Planetary #21 Review

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Death Machine Telemetry

Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: John Cassaday
Colored by: Laura Martin
Lettered by: Richard Starkings
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: Wildstorm Comics

Snow goes to see Melanctha, a mystic/shaman/scientist. She shows him the world from a new perspective to reaffirm his commitment to the Planetary credo, “It’s a strange world, let’s keep it that way,” over his personal vendetta against the Four.

That’s it, that’s all there is to the plot.

But this is Planetary so you know, that really is not it at all.

The entire piece occurs in a single room, during a five minute conversation. In fact, it is less of a conversation and more of a single soliloquy delivered by Melanctha that is broken up by the rare response from Snow. It is an exposition heavy issue, perhaps the most wall-to-wall I have read in sometime. As one would expect, Melanctha’s words overflow with the merging of real science, pseudo science, and science fiction, a technique that is nearly a trademark of Ellis’s, particularly with this book.

It is harder to go into the next much more than that without damaging some of its potency. Whether or not you appreciate this issue will most certainly hinge on your fascination with science, especially the dusty, dark corners of it; those that have yet to have been explored and those that were abandon some time ago. If such schools of thought hold little interest to you, it is unlikely that this issue will connect with you in any way. For those of you (like myself) who are often fascinated by that which science still has not fully cracked, the narrative is enrapturing.

While your enjoyment of #21 may ultimately come down to how much Ellis’s writing draws you in, Cassaday’s art is nothing to be ignored. Some, when faced with such a simplistic script (in terms of locations and characters, not ideas) would either grown bored or be tempted to half ass it. Cassaday, thankfully, shows no interest in taking the easy way out. Faced with a near silent Snow for most of the issue, Cassaday relies heavily on the normally stoic man in white’s facial expression to tell his part of the story. Additionally, his backgrounds and renderings of microworlds mesh nicely with Ellis’s mad science. He does great work on Astonishing X-Men, but Cassaday never ceases to blow me away with his work on Planetary. This issue is no exception.