Excavating, reappraising, and cataloging Planetary early in the 21st Century
[The ninth in what should be a comprehensive series, both these small essays and the related annotations are intended for someone who is already familiar with the series. Spoilers will be dropped as necessary, events and concepts discussed out of their order of first-appearance, and general summaries of stories will not be provided. The annotations are primarily speculation, with no hard evidence to back them up. All of these posts may be subject to severe and dramatic rewrites without notice, as new things occur to me, and of course, I welcome any further annotation suggestions or general feedback at
This project could not exist without the fine work of The Planetary Appreciation Page, the now defunct Warren Ellis Forum, the slowly-defuncting Barbelith messageboard, and the Planetary team of Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, Laura DePuy/Martin, John Layman, David Baron, Scott Dunbier, and the many letterers, designers, and other contributors.
This project is dedicated to mystery archeologists everywhere, of every walk and a myriad of tastes, habits, and ingenuities.]
Most of Planetary is taken from other fictions and utilized to a cumulative and purified end, but four things seem to be all over this series more than almost anything, and those are Superman, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fantastic Four, and Grant Morrison. You could shoot a window of those four things and the shrapnel of glass might fall in the shape of this chapter, "Planet Fiction", which is, in fact, dedicated to Morrison. What's funny is that, when you combine those things and leave out thinking too hard about anything, you basically get The Matrix, which also figures heavily into this issue's techniques and ambience.
We do look at ourselves in our fiction. We look at our fiction as if it is us. We hold a bendy mirror up to reality.
[From Volume Two, The Fourth Man
09.01 Is the ship crashed into the farmhouse a Superman allusion? There are at least two other definite references to farmhouse rescues of the extraordinary in Planetary later to come.
The red skies may connect with the fictions bleeding together, in reference to the red skies of the DC Comics' Crisis events. Crisis on Infinite Earths will see reference elsewhere in Planetary.
Dedicated to Grant Morrison, writer, artist, and musician and friend and colleague of Warren Ellis. Morrison has done a lot of work (and thinking) dealing with the interaction of fiction and reality.
09.02.05 The bloodspattered baby and teddy bear are not a direct reference to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, but to Warren Ellis' homage to that comic in WildStorm's Stormwatch.
09.03.01 Of course they are "sensors," but that tells us nothing specific, does it? It's the sort of shorthand that works great in fiction to keep us from having to worry about specifics.
09.04.02 All those beautiful-looking bridges to nowhere!
09.05.03 The project leader does enjoy saying (and playing?) God. He is also very Bernard Quatermass, as this experiment is very Quatermass-y.
09.05.04 Rocket, exploration, and four people including a blond woman and a gruff, military-esque second = Marvel's Fantastic Four?
09.05.05 The project brought a group of scientists and artists together to generate a fiction in our world. Shades of Ozymandias' final operation in Watchmen.
09.05.05-06 The imprinting of early experiences on the fiction that is crafted, as well as the stab at immortality through fiction have metatextual oomph as well as practical for the story/world at hand.
09.06.01 Green for "go" is simple enough, but with this chapter being dedicated to Morrison, we must assume his prevalence for stoplight terminology/coding plays.
09.06.02 Also, Morrison's enjoyment of the 23 trope.
09.07.02 More speaking in unnecessary, unlikely infodump with Ambrose Chase introducing himself and the organization by name.
09.08.02 Ambrose's physics-altering powers actually make him a better Invisible Woman than Suskind of The Four. Her invisibles shapes appear to be subject to gravity and velocity, while Ambrose flouts physical laws.
09.09.01 "Too easy" is too stereotypical, especially since we discover it is being staged for them, it is too easy.
09.09.03 If you're going to be movie chic, a handgun in each hand is the way to go. Long coat, too.
09.10.01 More green.
09.11.01 Underground base, alienesque entity, and pushing an electrically-powered door with shoulder-power - I know Warren Ellis was in part influenced by Neon Genesis Evangelion with Planetary, but I honestly cannot tell if that comes to play here or this is more Quatermass.
09.11.02 Jakita's "shit" being cut off by the panel border allows the language-restrcitions of the series to remain intact but also plays into a developing series of demonstrations that the borders do limit or can be surpassed, from the bloodspatter (09.10.05) and previous dialogue by off-panel speakers.
09.11.05 More infodump, this time for Drums, and of course, nothing they don't know.
09.12 Fully-powered allusion to the wire-fu, gun porn, and more specifically, The Matrix.
09.13-14 The question of "Why did you create me?" and the answer, here, play into Grant Morrison's belief that when he was visited by higher-dimensional beings who showed him the shape of reality, they also demonstrated that fictions, well-made enough, may be real worlds.
09.14.01 The illuminated (blown out) floor and blood seems so anime, but I can't place a particular example.
09.14.02 Jakita is very absurd kung fu here, a blow with every limb!
09.15.01 An "infodump" is outright asked for.
09.17.04 The hairpiece on the Quatermass stand-in is progressively skewed. Fictions.
09.20.01 More living in fiction. Life as fiction, fiction defining life.
09.21 For all the "green" talk, there are a lot of yellow circles (in a story about a man suspending himself in time).
09.22.01 "I'm the villain" and so self-labeled, he acts the part and excuses it.
09.22.03 Jakita reaching out towards the reader is a technique Morrison has employed more than once.
"The end" is one more piece of self-reference.
09.22.04 The story, at the coda, is reduced to text, inverted from the black on white norm, and formed in short synopsized notes.
[Click here to see further annotations for Planetary]