10 May 2012

Review 33: Planetary Vol. 2 - The Fourth Man by Warren Ellis

"This is Planetary. Three people who walk the world in search of strangeness and wonder, uncovering things others wise were left covered. They are the mystery archaeologists, explorers of the planet's secret history, charting the unseen borders of a fantastic world."

Whilst I don't love Planetary in the way I love Fables, it is a high quality story with plenty of complexity (if anything maybe too much, I struggled to work out what was going at times). I preferred this volume to the first and will definitely read the third and fourth volumes which complete the series as I am intrigued as to how it will all be wrapped up. The 'hero' is a bit too much like Warren Ellis' other unappealing and egotistical alpha males but the secondary characters, particularly Jakita and the Drummer, are excellent and we do get a bit more intriguing backstory to Snow.

First Line: "Jack Carter's dead."

Why I read it: I was lent Planetary Vol. 1 by a colleague and enjoyed it enough to want to find out what happened in Vol. 2.

Who I would recommend it to: Readers who would like to explore the world of graphic novels or fans of science fiction that tend towards mysteries and character rather than spandex and explosions (although there is some of that very much present).

So when we left Planetary, we had a lot of unanswered questions and some mysterious main characters (as well as plenty of mysterious peripheral characters) to be contending with. I enjoyed it but felt as though many of its reported charms, the artwork and the references to other graphic novels, were lost on me. To be honest, I still fail to notice references to other graphic novels unless they are incredibly mainstream and whilst the artwork is obviously very capable, I can't really see how it differs from other high quality graphic novels (sorry!).

So, Snow has been recruited to Planetary, a group of mystery archaeologists who track down secrets and supernatural mysteries across the planet, monitoring any unexplained activity. I do enjoy the whole archaeologist of the supernatural angle as it gives rise to some jokes and situations that appeal to the historian and librarian in me. One exchange I particularly enjoyed was between our heroine Jakita and an evil scientist,
"If you kill me, this movie will never end, he's out there, you see? He's loose here."
"We're archeologists. We'll dig you up and work it all out in a couple of years. The end."

There is just so much going in this collection, so many secondary characters and storylines being woven together that it would be impossible to really summarise the plot effectively. I think the most important elements are that we find out some more background to all three of Planetary, including an excellent cliffhanger involving Snow (with a particularly striking image on the final pages that even I could appreciate and made me excited for what comes next). My favourite section though was when we had some more of Jakita's backstory, who is definitely my favourite of the trio. We have mysterious deaths, horrible scientific experiments, more giant insects, alien races, supernatural goddesses as well as time travel and fictional characters within fictional universes. I did find it difficult to keep track of everything, which was compounded by the delay between reading the first volume and this. I think I need to get hold of the next two volumes together so I can make sure I can follow a bit better.

I definitely enjoyed this more than the first volume which left me with a vague interest in what happened next, as opposed to here where I'm really keen to read the next volumes. It is hard to keep track of all the different storylines and characters and sometimes big reveals lost impact when I had to go back and check who someone was or when something else had happened before I realised it was in fact a big reveal. But the intriguing backstories that we get and some really interesting storylines being introduced or built on means its now a series I'm committed to.

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