This post is part of a series about what was inside this month’s big box of free comics.
What can I say about Planetary that hasn’t already been said in the 20 years since its first issue? From the series’ chronic delays of up to years between issues, to the Eisner-award-winning artwork, Planetary has been documented about as thoroughly as the weird events in Elijah Snow’s annual “Planetary Guides”.
The 864-page hardcover Omnibus edition looks like one of those Guides when you remove the slipcover, and that’s just one example of the high-quality design that was a hallmark of the series. People might have waited months or years for the original issues, but when each one finally came out, it looked damn good. So does the Omnibus.
Reading the Omnibus cover-to-cover puts Planetary in a fresh light. I gained a greater sense of the series’ continuity and complexity since I could read each chapter with the previous one still fresh in my mind. I got an even stronger impression of the amazing work by colorist Laura Martin (with assistance from Wildstorm FX). Although writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday usually get the credit for the series, Martin’s contribution is integral to its visual splendor and the emotional effect of every page and panel. Maybe Planetary could have been good without Martin, but I doubt it would have been legendary.
The Omnibus also dissipates the major annoyance I had when I was originally piecing the series together from single issues; namely, a feeling that every installment consisted only of the three main characters visiting a random location where they met a random person who delivered lengthy exposition about a scenario based on pulp fiction or vintage superheroes, and that this exposition filled most of the pages before reaching a vague and hasty conclusion tacked on as an afterthought to the “cool concept” of the issue.
While several chapters do this, they are not as numerous as I remember, and they mostly take place in the beginning of the series. Reading the Omnibus makes it clear how the individual chapters fit into the big picture; it was just difficult to sort all that out with a series that took ten years to publish 27 issues, and because it was challenging to find affordable copies in complete chronological order if you came to the series late like I did.
Though I’ve thought highly of Planetary since the day I discovered a beat-up copy of #5 at a used bookstore, the Omnibus made me enjoy and appreciate it even more.