My initial reaction to Planetary #12, and arguably an effective way to summarize a review of the issue, is a simple…WOW!
It’s shocking, momentous, and explosive, but not by relying on an action, just a near-perfectly developed mystery that comes together in the best way possible.
A mystery like Planetary can really only work on such a high level by utilizing a balance of pacing and character development that is achieved very rarely in comics. Ellis has proven himself masterful in these areas with just 12 issues in this series as the mystery behind the Fourth Man finally comes to light. We’ve learned of their formation and the wildly unpredictable consequences their pursuits have unleashed upon Earth and more, but Planetary has remained shrouded in mystery with the involvement of the reclusive Fourth Man. Now, in Planetary #12, we discover the other member of Planetary is none other than Elijah himself.
It starts with Elijah holding all of the cards, and this translates in his demeanor and words incredibly well thanks to everyone involved in the creative team. As a reader, it’s something you can latch onto immediately and it sets the tone for the eventual reveal of just how many of Elijah’s memories have returned. As the writer of the Planetary Guide, he has a fundamental understanding of more than we can imagine, and that put him in a dangerous position where he was forced to accept memory blocks to protect the team. With those fading, the Planetary game comes into focus and turns the series on its head.
The momentum this series has been building may have been slow at first as the foundation was taking shape, but it’s quickly reaching an unstoppable pace. The mystery is unraveling at such a rate that it’s difficult to imagine what the series will do in the very next issue, much less five or ten from now as we begin to inch near the conclusion. Elijah had gotten himself into a precarious position with some unsavory types that say his team is a little too good at the Planetary game, but what is that game? In issue #11 we learned about souls being an electromagnetic field and how heaven and hell represent a simple tug-of-war between siege engines using souls as fuel. But this game goes beyond even that, and it’s implications are only just now coming into view.
Cassaday and company once again pull off a magnificent feat in just the artistic tone alone. Setting this issue apart with a newfound sense of confidence on Elijah’s part that is visually noticeable, but still keeping it in a familiar Planetary aesthetic. With the type of story Ellis is penning in this series, it’s important to capture an expansive mystery that creates a satisfying flow, and this team has done it arguably better than anyone else in Planetary. It’s always a treat to see everyone involved synchronizing on that level because it comes through in the work, Planetary #12 is proof. It’s such an importance piece in this puzzle that it represents a noticeable shift in the series. It seems the creative team is more than aware of this shift as well, with a curiously meta comment from Elijah saying “God, I’d forgotten how much I loved putting this all together”, and that really does explain the type of joy you get from reading the series and discovering each new twist.
Though it took some time to position Elijah correctly, it seems the series has nowhere to go but up from here. The majority of this issue is Elijah coming to terms with his memory of being the Fourth Man and what his life before the memory blocks looked like. It sets up an impending conflict that is certainly exciting, but now that we as readers see Jakita and the Drummer in such a different light, it will be interesting to see how the dynamics take shape moving forward into that coming fight.
Planetary #12 is the issue that will make your jaw drop, and that’s something special. This series is obviously an example of high quality execution in comics, but it really does just get better and better with each new issue and that’s not something easily accomplished. With an entirely new danger on the horizon, I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Elijah and everyone else.
Planetary #12 is the type of issue that will make your jaw drop. This series is obviously an example of some of the highest quality execution in comics, but it really does just get better and better with each new issue and that’s not something easily accomplished.
Planetary #12: I’m the Fourth Man
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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