Full disclosure: I am an ardent Warren Ellis sycophant. Though I haven’t yet read all his work, his fiction hasn’t yet disappointed. That’s putting it boringly. Rather, I should write that he hasn’t yet not astounded me with his breadth and acumen for writing speculative, traditional and historical science fiction. So rather than simply slew gratuitous praise, I’ll say a few words about Planetary.
Planetary defines the science fiction genre, whether in graphic form or otherwise. Science creating fiction, and fiction literally inspiring science. Constantly feeding off one another. Inventive and all-consuming with magnitudes of possibility. Ellis’s imagination is only tempered by the scope of the four volume arc in which his characters unearth mystery incarnate. If it weren’t for said characters, he’d have a wild, unboundedly orgasmic multiverse to populate on paper. Something never be fully realized, of course; so we have but a corralled current of enthrallment, advancing via strangely disparate heroes less captivated with themselves than the mystery of possibility itself. Briefly, Planetary involves restoration and preservation, of memory, old friends, of the past, of earth and most everything on it; not just earth but more importantly what the earth offers the nascent potential to reveal. Secrets in plain sight, others buried deep or quarantined by other unseen authorities. Joyous secrecy from a group of unlikely archivists. Secrets in space, earth civilization, multidimensional factions and realized fiction.
As far as character development, I’ll venture that Ellis deliberately understates, instead focusing on the expeditious mind-bending flashes in which they participate. That he never explicitly explains the abilities of Elijah Snow and Co. is for the better, leaving the reader to surmise their perhaps unearthly origins. On the other hand, his is the first example I’ve come across to deftly shatter the “black man always dies at the start” premise. No, it is better to invite the fascination from such issues as “Mystery in Space/Rendezvous”, “Magic & Loss”, “Creation Songs” and “The Gun Club”, all top tier stories and so nebulous as they linger in the reader’s mind.
Planetary is just writing and illustration of awe. Universal awe of not what can be achieved in human endeavors, but comprehended. A bit tangential, but that’s what both science and imagination do. Carrying one to places never thought possible.