Absolute Planetary Book Two Hardcover – Jul 20 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Warren Ellis and John Cassaday have created an imaginative and intelligent work that is beautifully printed in an oversized slip-cased format. As a result, the entire story is told in two impressive volumes. While it is more expensive than most hardcover collections, it is well worth it. Order your copy before the first printing runs out of stock and goes into the publisher's version of limbo.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This second volume advances the ongoing conflict between our three main protagonists, (Jakita Wagner, the sexy, super-powered muscle of the group; "Drums," a machine empath who's a little like an idiot savant; and Elijah Snow, a century old heat-extractionist/subtractionist, believed to be a sentient version of the planet's white blood cells,) and a group of shadowy, incredibly dangerous and sadistic people, known only as "the Four," (a sly and deliberately not too well hidden allegory of Marvel's Fantastic Four.) Elijah, like others born in the year 1900, is believed to be a "spirit of the 20th century," - people who were born into the world at the very beginning of the last century to protect and keep the world alive and safe into the next.
The stories here significantly ratchet up the tension and mystery surrounding the enigmatic Four and the Planetary organization. At the end of the last volume, Elijah discovers that he is indeed, the "Fourth Man," of Planetary, in fact the grandfather figure behind the Planetary corporation, which has been archiving strange and weird information about the world for many years. Discovering that his memory was selectively blocked by the leader of the Four, Randall Dowling, Elijah becomes obsessed with his desire to bring these people down.
But in doing so, Ellis takes a grand sweeping slide through popular 20th century myth and pop culture, giving us fairly recognizable versions of Tarzan and the mythical, hidden, golden city of Africa, among many things. He expands on the backgrounds and origins of Jakita and Drums, explores the background of Elijah himself, posits conspiracies and relationships between characters like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, and offers scientific explanations for concepts of the soul and the afterlife.
I won't get into the details of the stories to allow other readers to experience the process of discovery I went through myself, when reading the series the first time, but Planetary's that kind of ride. Basically like psychedelic drugs in the form of sequential art and text, the stories in this volume are a kaleidoscopic trip through the spirit of popular culture and fiction, with an unapologetic admiration that does not border on being reverential. They also have the benefit of being (a) legal, (b) not harmful to your health in any way, and (c) actually logical and easy to recollect afterward. The series highlights all of Ellis' strengths and his fixations; a talent for marrying compelling fiction with real or hypothetical science, an enduring fascination with space travel, and an admirable skill at building conspiracies. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements here though, is that what appeared to be disparate and random occurrences and stories in the first volume finally blend together into one unmistakably coherent whole that satisfies in many ways. Even apparent coincidences in the stories contained in Planetary Volume 1 find explanation and or deliverance here. And this too represents one of the many strengths of reading Planetary. Every chapter was as different from the previous as the one that followed. But Ellis is able to make one coherent whole of the lot, and while some of the connections are surprising, none ever strain credulity past the point where suspension of disbelief breaks... An exception to the "done in one issue" format and a standout story here, is a two part "mystery in space" saga, in which the team remotely explore a fascinating object in space while dealing elegantly with one of the more powerful members of the Four.
Although Ellis is an accomplished and talented writer, one of his main weaknesses is an inability to end things well. He's incredibly good at building tension and creating characters that sound real. His endings though rarely deliver the "oomph" stories of the type he likes to tell, probably should. I suspect it's cos Ellis is too smart to allow himself to rely on cliché'. Perhaps if he were working in a different medium, this might be a good idea, but in any old fashioned "good versus evil" tale, readers need that emotional catharsis of seeing evil doers suffer!! So the final confrontation between Planetary and the last remnants of "the Four" slightly underwhelms here, at least on that emotional, visceral level, but it is nonetheless clever and ironic. The very last story though, provides a somewhat endearing, if overly sciency "happy ending," the reader does not even realize they want, until they get it.
For all that, Planetary 1-27, now collected in two of these "Absolute" editions, probably represent one of Ellis' best works in the medium. This volume is also cool for two very glowing essays by Alan Moore and Joss Whedon, as well as a script from one of the issues.
Two final observations about the volume itself - My major disappointment with it is that, for a series that was clearly quite important in the last decade, DC comics has gone bone cheap on the extras, a common sin they've been committing with other Absolute volumes. There's no extra material from artist John Cassaday, no interviews from Ellis and Cassaday about the series itself, which I find is criminal. If you're going to call something "Absolute," it should really be the last word as it were in format, providing as much insight into the material, content and process, as you possibly can. How difficult could it be to reprint some interviews with Ellis or Cassaday about their recollections and intentions for the series? This was clearly an important series for DC; it was produced when letters pages were still included in issues and introduced a new language of storytelling into mainstream American comics. Many of the techniques Ellis developed or employed here soon became the standard for the industry. Now everything looks and reads like Planetary or the Authority in pacing and layout. Also, look out for the very soft covering of the actual hardcover. You'll want to be very gentle with the edges of the book itself. Although heavy and of apparently high quality, the material used on the hardcover itself seems to bruise easily at the edges, exposing an almost chipboard like material underneath. So watch out.
The art alone makes this Absolute Edition worth a purchase. When you have pages as cinematic and detailed as Cassaday's and colors as lush as Laura Martin's, you want the best presentation format possible.
That said, it's a shame DC didn't try harder to include more supplemental material. There's a brief cover gallery, a glimpse of the art designs for the action figures, and a couple other pages of random material. No notes or scripts from Ellis. No concept art or black and white pages from Cassaday. No interviews. Compared to the copious amount of extras in books like Absolute Sandman, this is just pitiful. Sadly, it's pretty much par for the course with DC's more recent Absolutes.
But again, the primary purpose of these hardcovers is to showcase the story in the best format possible. In that regard this volume is a success. If you're on the fence about buying it, you might as well make the leap now before you lose the opportunity. The first volume is already out of print again and back up to ridiculously high prices on the secondary market. This one looks like it's following suit. The standard-size hardcovers aren't that cheap either. So unless you want to read the series in boring old paperback format, this is the version you want.
As far as the quality of this edition goes, I have some mixed feelings. The binding and overall production on the book are of high quality. However, the slipcase seems to have been assembled poorly, and is a little taller than the book, leaving a 1/2 cm gap. The reproduction of the art is of very high quality, and shows the attention to detail in Cassaday's work. The paper is fairly thick, and glossy, meeting the typically high absolute standard.
One thing not up to standard is the complete lack of work or care put into the extras section. A color coded guide to all the characters that appear on the final issues wraparound cover, a gallery of 3 DC direct action figures, and a single page art spread of the snowflake universe,which comes to a whopping total of 6 pages. They also list introductions from the trade paperbacks as extras, but I've never heard an intro listed as a bullet point before.... Honestly DC seems to have really cut back on their absolute editions. The extras aren't even worth mentioning in their last several releases. Part of the enjoyment of the Absolute edition is that you have the definitive edition, with all the essays, production material, early sketches, script pages, and advertising content. The absolutes used to be like the collectors edition dvd with all the extras, now its just a larger version of the hardbacks.
So, Planetary is basically built as two parts. Part 1 (not coincidentally Book 1) is a TON of build up. Who everyone is, why they do what they do, and (mostly) their objectives.
Book 2 puts it all together. Literary characters come to life. The Four all on display. Aliens, angels, black holes, intergalactic plots (which seems outrageous when I write it, but makes perfect sense when you read the book!)... good gravy there's a lot in this book. PLUS the last 2 issues really bringing it all home as to what Snow was really looking to do... my God it's just great. GREAT!
And the art... listen, I'm a story guy through and through, but you need a competent illustrator... John Cassaday might be the greatest artist in comics right now. Hyperbole? Exaggeration? Get this... tell me I'm wrong. His art is so beautiful, and it being an Absolute Edition, it's blown up and you can see just how beautiful it really is.
Not to be outdone is the coloring. Laura Martin makes every page sparkle with her coloring work. It makes Cassaday's art that much more impressive.
Read the first one first, but get this. It's fairly cheap these days (don't know why), so take advantage and read it!!!
However, that being said: this "Absolute" presentation is barren of bonus material. You're basically paying a $30 surcharge for a larger page size versus buying paperback volumes 3 and 4. I loved the content, but don't really feel I got my money's worth here.
edit: Voting that my review was "not helpful" because you love Planetary (as I do) seems bone-headed given that the hallmark of the Absolute series of releases has been awesome and incredibly bonus features. Letting people know up front that this is *not* part of this presentation seems like extremely pertinent information.