Hey Comics, Are your ears burning... you know... because I'm talkin' 'bout you...
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Taking Issue (anniversary edition director's cut)
Planetary #1 - Warren Ellis & John Cassady.
Value-Added Anniversary content - Taking Issue is one of a few named features I have tried to introduce in the year I have been blogging here. Others are 'My Marvel Year' and 'Popgun Bullets'. I first used 'Taking Issue' to talk about Nightwing #149 after it received a LOT of attention for the amount of violence and blood in it. I felt very clever, and thought it would be a nice banner to do various single issue reviews under. My intent was not that it solely deal with controversial stuff, or that it would be a soapbox for things I had a problem with. The name seemed like a catchy sort of pun, and I liked it. So why have I only used the thing twice? The answer is that I am always afraid that maybe the title DOES sound like it needs to be about comics for which their is some sort of controversy, etc. So there you go...
Now back to the issue at hand. I picked up Planetary #1 when the $1 'After Watchmen' Issue hit the shelves. It was one of the few of those that i hadn't read already, and I am a sucker for full length comics for a dollar, and I know that both of the names on the cover are as close to a guarantee of good content as you get these days. I then proceeded to not read it for a while. I happened onto it again as i was bagging up some of the piles of singles I had laying around and decided it's time had come.
One issue into Planetary and I am committed to giving the first trade a go. It was honestly more like 3 pages in that I made that decision, and it just got better from there. I know that some people consider comparisons of comics to movies undesirable, but I'm not one of those people. I think that good storytelling is good storytelling. I think pacing and character and plot development can be very similar in a good comic and a good movie. Obviously that doesn't apply to every comic or every movie, but for some, it is really ideal. I feel this way about Ed Brubaker's Criminal and Jason Aaron's Scalped as well. I think there are genres that benefit from a well 'directed' cinematic feel. Crime and action, horror to some degree, and 'realistic comics'. In my opinion, Planetary, a comic about a small team of people with super-human abilities, investigating other super-human happenings, and wildly improbable concepts, is a realistic comic. It has a very authentic 'comic book realism' to it.
First off, the characters seem to have real personalities, and skew toward 'gritty'. Secondly, there is a strong bit of comic book realism, or sensibility to it. This may work better if you have read a lot of comics, or have a particular affection for them, but everything is familiar enough to seem reasonable, and is presented in a straightforward way that makes you just nod.
Planetary is a 3 person organization. The old 'third man' is no longer in action, so they get a new one. That opens the issue. By the end of this issue, we can only assume what his powers are, because we don't really SEE any powers being used by anyone really. There is a character called the Drummer, and we are told he communicates with machines. There is a character named Jakita Wagner, and we assume she has strength and invulnerability to some degree, as she hops out of a helicopter. We meet Elijah Snow and assume he has some sort of cold related power, but it is never really mentioned.
The team immediately sets off to investigate a complex that has been found in the Adirondacks. We are told that it is the last place that someone named Doc Brass was known to be (back in the 40's). We are also told that no-one had even heard of the guy until recently. It is a sort of statement about the type of book this is, and the type of team this is. They seem to be a secret team that will be dealing with secret teams and such.
When we meet 'Doc Brass' He is immediately recognizable as Doc Savage(Man of Bronze). We meet him, he's alive and he tells his story. The story he tells inside of our story is the closest we get to action in this issue, but that doesn't mean the issue isn't compelling and interesting and a page turner. In his story, we hear that he was part of a team in the 40's that harnessed a super computer, a quantum brain, that created and destroyed infinite earths so to speak, in a quest to perfect our own and solve our problems. In the course of looking across these infinite possibilities, they found that there were others looking back.
I read all of this, and I thought... 'sounds right to me'. All of the ideas are ones that you have seen in one form or another enough times, that when they are presented to you in a reasonable way they seem perfectly reasonable. They have a sort of genre realism that works when executed smartly.
I am anxious to read more and see if it maintains that level. I kind of imagine that it will.
John Cassaday's art is just great in this. It works perfectly for the story, and has a level of realism to it that goes right along with what I was describing to make everything seem perfectly plausible inside the initial conceit.
Good stuff all the way around. I would be surprised that i hadn't read this before if it weren't for the sheer volume of good stuff out there that i haven't yet read.