Graphic Novel Reading Group discussion

Planetary, Volume 1: All Over the World and Other Stories
This topic is about Planetary, Volume 1
Group Monthly Discussions > 2nd Optional Book Club Discussion: Planetary: All Over The World and Other Stories by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday - June 2012 (may contain spoilers)

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Sérgio (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Just wanted to say that Adam was nice enough to volunteer to be our discussion leader.

Thanks a lot Adam. :)

I've started reading the book and I enjoyed it so far. It seems like an original enough take on super-heroes, and the art is pretty good too.

message 2: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Mendez (Yvonne_Mendez) This will be an interesting discussion for me since I don't like this type of stories, superhero type comics is what kept me away from reading comics for many years. Can't wait to read other people's take on this book.

Adam | 130 comments Okay, generic opening question:

What were your general impressions of the book? Did you enjoy the storytelling and artwork?

Adam | 130 comments Actually, a thought here. I was trying to work out how best to approach Planetary for this discussion, and it occurred to me - the best way might just be to take the chapters one at a time. The main reason I'm thinking this is that, on the surface, they're all stand-alone stories rather than chapters in an ongoing narrative.

What do you think? Yay or Nay?

Answers on a postcard please, and I'll go by the vote. You've got 48 hours, starting...


message 5: by Sérgio (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Yay. I think it makes sense doing so because of the reasons you mentioned.

@NYKen: Sure, there's a lot of genre mixing in this (which is what makes it good) but it has always a super-beings team as the center of the story. I guess this is enough to consider this a super-hero story above all else.

Matko (mali_mate) | 26 comments I vote for chapter per chapter discussion as well. Alternative seems sort of pointless. We wouldn't do much discussing just this book without mentioning other three, they're linked together rather closely.

My general impression (out of the blue, without much thinking) - First volume hooked me to read other three as well. Which is basically saying that Ellis did a good job though some stories are better than others. I especially like the "post-modern" ones, ones that are hommage to this or that mode of pulp-fiction. They have much of Tarantino-feel in them.

Cassaday becomes much better as the book progresses. I didn't quite liked his style in first few chapters (and something was seriously wrong with coloring), but #3 is excellent, #4 has a dash of Moebius in it, #5 being the best of the lot (at least for me).

Oh, and a nod to Spider Jerusalem in #7 really did the trick for me :)

Sarah | 9 comments I would also like to vote for the individual chapter discussion. The stories in each chapter of this volume are individual enough that otherwise I figure we'd feel like jumping around an almost-anthology.

I just reread this book for the first time since my initial reading about a year ago. As a whole, I really enjoyed the story and art. It was the first Wildstorm title I had picked up, choosing the book shortly after finishing Ellis's Transmetropolitan. Considering the book led me to searching out the following three volumes and the "Crossing Worlds" collection, I'd say it caught my interest.

The writing draws you into a detailed world, and while you can benefit from pausing to think or looking up details in the story, it doesn't throw so much gobbledygook over your head enough to require an encyclopedia on hand to make sense of things.

I also rather liked the art in the book. The details and the mood reflected the story well, and they adapted as the story progresses. (Most vividly I consider is the transition of the dark tones in chapter 3 to the dazzle in chapter 4.)

Adam | 130 comments Matko - for the moment we're only discussing the stories in this volume (although personally I agree with you, this series gets better as it goes on).

Once the official book group period's over, I'd be happy to go on with the series until it's finished, but I don't think we should be pushing that too hard for the moment - there'll be a lot of people here who haven't encountered this series before.

Matko (mali_mate) | 26 comments Matko - for the moment we're only discussing the stories in this volume (although personally I agree with you, this series gets better as it goes on).

Once the official book group period's over, I'd be happy to go on with the series until it's finished, but I don't think we should be pushing that too hard for the moment - there'll be a lot of people here who haven't encountered this series before.

I agree, this comment about #7 appeared randomly (mainly because I forgot that it was in second volume :D )

Everything else that I said involves just the stories in vol. 1

message 10: by Adam (last edited Jun 09, 2012 04:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Okay, we seem to have a consensus here, so let's get started.

What did you think of the preview story ('Nuclear Spring') and issue/chapter 1 ('All Over The World')? Did they serve as a suitable introduction to the series? Having read these, what did you expect of the series, going forward?

message 11: by Sérgio (last edited Jun 09, 2012 03:17PM) (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Nuclear Spring wasn’t that interesting to me, it’s basically the Hulk story retold, right?

All Over The World was pretty good. I liked how we learned so little about that Axel Brass super-hero team, it felt like a more intriguing story that way.

I actually found the comic a bit disturbing: they want to create the best possible world through that crazy computer of them but in the process they’re creating and destroying thousand of alternate realities (erasing quadrillions? of people).

They seemed like a team of “Ozymandias “, doing horrible things because they think they are superior and so they know what’s best for everybody, playing God basically.

I noticed they had a “trophy room” with their enemies. Pretty creepy!

Also, comparing to our main read The Red Wing, the science is as baffling, but in this case I was intrigued by the crazy cosmic concept of it.

Sarah | 9 comments "Nuclear Spring" felt a little rough, but then it was the preview story. The art here was still being figured out it would seem. But basically it suggested that the main characters would be more of a neutral truth-seeker standing than the typical good or evil you'd expect with a super-hero type comic. By itself, it wasn't really positive or negative.

I found "All Over The World" to be very interesting if I also consider the meta aspects of its publishing. This story was written in early 1999, right around the time Wildstorm was being purchased by DC. (As an aside, considering Moore's antipathy for DC, I was also surprised to see him for the Introduction.) The multiverse scenario felt similar to the pre-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" (1986) setting, especially when the invading team looked clearly like some analogue of the Justice League. (Especially considering the the variant Flash character gets dematerialized in a way that looks quite similar to the "Crisis" storyline.) Viewing this from someone's perspective who has read most of the DCU collected stories of the past 2 decades, the collection of Earths presented here also feels remarkably similar to the 52 Earths of the DC Monitors that later show up after the 2006 Infinite Crisis. But with far more worlds in this case (via the dimensions of a Monster Group that Ellis claimed to use). Still there never was an established number of pre-Crisis dimensions, so number may be irrelevant beyond the theme. Mostly the chapter made me consider how this set a framework for an explanation for incorporating the entire Wildstorm universe into the DC multiverse (as later claimed to be DC's Earth 50, or even more recently merged into their new 52 Earth of just last year). It made me wonder how much the series would further deal with multiverse aspects in this book versus the mysteries of this Wildstorm world itself as suggested in the preview chapter.

@Sérgio - To me, the Trophy room looked to be simply another Justice League reference that looked to be drummed into this chapter. Though, yeah, this version was a bit creepy.

The main characters in the chapter were likewise only vaguely introduced. At this point, only Jakita's abilities as a powerhouse appear clear. Considering the topic of unfolding mysteries, I felt that we should expect to unfold more about the characters themselves as the series progressed.

message 13: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Mendez (Yvonne_Mendez) OK, so remember I'm not too fond of these type of comics, so be nice to me after my comments!

From the beginning the story was made of all the comic book cliches out there, with the brooding, self-righteous Elijah Snow, the really hot spandex-as-a-second-skin Jakita Wagner (at least she's a C cup and not DDD) and the techie super-annoying The Drummer. I very much liked how Elijah took those drumsticks away from him.

These characters are now part of a super-secret society that do...something?....and they encounter some bad guys who blew up stuff because they could.

The story itself was very rushed, way too many things happened; this one story could have been told in two or three stories. But it does what it should do, give the reader a sense of what to expect.

The reader will know there's a team of 3 people chosen for a special reason to be part of a secret society. This team will investigate extraordinary events and will encounter strange things in the course of their work. And it entices the reader with the promise of secrets to be revealed about the characters and Planetary.

As for the trophy room, that was my favorite panel! I was curios about those creatures. What I found creepy was the discovery of Axel Brass, just sitting there for decades.

message 14: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Better start moving a bit quicker here, so...

What did you think of Chapter 2 - 'Island'? Did it advance the themes or develop the characters in an interesting way? Did you enjoy its way of playing with Japanese movie styles?

Sarah | 9 comments I generally liked the chapter "Island". Though I actually wondered if I'd prefer the satellite office Planetary members more than the main team if they mostly acted like this Japanese one. It was nice to get a demonstration of the main characters' abilities, since for a team about hunting for truths and secrets, they're sure not explicit about the character's backgrounds. But that makes sense as a continuing theme, so I figured it'd be okay even if it annoyed me a little. I didn't like any of the non-planetary characters in this story, but then I guess that's how the chapter was designed.

I did enjoy how they used both concepts of real life disputes (the South Kuril Islands) and classic Japanese movie-style monsters (especially clear with the specific mention of the hydrogen bomb origins likewise used for Godzilla and other Kaiju movie monsters). The large panels for the monsters was a good touch to demonstrate their magnitude.

message 16: by Sérgio (last edited Jun 17, 2012 09:56AM) (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments I don't think the characters advance a lot in this book, let alone this chapter. There's not a lot we know about them and I think the situations they fall into are the most interesting part of the book.

Having them going to this island and finding those japanese monsters corpses and having that extremist group with their weird dialogues was fun enough. It evoked a lot of details about Japanese culture and recent history in a few pages and I liked that about the book.

message 17: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Well, let's move on then...

Chapter 3: Dead Gunfighters. Did we learn anything new here? Are we developing ongoing themes, or does this just read like a compendium book? Was this an analogue for a specific genre or story-form, and did it work for you? Did it say anything interesting about genres and how they interplay?

Sarah | 9 comments The only thing we really learn in "Dead Gunfighters" is the Drummer has abilities more than just hacking or being some sort of white noise generator as was all that was really presented previously. The stories here generally come off as episodic. (Especially with the feel of a formula of 1) An incident occurs at some location, 2) Planetary team visits local Planetary office and 3) Planetary team investigates, where in most cases so far everyone involved in the initial incident ends up dead without the team really doing anything other than observing.) I'm not as much a fan of the episodic anthology-like storytelling format, so at that point it would have helped my interest if a continuing plot-line were to develop more visibly.

The one thing I loved about the chapter was the bit they did with the panel layout whenever the ghost showed up. It suddenly switched the storyflow to feel like a film setting with the widescreen panels progressing like a film reel. In much the way that the previous chapter echoed classic Japanese monster movies, this felt like an echo of a some Hong Kong mobster flick.

message 19: by Sérgio (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments I would agree with you Sarah. The stories felt episodic, except the last chapter which looks like the real start of Planetary as an ongoing storyline, but I could be wrong.

Also I think you're right about the influences on the chapter. That first scene had one of the craziest bullet-time shoot out I've ever seen and I liked the unbelievably over-the-top bad guys. Pretty cool!

The chapter itself felt a bit thin but I liked the final lines, that:

- "Did he say "justice"?"

- "No. "Just us"."

I thought it was clever and gave the chapter poignancy that it would have lacked otherwise.

message 20: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Sergio, you're dead right about the last chapter - it's where the broader story really starts. Planetary for me begins as a play on comic-book and genre fiction forms, and slowly becomes something much more. It definitely gets better as it goes on - it's almost a pity that we're only dealing with the first volume here.

Personally, I'd be happy to keep this thread going beyond this month, and see the series through to conclusion - but I don't know if anyone else would be with me on that, or if I'd just be talking to myself.

Sarah | 9 comments Sérgio, while the wordplay of "justice" to "just us" is good, as for me, I was getting a little tired of it by this point since it had already been used in DC's Young Justice: A League of Their Own as the "accidental" cause of the team name and title about 9 months prior in the issued releases. But then again, repeated themes and puns are not all that uncommon in comics anyway.

Adam, it might be possible to continue. Not sure how long I'd be able to keep at it. Yeah, the main plot point really picks up after this volume, though I do have to admit to perhaps being a bit fond of the comics camp considering that my favorite stories are the ones that go completely off-target of the plot in the crossover Planetary: Crossing Worlds compilation.

message 22: by Sérgio (last edited Jun 19, 2012 11:03AM) (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments @Adam: Thanks for the suggestion Adam, but personally I’m more inclined to keep the rules consistent in the Book Club Reading, so I think this specific discussion should be only about the book chosen.

But I’ll leave the decision to NYKen, since he’s the main moderator of the group.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t keep discussing this series in this group though. You can always suggest the next books for our next group discussions.

However, it could take some time before we choose another planetary volume so a faster way to do it would be to continue the discussion in another thread. I would suggest you to use the buddy reads folder where you can have discussions between a more limited number of participants.

It was a great idea by NYKen. You can check out here to see what it’s all about:

The other option I can think of would be to open a thread for discussing the whole series in the “Superheroes Graphic Novels” folder.

@Sarah: Thanks for pointing that out, I don’t follow DC comics so I don’t know about those things.

Like that thing you mentioned previously about the similarities between the “All Over The World” story and the DC multiverse. That was interesting too.

message 23: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Mendez (Yvonne_Mendez) I agree with all of you about the episodic stories and the artwork, great panels and action sequence. So far the series reminds me of the X-Files episodes, when at the beginning of the series the episodes had little to do with each other, other than having Mulder and Scully investigating, until the alien conspiracy story line started.

As for character development, while I agree that the Drummer seemed to have more abilities, he still annoyed me. The other two characters remain the same, but in this episode there was a small glimpse on Planetary history. Other than that it is still unclear as to what the mission of Planetary is since none of the characters seem like historians wanting to preserve super-natural knowledge.

message 24: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Better get a move on. Thankfully,

Chapter 4: Strange Harbours and Chapter 5: The Good Doctor are the first to flow together, although they're still self-contained episodes. Is a broader story or set of themes beginning to develop here? Is there a central idea in the author's mind, or a larger plan? Or is it just a set of mildly-diverting stories?

Aside from that, are you enjoying the series on the whole? Is the artwork to your liking? And so on.

Sarah | 9 comments Chapters 4 and 5 get back to tying in the story with Axel Brass's team and multiverse situation that was detailed in the first chapter. Because these chapters build off that scenerio, they start to feel more connected to a broader story even if "Strange Harbours" starts off seeming like just another episodic plot like the chapters prior. It's not until Snow admits that while Planetary is "an investigating, unreactive, plodding operation", they would look into supporting Wilder's goals to some extent, in which the story starts to hint at the team doing something active instead of completely in observation mode. "The Good Doctor" works at building up the background of Brass's history and finally gives us a a few more questions that that start building the series: "Who is the fourth man?" being the most evident.

For me, I was mostly interested in the bleed-ship (or shift-ship) in this story. They refer to them as "bleed ships" later in the DCU, where the Bleed eventually gets established with the 52-world multiverse as the existence between worlds. There's even a fleet of bleed ships in the "Countdown to Final Crisis" stories, though they certainly weren't portrayed nearly as pretty. Actually, the references to the Bleed and multiverse makes me wonder how much the Wildstorm universe delved into this before it folded into the DCU proper. Also the commentary from Snow in "Good Doctor" about incidents of supermen annihilating Moscow and LA make me wonder if this might be allusions to other Wildstorm books. Its not entirely uncommon to see cross-referenced material in a shared universe setting even if the characters never cross into the other books. That is one of the aspects of a shared universe that gives it a cohesion that's appealing. I haven't read that many Wildstorm books, but I may try picking up more later on to investigate.

I generally rather like the artwork in the series. I'm not too fond of the formatting used for the backstory sections in "The Good Doctor", but as long as it used sparingly, it can be acceptable. Considering I've already read the entire series, I obviously liked it enough to keep getting the books.

Also, I really like the feel of the last line in chapter 5. Snow's expression with the "I was busy" makes it evident that the character actually has something important to him, something that hopefully would be detailed further in the later stories.

message 26: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Shiftships feature heavily in Warren Ellis & Brian Hitch's run on The Authority, published at around the same time as Planetary. I can't remember if they were in Ellis' run on Stormwatch before that, they might have been.

These books are well worth tracking down by the way, a very intelligent take on what a super-team might be. It's worth noting that Warren Ellis is no fan of superheroes.

message 27: by Sérgio (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Since they are coming back to it, the Doctor Brass story must have some relevance to the series as a whole, I think.

I think the art in this is good, but not great. Cassaday has also a good sense of design. I really like what he did with the shiftship in chapter 4.

Robert Wright (rhwright) | 294 comments Dug this one out as the topic came up. Have had this first collection for years, but never sought out later volumes.

While I enjoyed it, even with the hype, I just didn't find it as compelling as Stormwatch/The Authority and other of Ellis' work. This time around, I think I will continue on. It helps that my local library has them available.

To some of the specific questions/topics here:

I didn't think the opening was a great introduction. Like far too many series, these first several chapters are too much set up and not enough pay off. Admittedly, this first segment are mostly stand-alone-ish stories, and I haven't read the others yet, but I expect a somewhat complete story arc in a single collection, not set up for what's going to play out 10-15 issues (or 2 volumes) later.

I did enjoy the pulp heroes vs. JLA homage in issue 1 and issue 2's take on Monster Island.

Issue 3: good story, other than the "oriental" font. It doesn't come off as a compendium---it is one. Published in serial format with, and written over time not just broken up for publication after completion of the whole thing.

Issue 4 & 5 start to push this forward. I think we begin to see the beginnings of the bigger direction for the series here. As a fan of the classic pulps, the Doc Brass character and storyline are particularly interesting.

message 29: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments Last one:

Chapter 6: It's A Strange World introduces us to The Four, a fairly obvious analogue for the Fantastic Four. What did you think of this story? Does it make you want to read further?

On a side-note, this is the first time Planetary has directly focused on elements of the mainstream comics world. Is Ellis being allegorical, trying to say something between the lines in this story?

Robert Wright (rhwright) | 294 comments This story seemed more disjointed than the others and more like a taste of things to come.

I think the whole story so far had been very meta (not in the powers sense); Ellis is exploring the tropes, archetypes, and cliches of the medium, twisting them for his own ends and telling a good story.

Not allegorical exactly, more a super hero comic that explodes the idea of a super hero comic. Very much in a similar vein as Watchmen.

message 31: by Sérgio (last edited Jun 29, 2012 02:02PM) (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Huh! I didn't even pick up that incredibly obvious Fantastic Four reference. Goes to show that I'm not really that knowledgeable about super hero comics.

Yeah, I probably liked this first volume enough to try out the next volumes.

Robert wrote: "On a side-note, this is the first time Planetary has directly focused on elements of the mainstream comics world."

I don't think it is really the case. Sarah picked up some pretty obvious super hero references in the first chapter.

There's also the Hulk reference in the preview.

I agree with Robert, this takes some well known fictional worlds, (whether its super heroes or pulp fiction, kaiju eiga or Hong Kong cop movies), and creates a more personal vision of it. In that way it's similar to Watchmen, although it's far from a rip-off of it, I think.

message 32: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam | 130 comments I've read the whole series, a couple of times now. It's one of my favourites. Gets better as it goes on.

back to top