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Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!
Today we look at Planetary #7, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s tribute (is that even the right word for it?) to John Constantine.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the set-up of Planetary, the book revolves around a group of “Archaeologists of the Impossible,” a team of specially-skilled folks who investigate strange goings-on to discover what the deal is (and if they can learn anything that could benefit mankind as a whole). Under this set-up, while there is a basic overarching plot for the series, each issue also sort of stands on its own, with Ellis and Cassaday doing their own particular take on a piece of pop culture history (like they might do an issue on a character who is basically Tarzan, or an issue on a character who is basically Doc Savage).
In Planetary #7, the crew learns of the death of John Constantine…sorry….Jack Carter…
then go to England to investigate…
This issue came out at the very end of the 1990s, and in it, Ellis takes an interesting perspective on the 1980s, and the proto-Vertigo characters of DC Comics, which included Constantine, of course, but also had Swamp Thing and Animal Man in their ranks…
As you can see, that’s Alan Moore above.
After that sequence, Ellis and Cassaday have a very strong short Carter story, set in the past. Powerful stuff.
Then, in a comic that is very much meta-fiction, Ellis has the killer revealed as a prototypical superhero (although more specifically, he is certainly referencing the way Alan Moore turned Marvelman into much less than a traditional superhero) who is sick of writers doing post-modern things to him (with Carter standing in for these pre-Vertigo writers)…
Of course, there’s at least one major twist coming (and one major meta-fictive twist, especially!).
This was a sharp comic book by Ellis and Cassaday, and it was especially remarkable for how pointed its commentary was while still actually telling a compelling story. Planetary was a great series, but there were particular issues that worked better than others (makes sense, with the disparate group of characters being spotlighted), and this is one of those issues that worked better than others.
It is collected in the second volume of Planetary, “The Fourth Man.”
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