Saturday, November 29, 2003

Oh, last chance to pick up the first 4 issues of the Authority and a Powers TPB from ebay
Congratulations to Janna Hickson (formerly of XXXEDYS, my undergrad engineering class) on her engagement! Best wishes. Although, coming from someone with a terminal case of bachelorhood, this may or may not be the best of blessings.

Upon some consideration, I've decided that I won't discuss ACT 3 of Planetary until I receive issue 18, which I should be able to get sometime in the new year.


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

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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'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...



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 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.

Michael Paciocco

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Let's take it from the top

The delay since my last post was caused by a need to escape my profound frustration with my jobhunt. So, I made a retreat from the internet almost entirely, cutting myself off from the comics newsites and political/news stuff in order to spend my time with the people I cared about in order to recharge myself sufficiently. I feel that a great deal of progress in terms of my emotional health has been made, and let it be known that I am back.

Of course, given the main topic of today's blog, a major delay is somewhat fitting.

Oh, new ebay Auctions here. Good comix for those whom want them.

As to today's topic:


October, 2000

Throughly bored with superhero comics at the time, yet wanting some good pulp reading material to take the edge off some truly terrible midterms, I wandered into my local comic shop in Waterloo, and absentmindedly flip through the bins.

Planetary #3. Cool cover, I think to myself. John Woo action looking. Worth a look.

Two weeks later, after finishing my midterms, I begin a manic quest to obtain the entire series, catching a handful of back issues (including issues 4,5,6, and 11), and getting the rest of my knowledge of the series from helpful websites such as this and this.

I am entranced by the sheer beauty of the series and the awe, wonder, and respect that is displayed in these pages. I knew very little of Warren Ellis before this, and what I knew, I wasn't sure I liked. I knew of his public dislike of the monopoly of superhero comics, and his rather blunt storytelling style. I even went to the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum, and found most of the people there to be, if not elitist, than at least very confident that they had gained some measure of self-worth via their choice of associations.

But there was something different here....and I admit, I didn't realize what it was until December, when I picked up the eye-opening issue #12. At this point, it all came together in a way that still moves me.

You see, Planetary is the first, and perhaps the only piece of work Warren has done that contains a multiplicity of themes and meanings. That is not to detract from the rest of his work, but while Transmetropolitan and The Authority are good books, the key themes are immediately and hamfistedly delivered. This is the first time he allows the readers to find their own meanings, which probably was a scary thing for him to do because it allowed for the possiblity that the readers and fans might have a different meaning than the one that he wants to communicate, and that their meanings would have the same intrinsic value as his own. That loss of control on his part was a very brave and risky think for him to do. Very few artists in any media are willing to concede that power, and in comics, Warren is part of a very, very, very exclusive club in that regard (In my mind, it is him and Alan Moore and that's it). However, in my mind, that gamble paid off to make this one of the best comic series, something that will hold up against Alan Moore's major works, and will definitely outlast the scores of dungheap sooperhero shit on the market.

So, what is Planetary? A look at the power and majesty of 20th century pop-fiction? A mystery? A super-powered 'X-files'? An allegory for Marvel comic's strip-mining the essential wonder and timelessness of the superheroic icon in order to provide the most common form of entertainment? A story of a group of brave men and women trying to bring wonders back into the world by tearing down the bloated and diseased giants who hold onto the secrets in order to maintain power?

That, is something you will decide as this serial blog progresses.

Good day to you all,


That, my friends is

Friday, November 07, 2003

Well, today's been lousy. It's pretty bad when the Mayor tells you to leave town to find a job.

Sorry I'm not feeling much in the mood for fresh stuff, but I found this email I sent to a friend whom was uncertain of what to expect of University dorm life. So, for those of you whom haven't experienced it, here's a fair warning;


1) Fearless leader- He's the guy who plans everything important;
parties, pranks, getting togethers. He's a social butterfly and
everyone hangs around him. The drawback is that this guy is the
first to get blamed when the pranks go wrong or the Don gets wise to
whatever's happening.

Recommended strategy: Befriend, but keep enough distance to avoid
going down with him if the shit hits the fan.

2) MacGuyver - need an extra extension cord? Duct Tape? Someone to
modify the antenna on your 9" TV so it can suddenly pick up the
Rogers cable feed in the main hall? Go to this guy, as he is
seemingly prepared for nuclear winter and has an arsenal of tricks,
gadgets, and supplies at his beck and call. (Note: This was me, and
yes, I did rig an antenna and it did somehow catch the cable

3) Zealot -Religous nutcase who follows the ethics to the annoyance
of all others. You will not win an arguement with this guy based on
his faith, so don't try. However, these people are generally
harmless, but if they try and push you around, cut them off at the

4) Star Trek guy- Every floor (especially in engineering) has one
of these.
Recommended Strategy: Again, generally harmless, but you should
probably avoid, just to save your sex life. Then again, they can be
very good people, so keep in contact.

5) Guy with the live-in girlfriend - Against all rules, this guy has
his girl shackin' up in the same room (my neighbour in my second term, not a
pleasant experience in the evenings). Generally cool, but you do
have to hate him for flaunting it so shamelessly.

6) Floor Babe - This girl lives on the next floor and for reasons
that defy logic, she hangs out a lot with the guys on your floor,
expecially Fearless leader and any important lackeys.
Recommended Strategy: Get to be her friend as she'll introduce you
to every important and worthwile girl in the building. And if she's
single, you'll face the competition of every guy in the building for

7) Computer Guy - He's got a hookup that allows him to hack into
NORAD while playing a 30 person game of Unreal tournament, and he'll
still have the time to drive you absolutely nuts about his computer
Recommended Strategy: Ask for computer advice. That's it

8) Campus Guy: Only goes to res to sleep and shower. Studies madly
and has no other life.
Recommended Strategy: Be his friend so he can help you during midterms
and finals, and get him out of the place so he doesn't snap like a

9) Horndog: This requires no explanation
Recommendation: What do you think?

Later people,


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

What's new

Thanks for those whom participated in my ebay auctions. I hope to have more for you next time.

Martial Arts practices are cancelled for the week on account of a lack of a floor. This is generally a good reason not to practice, as falling a solid story on to concrete is likely to hurt the little kids. On the plus side, I found out that I did pass my test, meaning that I'm nearly ready to take my orange belt test in January.

Tonite, I'm reading my entire PLANETARY run (excluding the god-forsaken JLA 'crossover') in preparation for my big PLANETARY REVIEW BLOG, which should be out by week's end.

Michael's Pet Theories: Byrne Syndrome

A lot of comic fans have noted and mocked John Byrne's artistic stagnacy (and degeneration, depending on the commentator). I've taken the time to look at other high-profile comic creators, and I've noted several of them suffer from variants of what I refer to as Byrne Syndrome.

These poor infected individuals include

J. M. Straczynski - that he's so pissed at the clusterfuck that happened to "Crusade" (and now "Rising Stars") that he refused to do anything progressive in Hollywood, and is slumming at Marvel.
Jim Valentino - whom at one point had Kurt Busiek on his pride and joy, ShadowHawk, and managed to screw it up.
Erik Larsen - OK, I appreciate that he's working on the only project that he cares about, but it also seems to me that he's pissed over his faux-Kirby Fanatastic Four mini-series
Howard Chaykin - who was at one point pleased by the success of the Mutant X T.V. series saying that it was a number one T.V. show, and his whole "comics are a dead medium bit". An interesting quote, considering what a truly terrible T.V. series we are talking about, the only saving grace of which was the fact that Victoria Pratt is one of the sexiest women I have ever seen.
Mark Waid - whom I guessing is very very very pissed at his frustration at not being able to save the modern incarnation of Superman, despite his many many failed attempts.
Alex Ross - OK, we get it. You like drawing superheroes. You also like taking too damn much credit. You get heavy doseages of nerd-ons. Despite the fact that you could be one of the best spokespersons for comics, you carry on in ways that would make Comic Book Store Guy from the Simpsons blush. Yeesh.
Todd McFarlane - Who carries his "too cool for comics" attitude to such ridiculous (and insulting) extremes that I'm surprised that anyone is willing to deal with him or his 'properties' (given how much he owes to the likes of Moore and Miller for Spawn's popularity, I hesitate to give him proper ownership rights. Rob Liefeld looks positively angelic next to this twit.)
Chris Claremont - Here, I'm a bit torn, because, hey, I liked X-MEN when I was in my teen years, and there's no doubt he set the standard and wrote some seriously progressive stuff....but he didn't progress very much AFTER he left the title, and when he did (i.e. Sovereign Seven), it didn't to very well in the collapsing comics market. I think he then made the decision to stick to his guns, and that choice has limited him. Here's hoping that he will try to move on and evolve his style. It seems from some accounts of his most recent work in the last year or so that he has of this list, I'm going to consider him as being 'in remission' for the time being.
Chuck Dixon - "I put three fight scenes into each and every comic I write." Great....but so what? Since when is that the sign of a good writer? More like a formulaic one.

Sunday, November 02, 2003


Sorry, no political stuff today, I've spent the weekend cut-off from that stuff to recharge my batteries.

Had a good time in Waterloo, enjoyed visiting my old friends.....

Oh, and I picked up a month's worth of comics this on to...


Amazing Spider-man #500 - Ok, I still find JMS' Marvel work to be pretty bland. The art by both Romitas, however, is pretty spectacular, and having Romita Sr. draw, no matter how small the amount, is still a good thing. On a side note, what's with all the "Dr. Strange" love going on at Marvel these days? He's the 'central' character of the rather banal 1602 project and he seems to have a major supporting role here. OK, I get it, he's supposed to be cool, he's not supposed to be the third lamest superhero (at least, according to MAXIM magazine), but making him a pivotal character in a story does not in and of itself make a character 'cool'. You actually have to well, SHOW THAT HE'S COOL. Otherwise, you're just being a bunch of injured fanboys. Sorry, back on topic now. An interesting way of doing an anniversary issue, but not one that grips the reader. To be honest, the heavy dosage of magic here takes away from the more ordinary aspects of the character that an audience can relate to. The ending strikes me as a ham-fisted way of spelling out something every Spider-man READER should know and realize, but something that Peter himself SHOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO ACCEPT. An OK read, but not a great one.

Fantastic Four # 504 and 505 - Uhm, Ok. This is different. Logical, certainly. A departure from what has been done before? Absolutely. Riveting? Your mileage here may vary. Porter's definitely has it's ups (His depiction of the Thing is one of the best I've seen since John Byrne) and it's downs (Reed's scarring seems wildly inconsistent). These issues read as being a bit padded, however, and I would have appreciated a little more content being delivered for the price I'm paying here. My (rather obvious) advice for anyone thinking about getting this is to get the UNTHINKABLE trade before this, and then see if this is what you would like. Overall, while Waid is not firing on all cylinders in this title, it is still probably the best this title has seen IN DECADES. And Waid not firing on all cylinders is still better than 95% of Marvel's monthly output.

Sleeper #9 and #10 - You are missing out one of the best monthly titles written today. Very few titles can me make say "Holy Fuck" out loud. Almost none can do it to me issue after issue. Issue #9 is mostly a clean up of the loose ends from the previous two-parter, but it does give a type of espionage story we are not used to seeing. Issue #10 begins the final scene of this first act, where we begin to see things go horribly wrong. The wonderful thing about this issue is the sheer heroism of Holden (whom I'm beginning to suspect was named in part after a certain famous literary character) on display. The type of bravery he displays is not the "must fight 1000 villains to save the city" but the "I must damn myself in order to live just long enough to get out of this royally fucked up mess". Other things, like Genocide's trully tragic origin, are just icing on the cake. GET THIS BOOK.


Empire #3

Anyone who has read super-hero comics has seen this one before; The hero, having been captured by the villain of the piece, bravely resists his captors and bides his time planing for his escape while he listens to the villain's latest plan.

Well, forget it folks. That's not what happens here.

Instead, we see Endymion (a Superman type) slowly deteriorating in captivity, in body and soul. Contrasting the daydream sequences that bookend this issue only serves to illustrate the remorse and delusions that control him, and the sense of futility and powerlessness he feels trapped under the boot of a megalomanic. Not for the first time in this series, we see that Golgoth's reign is not only a physical dictatorship, but a tyranny of the spirit, and Endymion serves not as a beakon of hope (I don't think there are any in this series), but as the embodiment of the reader's inability to change the outcome. Golgoth does come to the correct conclusion, but perhaps for the wrong reasons, and the consequences remain to be seen.

Barry Kitson does his best work in this series to date. His use of lighter pencils in the day dreams excellently convey both Endymion's deteriorated mental state and the whimsy unfocused nature of the fantasy.

This is Waid's best work. PERIOD. GET IT NOW OR YOU WILL REGRET IT.