday's and Laura Depuy (whom will henceforth be referred to by her married name of Laura Martin) that they convey this in every thing from the character's line work (notice that the angrier Elijah gets, the heavier his outline and the linework that makes his suit. This is especially noticeable in issue #6) to his skin and eye complexion (That admittedly, is more my own personal observation, and is subject to some dispute, but it becomes more noticable as the series progresses, especially in the third act).
Jakita and The Drummer do not share in this level of development earlier on, though some of the more minor characters (Doc Brass and the Ghost Cop, specifically) are given a stronger development then their presence in the larger story might necessarily dictate.
My pet peeve is showing here, but Cassaday simply does not get the R-E-S-P-E-C-T he deserves. In my opinion, I think he is overshadowed by former Ellis co-worker Bryan Hitch. Not to say that Hitch isn't a good artist, but I think relative to Cassaday he is vastly overated. Cassady shows none of the influences or shortcuts that are noticable in Hitch's work (i.e. the Alan Davis influence or his frequent flirtation with photo-referencing), while at the same time managing to capture the moods and conventions of the genres explored in each issue of Planetary (especially the mind-blowing, insanely good-looking John-Woo style issue #3).
At any rate, the first act of Planetary rightfully ends with Elijah's "discovery" of the Four, thus beginning the second act and bringing everything we've learned in the first act together in a cohesive matter. Ellis is to be commended for ending his acts at their strongest.
And in that manner, so shall I.