A Comic Book You Should Be Reading

Friday 9 April 2004

The goal of this rant: to make you want to check out Planetary.

If you don't read comic books, it may not work. I'm actually aiming at those people who do/have read traditional superhero comics because Planetary's strength is grounded in those. Here we go.

Imagine a "normal" super-hero world...except beneath the surface, unknown to all, is a secret history and conspiracy of terrible, epic proportions. The protagonists are a trio of super-powered people who make it their mission to uncover these mysteries. It's a mix of superheroes and X-Files. And because it takes place in the Wildstorm universe, there is no Superman, or Spider-Man, or X-Men, or Batman. Well, not directly. But there are analogues and archetypes, often a lot darker and not as benevolent...and therein lies the power of this series.

There's no Hulk...but there was once a scientist who let an experiment get away from him and turned into a giant, savage monster. Permanently. The military couldn't destroy it, so they finally buried it in a mile-deep shaft without food or water. That was in 1962. It finally died in 1983.

There's no Fantastic Four...but four space travellers who got hit with alien radiation were ruthless and power-hungry, and after gaining incredible powers, they began hoarding technology and secrets as they shaped the course of the world.

There's no Superman, Wonder Woman, or Green Lantern...because as each of them arrived in our world, they were assassinated by the evil Fantastic Four.

There's no Thor, but there's a stick that turns into a powerful hammer, at the cost of killing an alternate world.

The Planetary series has hit on these as well as other concepts: Doc Savage and the Shadow and other 1930s pulp archetypes, Godzilla and friends, Chinese ghost stories, Shazam and alternate dimensions, Hellblazer or Doctor Strange, 1950s atomic experiments, giant ants, the possibility of a fictional character breaking free of its world and coming to ours, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, alien corpses and UFOs, creation myths, Hong Kong style martial arts, a lost jungle city, secret spaceflight in the 1800s, a 2001/2010-like drifting alien spaceship.

The comic's done the same thing that the X-Files did: posit the question "what if all this stuff from our popular fiction really happened and was all tied together?" And the artwork is beautiful, bringing out whatever subject matter each story's about. Another good thing is that the series is finite in scope - nineteen issues have come out, and the end is planned at twenty-five or so. So there's a beginning and an end, ensuring that the quality won't drop as years pass.

Some of my best Adventurers writing comes after I've read Planetary. I highly recommend that you give it a look, but don't take my word for it - here are some quotes from web sites and reviews, and also some useful links:

positive quotes

relevant links: