At long last, the final volume of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's "Planetary" has arrived in stores. Collecting the final issues of the series, #19-27, the stories here were published over a span of several years, with the final #27 coming out years after the previous issue. "Planetary" began in 1999, when Ellis was heavily involved in the original Wildstorm imprint, but has since detached (Wildstorm has gone through so many changes since then that it's hard to recognize it as the same place it was when Ellis was still writing within that continuity). Some spoilers follow.
"Planetary" started out as an issue-by-issue examination of different genres of fiction in the 20th century, and gradually transitioned into the story of the struggle between the Planetary investigative organization and the malevolent Four, Ellis' paper-thinly-veiled take on Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, here positioned as the secret masters of the world, hoarding scientific knowledge for themselves. The previous volume ended with the capture of the pseudo-Human Torch, William Leather. Here, Elijah Snow and his team proceed to deal with the others: Randall Dowling (Reed Richards), Kim Suskind (Susan Richards), and Jacob Greene (Ben Grimm; the name is a tip to Jacob Kurtzberg, aka Jack Kirby). The original genre deconstruction largely falls by the wayside here, apart from an issue offering a spin on the Lone Ranger.
Characterization has always been secondary in "Planetary", though the various leads are all written with Ellis' trademark amusing style, an often odd mix of cynicism and heart-on-the-sleeve idealism. The resolution of the conflict with the Four is adequate, though it depends on callbacks to stories published much, much earlier this decade, so it may strain the memory (it might be advisable to reread the first three volumes before reading the fourth). The art by John Cassaday is customarily lovely, if not always visceral. There are a couple of affecting scenes, though Ellis doesn't linger on them.
A solid ending to the series.