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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 337: Planetary #12

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Planetary #12, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated January 2001. Enjoy!


Planetary #12 marks a big shift in the title, as Elijah Snow finally remembers who he is and challenges the main villains of the comic – basically the Fantastic Four – by drawing a big “4” in Central Park. So John Cassaday reverses the regular trope that we often see at the beginning of comics, with the artist “zooming in” from space toward Earth and a specific spot, as on the final few pages of this issue, he zooms out from Central Park to show us space. Panel 1 is the first time we see the entire planet (the previous page was from high above the planet, but we could still see Central Park), and then in Panel 2 the payoff begins, as we see the satellite off to the right. In Panel 3, Cassaday gets closer to the satellite and shows the “4” prominently displayed on the side. Obviously Snow’s challenge has been seen by the right people. What will happen next????

This is, of course, an example of mixed media in comics, as Cassaday uses a photograph of the Earth and inserts it into the issue. I’m always of two minds about this – I understand why artists do it, but because Cassaday actually draws the satellite, it highlights the “unreality” of the scene and it almost invariably makes me too aware that I’m reading something that has been artificially manipulated. I don’t mind mixed media in comics on principle, but personally, I think it should be done when it’s supposed to look artificial – when Kirby has the Fantastic Four go through all sorts of bizarre dimensions, for instance, the use of mixed media highlights the strangeness and works perfectly well. When it’s simply because the artist didn’t want to draw the planet, it bugs me. In this instance, the previous page was drawn, and then you turn the page to this one and you see an obvious photograph, and it’s jarring. That might just be me, though.

With this issue, Warren Ellis decided that he could end stuff on notes like this – the book just ends, rather anticlimactically given what we’ve learned in this issue, but Ellis was shifting the narrative from single-issue stories to a grander plot. That’s his prerogative!

Next: A Mike Mignola-written independent comic. But it’s not related to Hellboy! What kind of insanity is this???? Don’t worry, there’s still Hellboy-related stuff in the archives!


I thought Planetary really didn’t live up to its potential. It had a brilliant concept and the first 11 issues were a joy to read. However, Warren Ellis didn’t know what to do with it because he would raise all these interesting mysteries, hints, clues etc, and ultimately he did NOTHING with them.

There was that hologram map of the Earth with all those fascinating locations highlighted throughout. The mention of “Broken Earth A”. The Adventures of Doc Brass’ team from the early 20th Century (The Murder Colonels, the monsters under the earth, etc), “The Black Crow King”, The refugees of Science City Zero, Carlton Marvell who used the bleed to go to Mars – perhaps a parallel universe Mars. Opak-Re was a total throwaway story – is Jakita’s mother even alive – does Jakita even care. The non-explanation of the Century babies given in issue 21. The masters of the “4” who commanded them to make earth weak for the impending invasion.

There were so many cool ideas that were barely touched upon and NEVER explored.

I haven’t read Planetary in years because the story just isn’t that interesting.

cj: Tell us how you really feel! :) Obviously, I disagree with you, but that’s okay. I always liked that Ellis didn’t get into so much of the throwaway lines, because it made the world he created much bigger than just the story he was telling in Planetary. I thought it was pretty keen.

But obviously it wasn’t to everyone’s taste!

I enjoyed Planetary well enough, but I agree that I was more interested in the stuff Ellis didn’t talk about than what he did.

Hey Greg–congrats on making it nearly a full year with these! Are you going to keep it going or try something new next year?

sgt pepper: I’m going to take the year off from daily posts, because it’s really hard keeping up with them! I don’t have any good ideas for a daily series, either, so I’ll have to think about it.

Thanks for the nice words. It’s been fun.

I think you mean, “Fourshadowing”

Thank you, thank you, tip your waitress

dammit, Jeremy, you beat me to it…

cj – you’ve mentioned enough there for a few ‘Before Planetary’ miniseries…

Ellis has a tendency to end his stories on these really weird, sudden notes, even one-off issues like his Secret Avengers stories. It’s a flaw in his writing but sometimes it’s really effective.

I’ve never been a huge Ellis fan due to his dialogue (it’s people talking at people and at the reader) but his plotting is generally good — not perfect, but good.

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