In the 1950s, a quartet of astronauts were launched into space on an experimental rocket mission to the Moon. They didn't make it. Neither did the four cosmonauts launched on an identical flight plan. Two different foursomes experienced something remarkable on their fantastic journey, and they're still alive today, doing something so mysterious that Planetary must somehow bring them down.
Planetary #6 takes the series into cosmic greatness for a spectacular story surrounding the Four, a group of astronaut “warrior-kings” who pushed the boundaries of human exploration, achieving translunar injection and leaving themselves behind to become something else entirely.
This is a story of two sides. The one we all know, with Americans and their Apollo, taking on the “commie hivemind” to put men on the moon and reap all of the glory, and also the one you don’t know. The Four, designated as Artemis, working in secret behind all the glamour of the Apollo to achieve the unthinkable. After putting men on the moon in 1961, Artemis quickly progressed to more advanced exploration. It’s here where we discover who the Four really are and what their newfound existence means for the Planetary team.
Not long after exploring in depth the superheroes of the time surrounded by characters like Axel Brass, we are thrown into an inter-dimensional tale of unspeakable cosmic power. The Four were lost in their translunar injection, returning as entities with both overwhelming power and knowledge. The book sets the stage for such revelations eerily well, even hooking readers with the first line in the issue…”Learning curve’s steep on this one, so keep focused”. This type of awareness is really what makes the series such a treat to dive into. The layers that are built up with each new issue strike an incredible balance between being approachable while also uniquely insightful.
The Four are characters that you don’t really get to know all that well outside of their historical importance. It sets the stage for a group that poses an interesting challenge for the Planetary team, with only pieces of information to track them down with. Greene, Dowling, Leather and Suskind are the members that Elijah and Jakita are searching for, and while they may not encounter all them, what they do find kicks off an intense chain of events. The Four entered the Bleed, part of the Snowflake multiverse that has been inching it’s way into prominence since the first issue. While the superheroes of the time may have fought to save humanity in the face of the multiverse’s power, the Four sought to push humanity’s understanding to the absolute limits. This led them to be reborn in the “exploding heart of the multiverse” and become the closest thing to a god we’ve yet to see in the series so far.
The implications of these characters are pretty far-fetched, in all honesty. Reborn as the secret chiefs of the planet, Leather makes quick work of Jakita and Elijah with his powers, but in what is quickly becoming a very Planetary-type twist he uses this power not to just punch people, but instead pose a question that turns the series upside down. In these final few questions presented by Leather, from “Do you really not remember us?” to “Who knows the secret history of Elijah Snow?” we find insight into the overarching narrative and just how important Elijah really is. Jakita hunting him down in the first issue, taking him to Island Zero to secretly investigate the phenomenon surrounding the Four, and offering little information as to why they are pursuing these people are all red flags that show something is rapidly developing within the Planetary team.
While we are starting to leave behind the one-shot style approach, Planetary #6 kicks things up a notch once more with the introduction of cosmic power beyond the known superheroes and the reach of the Planetary team. There is a dark mystery brewing with Elijah’s identity that feels poised to spiral out of control at any moment, but this issue is really about the Four. Their introduction holds significance for the series in a lot of ways that may be hard to pinpoint right now, but are sure to come to light very soon.
The historical alignment of this issue helps to frame an interesting dynamic regarding the prominence of superheroes at the time and the never-ending search for greater power and influence. Ellis has managed to distill the importance of the superhero genre into a sci-fi story with real relevance. The Four’s rise in the year 1961 runs parallel to the formation of The Fantastic Four from Marvel in 1961, offsetting the traditional archetype superheroes from Brass, Harken and the others in sometimes familiar ways, especially for comic fans. It’s definitely something special, but it wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the once more brilliant visuals from Cassaday, Depuy and Fuchs. The execution is simply top-notch and every issue will leave you desperate for more.
Planetary #6 is no different!
The historical alignment of Planetary #6 helps to frame an interesting dynamic regarding the prominence of superheroes at the time and the never-ending search for greater power and influence, distilling the importance of the superhero genre into a sci-fi story with real relevance.
Planetary #6: Secret Heroes of a World That Doesn’t Deserve Us
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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