Every Wednesday we take turns to delve into our trusty longboxes, pluck out a dusty back issue, and give you our thoughts. We’ll also try and place it in the context of the time it was originally published.
Unlike its sister title Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis’s OTHER medium-defining long form epic certainly subscribed to the writer’s maxim of “change or die”. Beginning as a monthly pastiche of various highlight of twentieth century culture, the title was eventually subsumed by Ellis’s thesis that Stan Lee’s 1960s creations were stifling popular culture, executing their science fiction rivals and exploiting their ideas in order to seize glories to which they has no right.
Sold as the climax of the story, issue 26 is a very atypical piece of work, focussing entirely on the ongoing Planetary Vs Four story without adding any new elements. In another break with tradition, Randal Dowling and Kin Suskind arrive in the pages of the book without ceremony- a sharp contrast to the issues devoted to showing their compatriots’ horror-influenced powers. In order to emphasise his hero’s triumph, Ellis dispatches the last half of the Four without ceremony, leaving sufficient space for a look to the future in the issue’s final pages. Already a byword for lateness at the time of publication, the book found itself unable to fully cope with the evolution in John Cassidy’s art style during its life. While some elements such as the Drummer benefitted from the artist’s growth, the book’s star looks a little flat, with Elijah Snow appearing slightly divorced from his surroundings.
As Elijah makes clear at the start of the issue, his plan is a very simple one- lure his enemies into the open and then hit them with a weapon they cannot hope to withstand. The problem is a feeling of anticlimax. This issue would have served as a perfectly satisfactory conclusion to the book, bringing its archaeology metaphor into the action in the most explicit fashion and showing the Four as unable to contain all of the buried treasures they sought, but the events of issue twenty five raised the stakes so much that the plot seems unequal to its task. In the previous instalment, Snow defeated the Four’s ally, James Bond (another sixties icon attempting to prolong his life), and discovered that his enemies had made a deal with an extra dimensional force, who would soon be coming to collect then Earth as payment. In response, the man in white here threatens this force with the bodies of its agents, before withdrawing. Although Elijah chides his companion for expecting a more explosive conclusion to events, this stratagem provides no intellectual conclusion to the story, leaving the title dependant on the still-awaited epilogue to round out matters.
Given the intricacies inherent in Planetary’s plotting, it’s perfectly possible that the final issue will resolve this gripe, should it ever see the light of day. As it stands, however, the book’s journey was slightly better than its arrival.