Reviews: Planetary

Book 1: Lots of style, very little substance

First, the stuff I like. I love the premise and every issue has lots of creative and interesting high concept ideas and fantastic artwork. Elijah Snow starts off very bland, but when he actually does something he's pretty cool and genuinely tries to do good. My favorite scene in the book is his conversation with Doctor Brass at the hospital. It's the one moment of real character development in the comic, which leads to the problems I have...

It's not that the ideas are poorly executed, it's that they aren't executed at all. Nearly every issue/chapter is just the team arriving someplace weird and a character expositing about the thing they want to know about, and then they leave. This is one of the few stories I've ever read where the story arcs can be summed up entirely by their premise. Nothing comes of their discoveries, there's barely any character development (all of which is reserved for Snow), and we learn nothing about Planetary or its foes. Frankly, it's boring.

For me, creative ideas and gorgeous art aren't enough by themselves, I need the story to do something with them and I really want to be invested in the characters. Every chapter just throws an exposition dump with pictures (dialogue is rare) at characters I have no reason to care about because they have no agency. For most of the comic, Snow is just along for the ride while Jakita and The Drummer are even less active. The Planetary organization seems to only exist to enable the team to go on adventures, but they have no adventures.

The side characters for each chapter are no better though I did like Doctor Brass once I learned more about him. The rest just exist for the sake of existing without any real depth. I don't empathize with the ghost of a dead cop cursed to kill criminals, the businessman who commits his life to finding a crew for an interdimensional ship, or the scientist who turned himself into a monster because all their stories lead nowhere. If this comic is going to be nothing but one-off stories I need to get invested in the characters of each story, but I never did.

They finally introduce a villain near the end and Snow got to meet one of The Four. Sadly, he had nothing to say except admit he is an evil puppetmaster of the world that keeps all the wonders of the world secret for no reason except that he wants to be an evil puppetmaster, and because of that Snow should leave him be. What kind of villain doesn't even have a hunger for power as motivation, let alone thinks the hero will back off when he isn't even threatened? It's so boring and stupid I can't even get riled up about it, I just didn't care by that point.

I've heard there's more interesting stuff in the next volume, but I'm judging this book on its own merits and it fails to catch my interest. If the rest of the series is like this, then I don't want to read more of it when I can get high concept stories elsewhere that have more developed plots and interesting characters.