Well it took a decade for a mere 30 issues (counting the 3 specials) to come out, but the wait was worth it. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary is one of the key comics of the last decade and unquestionably a must read for any fan of the medium.
What makes the book such a standout is the two levels the story works on. On its surface this is an adventure book about 3 adventurers dedicated to their catchphrase “it’s a strange world, let’s keep it that way”. To do so the team of “mystery archaeologists travels the world finding wonders and trying to save them from the 4, a group dedicated to hording those treasures for themselves.
This is where Planetary goes from being a merely good comic to something special. The four are clearly patterned on the Fantastic Four, who if you know your comics history, launched Marvel’s dominance of the comic stands. The FF are explorers at heart, a quartet that goes into the unknown in order to define it. In this book, Ellis instead portrays them as the death of the heroic age that came before them. An age in which the pulp heroes sought out the same sorts of wonders, but soley to have the experience, and not to define them and limit their capacity for evoking a sense of wonder.
Ellis then combines this analysis of pulp history with his archaeologists to turn the comic into a tribute what was lost. Up until the end when Ellis starts wraping up the story every issue serves as a meditation on a different part of that history. There are issues dedicated to Doc Savage, Japanese Kaiju, the Justice League, and big dumb object s.f. tales (think Rendezvous with Rama), plus many more. Ellis is always respectful of these inspirations, and Cassaday’s art, which made him a superstar, is the perfect compliment for it.
Just an incredible book.