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The story opens in Planetary HQ, with Jakita and Drummer meeting with Snow (nominally to talk to him about using equipment without authorization). Snow cuts right to the chase, and starts discussing his memory gaps. He gives the incident where he offered Jakita a cigarette in Issue 1 as an example of his gaps; he knew Jakita smoked, because he remembered it. But at the time, he didn't know how or what exactly he remembered, so he bluffed his way out of it. He reveals he did this to protect himself, as he didn't want them to know about his memory problems.
He then brings up the annual Planetary Guides, and demands that Drummer tell him who writes it. Confirming what Snow has surely already remembered, Drums affirms that Snow is the book's author, and has been since 1925. Snow goes on to tell the team that he knew Sherlock Holmes, and that he needed Holmes' expertise to learn more about what he already suspected was going on in a behind-the-scenes world. Then he drops the bomb, and tells the team that he remembers who the Fourth Man is, and exits the building.
Walking across the street and through a park, Snow begins pulling together themes and situations that have had us all guessing all these months. He announces he wants a file opened on John Stone, and states that Stone, in addition to being the world's oldest and best secret agent, practically invented psychological operations. In light of this, Snow seems to question the idea that the amazing job that was done on his memory would start to crumble so completely, so quickly. Snow then quickly riffs to Stone's association with Anna Hark, immediately questioning the sense of having James Wilder investigate the bombing (back in Issue 4) when you have Stone at your disposal. He turns quickly to conspiracy, hypothesizing that Hark blew up her own building to reveal the shiftship portal, and ultimately send Wilder through it. The whole "Snowflake terrorist group" was an inside joke. "Classic black ops," Snow calls it, and smiles at the joy of analysis. He has missed it.
Next, he announces that he is and always has been the Fourth Man, and confronts Jakita with the fact that she had been instructed not to look for him.She and Drums admit that they wanted to get him back to try to get him back to his functional self somehow, but not actually restore his memory. A dangerous tightrope to walk indeed, as a memory flashback of Snow's reveals that Dowling and the Four had cut him a deal: allow the mindwipe and disappear, or your team dies.
While Jakita and Drums appear fearful of Snow's restoration, he is far from afraid. His final act of the issue is to freeze a giant "4" into the ground of the park, knowing full well that the Four's surveillance satellites will see it.
This was the payoff we've been waiting for. Snow as the Fourth Man makes perfect sense, and doesn't force the story in an entirely different direction as so many of the other potential Fourth men would have. If anything, it brings the story to a much sharper focus. Everything about this is now personal. Snow has possibly been betrayed by Stone and Hark. He's still missing large pieces of memory (as shown by this issue's recollection of Ambrose Chase). His life's work, the Planetary Guides, were left undone for perhaps a decade while he rotted away in the desert. And the Four have threatened not only his life but the lives of his teammates. And if some of the interplay between Snow and Jakita is any indication, those ties run very, very deeply.
But while many questions were answered, more still remain (although this issue should win some kind of award as the only issue in the series to date that answered more questions than it raised!). The conspiracy scenario that Snow rattled off about Hark and Stone begs the question of what was they hoped to accomplish with such a plan. I'd like to believe that it was designed to try to take advantage of other dimensional technology to hopefully discover an effective weapon against the Four Voyagers. But how could anyone have created the chain of events that lead Wilder to step on the portal? And since it looks as though Stone may have helped Dowling with the erasure of Snow's memory, we certainly have no assurance that Hark and Stone are working against the Four--they may all be on the same side.
The most intriguing mystery presented this issue may have been the one regarding the relationship between Snow and Jakita. Many interpretations of what was presented are possible. Snow spoke of changing Jakita's diapers--is he her father? He does take on a fatherly tone with her at several points in the story. Or could it be he simply helped raise her, as it now appears he did Ambrose Chase. Still another interpretation is that Snow and Jakita were once lovers. While this seems a bit peculiar in light of the diaper remark, you've got to remember that Snow is over 100 years old without outwardly appearing so;this would have a tendency to change one's view on relationships. (And no one said anything about all the shagging Jenny Sparks did with guys young enough to be her great-grandchildren. Fair's fair.) But Drum's reaction to Snow's brief caress of Jakita's hair really set the scene off. What could generate this kind of reaction from Drummer?
Next issue will follow the thread of Snow's time with Sherlock Holmes, so the answers to the the more immediate cast of characters' questions are on hold for at least one more issue. But the stage is definitely set for the last 13 issues, and it looks like many of the plot lines started in the first 12 will be revisited and resolved. I was beginning to fear they would be forgotten in favor of fresh exploration. Glad to be wrong!
What's the real story behind the bombing of the Hark building and Stone's possible involvement? What is the personal history between Jakita and Snow? What, exactly, is in all of those Planetary Guides? How much more will Snow remember, and what impact will it have on the rest of the story? And why on earth does Snow feel confident enough to let the Four Voyagers know he's back?