In 1997, the field team went to England, to interrupt one of Dowling's experiments. They interrupted a successful attempt to bring someone back from a fictional reality. That was Ambrose Chase's last mission... and Elijah Snow has never heard of Chase.
Things are really picking up steam in Planetary #9! If you’ve followed my reviews up to this point, you’ll know the vague overarching narrative has been something I’ve been increasingly impatient about discovering more of. Well, the creative team drops something of a bomb in this issue and I have a feeling the series won’t look the same from this point on.
For context, we have an older version of the team tracking down one of Dowling’s missions which attempted, with apparent success, to bring a fictional individual into their own reality. With a new character introduced in the third member of Planetary named Ambrose Chase, the team feels like they are a well-oiled machine moving in swiftly and confidently. However, with this stage set, the issue then spirals out of control in a deadly way, unleashing something unknown yet obviously terrible into the world that our current Planetary team is mostly likely still searching for.
There are so many revelations packed into this issue it’s almost difficult to discern which is the most important. Is it the mysterious Fourth Man’s appearance to recruit Ambrose Chase? The self-proclaimed villain who is a part of Dowling’s experiments? Or is it the consequences of the fictional reality spilling into the real-world? After eight issues of tidbits of information placed at strategic points in the story, this entire issue feels explosive with it’s willingness to dig into the core of what this series is doing. Let me tell you, breaking the boundaries between the fictional reality and the real-world is not what I was expecting. It also makes perfect sense considering just how capable this creative team is and the potential of the series to push the comics medium into unknown and exciting territories. Aside from this incredible usage of the medium in the story, we also get some great insight into the operations of Planetary as well as the conspiracy with the Four. Things finally just feel like they are coming together!
The meta moments in this issue are certainly plentiful, with this villain claiming we are in a strange relationship with our fiction and even breaking the fourth wall in a nuanced way, saying that only he knows the plot of this sci-fi story they have been caught in and if you kill him you may never know the ending. As a reader, part of me wanted him to stay alive as I am desperate for more information, but Jakita saw fit to that, ending it herself and saying they will just dig it up and sort it out as archaeologists in a few years. This left me shocked because it feels like it is framing everything we’ve seen up to this point with Elijah. It seems the creative team was aware of these revelations, ending with an odd panel including four sentences to give some background on what this means going forward.
Spoiler alert, but Ambrose’s death was one of the few things in this series so far that I really didn’t care much for. The cliche of black men dying first in sci-fi movies makes for an interesting on-the-nose meta moment in the issue, but it just feels unnecessary. It’s a stereotype that could be left in the past for my own preferences, but it’s also something that doesn’t feel out of place within the series. Genre references have been rather plentiful so far, but this one just felt like it didn’t work as a narrative choice. That might be due to the fact that most of the choices from the creative team have blown me away up to this point so it was a drastic departure. However, I’m sure fans might feel differently due to the timing of the situation.
Not to discredit the brilliant visuals which once more help the issue to stand out, but they are a fundamental aspect of the storytelling happening and synchronize with the writing in such a unique way. From the spectacle depiction of Ambrose Chase’s time stopping abilities to the dichotomy that is being explored within fiction narrative, it’s not just great artwork to look at, it’s telling the story all its own.
Planetary #9 on it’s own might not be such a powerhouse of an issue, but this really isn’t a series you want to be jumping in on at random issues. With each new layer built up, something amazing happens and this issue really turns things up a notch to get the story moving briskly. There is a sense of urgency now that I have sorely been missing and it really takes the series to a new level. It’s an archaeologist story unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and the deeper we get into the mission of Planetary, the more absorbed into the story I become.
After eight issues of tidbits of information placed at strategic points in the story, Planetary #9 feels explosive thanks to it's willingness to dig into the core of what this series is doing. There is a sense of urgency now that I have sorely been missing and it really takes the series to a new level.
Planetary #9: In a Strange Relationship With Our Fiction
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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