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Absolute Planetary: Book One
Warren Ellis Art by John Cassaday
Wildstorm, 320 pages

Absolute Planetary: Book One
Warren Ellis
Warren Ellis writes comics, graphic novels, journalism and anything else for which people pay money. He lives in south-east England. He is the writer of the graphic novel RED, the film version of which (starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman & Helen Mirren) came out in October 2010. He is also the writer of the GRAVEL graphic novels, under development for film by Legendary Pictures. He also wrote the novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. An he extrudes a monthly column for WIRED UK magazine.

Warren Ellis Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Susan Dunman

It's a strange world -- so says Elijah Snow, and he should know. He has been recruited by a mysterious organization called Planetary to assist in its efforts to uncover Earth's secret history. The pay's not bad at one million dollars a year for life, especially considering Elijah has already lived 100 years, while aging only half that number.

The enigmatic Snow has many other secrets, as do his two new team members, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer. As the three of them carry out the clandestine plans of Planetary, they become increasingly intrigued by the artifacts uncovered from their efforts in "mystery archeology." Unbelievable secrets are revealed as the group methodically works to map the secret history of the 20th century.

Book One of Absolute Planetary collects the first 12 issues of the series, plus the complete script for the first issue. The impressive Absolute format is a joy to behold and, although this first volume was out of print for quite some time, a new printing was released in July of this year.

Among all of the many mysteries which must be unraveled, one thing that is not a secret is the unadulterated imagination that pulses throughout these pages. Writer and artist complement each other so well that text and images flow into a single form of communication. Every issue has a distinct "feel" to it and each one shines a little more light on the secret history of Elijah Snow, Planetary, and the villainous enclave called The Four, who are the antithesis of Planetary.

The stories can be appreciated on many levels, as there are countless references to pop culture icons, comic book characters, and fragments from favorite sci-fi and horror stories that are part of our cultural sub-conscious. There really is something here for everyone, from tales of a stranded shiftship that once travelled between the multiverse, to the ghost of a murdered policeman who comes back from the grave to deliver justice.

One of my favorites involves the exploits of Doc Brass and his super-hero cronies as they secretly fight to save the planet from a variety of evils in the 30s and 40s. How can you not smile after reading the following sentence:

"Beneath Chicago, Doc Brass fights for the future of Man in the Spawning Caves of the feral miscegenated Neo-Arachnid Variants bred by the Murder Colonels."
And of course, John Cassady's depiction of this event only heightens the sensation of finding a dusty attic relic in the form of a forgotten dime novel or pulp magazine. Cassady's artwork is stunning and when viewed on the oversized, glossy pages of this Absolute edition, it will make your eyes pop. After I read the book, which was at a breakneck speed because the stories were such page-turners, I immediately went back and simply looked at everything again.

Because this is a story about secrets, each issue must do its part to slowly reveal answers to the many questions presented at the beginning of the book. Warren Ellis does this in fine style, but it does require a bit of patience as you start out. However, ramp up your tolerance for ambiguity because there is pay-off as things progress.

One of the best compliments any story, especially a serialized story, can receive is when the reader finishes the last page, looks up, and mentally screams, " I WANT MORE!" Luckily, Book Two of Absolute Planetary is waiting in the wings.

Copyright © 2010 Susan Dunman

Susan became a librarian many light years ago and has been reviewing books ever since. Audiobooks and graphic novels have expanded her quest to find the best science fiction in Libraryland.

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