Issue One “All Over the World”
Theme: The 1930s pulp heroes.
Quick summary: Elijah Snow is a grumpy one hundred year old man who gets pulled away from his wilderness shack to consult for the organization Planetary. There he meets his teammates Jakita Wagner and The Drummer, and is sent out to a secret bunker in the Adirondacks. This bunker was used as a secret base by analogues of the pulp heroes. In 1945 they attempted to run a system that would turn Earth into a perfect planet, but their attempts were stopped by an alternate universe’s Justice League.
Opening Line: "Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it."
Page 7, panel 2: The Drummer is drinking Whak Cola. “Whak” is probably a reference to the slang word “wacko,” as in The Drummer is out of his mind.
Page 7, panels 3 and 4: Note that the New York skyline is photographs. Something Jack Kirby often did in his later work.
Page 8, panel 3: Instead of typing, Drummer communicates with the computer by tapping on it with his drumsticks. Also note the little plastic frog head atop his machine. Is it supposed to be Kermit the Frog?
Page 10, panel 2: The drummer is communicating with the helicopter. Why?
Page 11, panels 2 and 3: here and through the rest of the series Jakita has the powers and temperament of Golden Age Superman. Considering what we learn of her parentage, it seems unlike that Superman had any influence on her. Though this could be Ellis’ playing with Golden Age superhero tropes. (Here Jakita jumps from a helicopter, and states that she probably could kick a rhino across the Grand Canyon.)
Page 12, panel 2: “The Vulcania Raven God” is probably a reference to all of the Lovecraftian horrors that stalked the 1930s.
Page 12, panel 3: “The Hull of the Charnel Ship” ties forward to issue 4, “Strange Harbours.” The second display case reads “Vestiments of the Black Crow King,“ I have no idea what this refers to. The third case: “The Murder Colonels” seem to be Ellis’ attempt to create a generic pulp villain.
Page 13, panel 1: This is Doc Alex Brass, the Planetary analogue for the pulp hero Doc Savage.
Page 14: The seating arrangement of the room is a morality index of the pulp heroes. Hark, the Fu Manchu analogue, and The Spider, analogue of The Spider, are the darkest men in the room. Neither would hesitate to brutally kill any who opposed them. Next two are Jimmy, Operator #5, and Lord Blackstock, Tarzan. Neither goes out of his way to kill, but they (sometimes) enjoy it more than they should. On The third tier we have Edison, Tom Swift, and the Pilot, G-8. I don’t think that Tom Swift ever killed anyone, and G-8 can be excused for his killings since they all happened during the course of the First World War. Lastly, we have Doc himself. In the pulps Savage rarely killed anyone, preferring to have them sent to his Crime College where the criminals could be lobotomized into model citizens.
However, there is another more simple explanation for the seating. Fu Manchu and The Spider took their personal wars seriously, never enjoying themselves; unless that enjoyment was found in torturing an enemy. Tarzan and Operator #5 had fun in their adventuring on occasion, but were mostly grim. G-8 and Tom Swift lived for the fun of action, the adrenalin rush of combat with evil. And then, Doc Savage; despite his high morals, he readily admitted through all his pulp novels that he adventured for the pure fun of it. While unlikely, there is a certain charm to this explanation.
Page 16, panel 1: The “computer” that Brass is working on seems very similar to the Blue Lantern technology from issue 10, “Magic and Loss.”
Page 17: This is the first full appearance of the “snowflake,” a representation of the multiverse. As for “196,833”; this is the “Monster” number. For more information, see here:
Page 22: The invaders are analogues of the Justice League. Starting at the top and running clockwise, they represent: Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.
Page 23: Note that in the fight parings, Ellis is comparing the pulp heroes to their descendants, the superheroes. Doc Savage and Superman, the ultimate men, battle. The Spider and Batman, the terror shades of the night. Tarzan and Wonder Woman, those who were born in a more savage state. Hark battles Martian Manhunter in a battle of foreigners. (During the 1930s, China and Mars might as well have been the same distance for the normal person.) Edison takes on Flash, scientist versus scientist. Perhaps G-8 is fighting against the Green Lantern analogue as both were pilots.
The rest are less clear. I’m not quite sure why Operator #5 was killed by Wonder Woman, or why G-8 is killed by the Aquaman analogue.
Page 25, panel 1: The cargo of the third helicopter is possibly explosives, as seen in issue 18, “The Gun Club.”
Panel 4: The motto of the Planetary series is spoken for the first time. “It’s a strange world.” “Let’s keep it that way.”