On Rediscovering Planetary

Warren Ellis is my mortal enemy.

Okay, okay, he’s not, really. I’ve never met Ellis. Ellis would have no idea who I was. Yet I’m massively impressed by the man’s versatility as a writer, he’s skilled at writing anything, and I’m jealous. Yes, I’m jealous.

Thus, Ellis is my mortal enemy. 🙂

I bring this up, because I’ve recently been reading Planetary, the series that Ellis did for Wildstorm a few years ago. I’d read part of the series at the time, and at work a few weeks ago a coworker wanted a suggestion on what he should read after League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. “Try Planetary,” I said, only I realized I hadn’t read the entire series, and what I had read I had read years ago.

So with the first trade paperback in hand, I dove into Planetary.

How to describe Planetary? While it takes place in the Wildstorm universe, it’s rather disconnected from it. It’s about a team of three operatives for a mysterious organization, who go out into the world where the uncover the secret history of the 20th century, while keeping the general public from the weird and the fantastic that lurk in the shadows.

As I was reading it, as the Doc Savage or Incredible Hulk analogues appear, as a flashback with a thinly-disguised Justice League unspools, one thought kept nagging at me.

I wonder if Russell T. Davies read Planetary, and I wonder how much it influenced Torchwood. Because there’s a definite Planetary vibe to Torchwood. Small team operating outside government oversight, an immortal (or near-immortal, which amounts to the same thing) as the team’s leader, an outsider to the group as the viewpoint character who changes the team’s mission. There’s something like Torchwood‘s rift, but it’s not located in a single city; it’s really the entire world.

And, frankly, there’s a bit of Torchwood‘s “Adrift” in the Planetary preview story, the one about the Hulk-analogue. 🙂

It’s an interesting series, and I’m glad I thought of it when my coworker needed reading suggestions. (He’s still working on League, by the way; he asked about Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty, and their relationship today.) If you like Torchwood or Paul Cornell’s Wisdom or Captain Britain & MI-13, and if you like superheroes, pick up Planetary some time. It’s a very different look at the worlds of superheroes and pulp heroics, and I marvel at Ellis’ adeptness in crafting his tales.

Now I’m looking forward to the rest. 🙂

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

2 thoughts on “On Rediscovering Planetary

  1. Ellis makes me sick. He’s so freaking good at what he does and the man is never short of ideas. Like you said, he’s got a wide array of ideas going. I loved the first newuniversal series (it does Heroes better than Heroes, and before the show even premiered), but I am annoyed as anything with the lateness of Shock Front).

    I recently bought the Planetary volumes and will be enjoying them shortly…

    1. Not everything Ellis touches is golden; I’m a bit bored with FreakAngels, his webcomic. Lovely artwork by Paul Duffield, but I’m not seeing the point to any of it.

      Planetary, though. Great stuff. Now if only John Cassaday will finish the final issue. 🙂

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