ARCHAEOLOGISTS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE
Planetary is a twenty-seven issue comic book series created and written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by John Cassaday, coloured by Laura Martin and published by Wildstorm, a subsidiary of DC Comics. It follows the activities of a shadowy group of parahumans who bill themselves as ‘Archaeologists of the Impossible’ and are dedicated to unravelling the secret history behind the 20th century.
Each issue features a standalone story focusing on an investigation of strange phenomena by the Planetary field team, a trio of superhumans consisting of: Elijah Snow (a haggard, white-suited, hundred year-old man who doesn’t appear a day over forty and is able to freeze nearby substances at will), Jakita Wagner (no-nonsense, dressed in dark leather, strong, fast and nearly invulnerable) and The Drummer (a young, goateed hacker who can detect and manipulate nearby information streams). These three extraordinary individuals travel the world encountering vengeful ghost cops, buried alien inter-dimensional shiftships, hidden lairs of Golden Age heroes, and mysterious adversaries who are working against them to keep the World’s secrets concealed.
As the team seek out these enigmas there are a growing number of unanswered questions. What is the true nature of Planetary and who is their obscure patron, the Fourth Man? Who are The Four, the team’s mysterious adversaries, and what is their agenda? And why are there notable gaps in Elijah Snow’s memory? In pursuit of the answers to these questions we, and they, are drawn inexorably deeper and into the wider story arc.
And it is through their voyage of discovery that Ellis cleverly takes us on a parallel journey through 20th century adventure fiction. He reinvents recognizable icons from comic books and heroic fiction, populating the series with characters that bare strong similarities to the likes of Doc Savage, Fu Manchu, Tarzan, Superman and The Shadow. In fact Planetary’s main adversaries, The Four, are clear analogues of Marvel’s Fantastic Four.
Much credit must also go to John Cassaday and Laura Martin for the superb look of the series. Their art sets the mood and their portrayal of character emotions and the prowess with which they have rendered vast, alien artefacts and unimaginable wonders is impressive.
All told it’s an intelligent and engaging work, that combines wry humour, a sense of pathos and excellent artwork. It’s wonderfully well done and I highly recommend it