Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reviewing "Planetary" #27

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 3:57 PM

The gatefold cover for Planetary #27
  • John Cassaday
  • The gatefold cover for Planetary #27

“Let me check to make sure we still have some,” said the voice on the phone. My heart sank. I'd completely spaced the fact that Planetary #27—the very last issue of Planetary ever—was scheduled for an Oct. 7 release. I was more than a week late and certain that one of my favorite works of serialized fiction would be sold out and my life would be incomplete until the first used copy showed up on ebay.

After a long silence the voice returned. “We've still got a big stack of them,” I was told and so I hung up without so much as a thank you and was out the door headed for Memphis Comics & Collectibles.

Now, what you have to understand is I'm not the kind of fanboy geek who calls the comic book shop to

snake.JPG
  • John Cassaday
see if his favorite title is in. Well, I'm not usually that kind of fanboy geek. But Planetary is something different. It's not just a clever bit of speculative fiction turning classic conspiracy theories and superhero stories upside down. Nor is it a followup to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen set at the turn of the 21st-Century. It's a revelatory celebration of popular literature, film and funny books. With extraordinary art nouveau-inspired illustrations by John Cassaday and Warren Ellis' high concept storytelling it plays out like a Hong Kong action movie based on string theory, featuring guest spots by Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Mothra, Tarzan, James Bond, Thomas Edison,(DEEP BREATH) The Lone Ranger, H.G. Welles, The Green Hornet, Dracula, the 40-foot woman, the ants from Them, and a re-imagined version of every great superhero that ever walked, stomped, or flew through a child's imagination.

When I arrived at Memphis Comics I was surprised to discover that there really was a huge—HUGE— stack of Planetary comics still on the shelf. Thing is, this WildStorm (now DC) title has always been published erratically. It's taken 10-years to get 27 issues, and the last one was three years in the making. Expectations were sky high and fans are rabid. I plunged into the mag right there in the store... and was terribly let down. Planetary 27 isn't a great issue. It's a sentimental farewell party full of big ideas and beautiful artwork including an amazing gatefold cover. But that's it. And although the
Breakfast of the Gods
  • Breakfast of the Gods
story's creators mine nostalgia, sentimentality is never what I expect from the creative team that turned Captain Marvel into a paranoid murderer trying to keep pictures of him and a dozen valiumed-up Thai rent boys from hitting the tabloids.

Of course I still bought two copies anyway. Because it was the last issue. And because even a crappy issue of Planetary is still better than a good issue of almost anything else. It's the title for lovers of pulp fiction and atomic age cinema.

While we're on the topic of comics and pop culture I'd also like to recommend Brendan Douglas Jones' fantastic web-based comic Breakfast of the Gods. It's an unexpectedly engaging story about a war in the land of breakfast cereals starring every cartoon character that ever hocked a sugar-coated oat. It starts off cute and quickly evolves into an edge-of-your-seat page turner. It's like Andy Warhol and Quentin Tarantino teamed up to make something weird, wild, and completely unexpected.

And for the record, when you torture the Rice Crispy guys they really do go “snap,” “crackle,” and “pop.”

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