Planetary Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology

April 11, 2010 | Trades

planetary v4

Planetary represents everything that is both exceptional and awful in comic books over the past decade.

On the positive side, the unorthodox adventures of a trio of “archaeologists of the unknown” — written by Briton Warren Ellis — are visionary, erudite and absolute page-turners. Homage to over 100 years of comic history, this series has covered everything from science fiction and superheroes to Westerns and jungle tales, all with highly realized and complex characters. The sleek, sexy art of American John Cassaday is the perfect compliment for Ellis’ epics, as is the lavish colouring of Laura Martin.

On the negative side, this series — a total of just 27 issues — began in 1998 and finished in 2009. Originally slated to be a 24-issue, bimonthly book, it came at a shameful six years overdue, reflecting a tragic ongoing trend throughout the comics industry of keeping faithful readers waiting around for delayed titles.

Sure, there were excuses, both good and bad. Ellis, best known for penning groundbreaking comic series like The Authority and Transmetropolitan, got seriously ill for a couple of years, as did his father, and the book was placed on hiatus from 2001-2003. And Cassaday put the book on the back burner for a long stretch to team with Hollywood writer/director Joss Whedon on the bestselling Marvel Comics series, Astonishing X-Men.

So the question is: After all this time, is the payoff worth the wait?

Planetary Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology (Wildstorm/DC Comics, $29.99, 224 pages), which collects the series’ final nine issues, unfolds in surprising and gratifying ways as Planetary leader Elijah Snow plots to take out the group’s villainous nemeses, The Four (unmistakably modelled after Marvel’s Fantastic Four), and on a rescue mission for a dead man.

While you can certainly argue these delays diminished the impact Planetary could have had (it’s a no-brainer that fans will have to go back and re-read the first three volumes after all this time before diving into the finale), there is no denying it is a truly unique comic series and Spacetime Archaeology is a near-perfect capper.

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