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This issue, perhaps one of the most anticipated of any in recent memory, at last introduced us to Jacob Greene of the Four Voyagers, just in time to say goodbye to him.
As Issue 19 finished, Planetary's "angels" were about to be joined on the Galactus-like-being's ship by Jacob Greene. As this issue begins, we see a spacesuit-clad figure emerge from his ship and board the Rama-like ark. Snow speculates that Greene was sent in alone both because he's The Four's pilot (therefore most suited to fly out to the ship), and also because, in Snow's words, Greene is "inexhaustible cannon fodder" and "an unkillable soldier," making him best suited to the task. Kwelo signals the angels that a new element is present at the ships entrance to lure them back to Greene.
As we see the scene through the angels' eyes, Greene is not hard to track. Clawlike gashes run down the side of the ships interior wall, showing where he descended. Each footprint is pressed deep into the turf. Trees and the dwellings of the humanoids who inhabit the shop are snapped like twigs and destroyed along Greene's path. They finally catch up with Greene just as he murders another of the land's inhabitants. We see Greene in bits and pieces at first, a foot here, an arm there, an eye, a mouth. Then a full-page reveal shows the full measure of Jacob Greene. His hide, looking like some kind of combination of heavy gray skin and stone, covers a misshapen, veiny, and tumorous form. Some of his joints (wrists and ankles) appear to be bleeding a bit (or is that lava?), as though his hide wasn't designed to accommodate the flexibility his bones and muscles accommodate. His eyes are a reddish-orange with triangular pupils. His tongue looks like a red, stone cylinder behind his stone-plate teeth, and as a result he can barely speak. We "hear" him bark out, in broken speech perhaps indicating the difficulty of generating them, a self-conscious, "WHAT THE HELL... YOU LOOKING AT." The absence of a question mark implies that the words are flat, monotone, devoid of emotive inflection. The letters used convey a rough, heavy quality.
After confirming that the angels are relaying back data on Greene, and that the data transfer is very near complete, Snow orders Kwelo to initiate a "Trojan horse" protocol. Kwelo begins to question the command, and Jakita, clearly caught off guard, asks for an explanation. Snow states that he knew they'd send Greene, while Kwelo busies himself activating an explosive attached to the engine of the ship used to carry the angels to the ship. As Snow asks Jakita how she expects him to handle Greene, after everything they have learned about The Four, the angel's ship explodes. The resulting shockwave is powerful enough to destroy Greene's vessel, though not powerful enough to destroy the massive space ark they have all come to investigate. Using their own abilities, the angels communicate back to Kwelo that they know their ship has been destroyed, but plan to continue recording the details of the massive ark as it carries them to another solar system.
Snow leaves the room with a final defense of his actions, stating The Four are now only three, and states that he will not apologize for his actions. Jakita, infuriated by the way the last few minutes have revealed strategies she hadn't been privy to (and clearly didn't like), lashes out at a nearby panel with her foot. Here final comment is chilling: "I don't know him anymore. We brought him back. But I swear it's not him anymore."
This was a fast issue (which is really saying something in the context of this series), built almost slowly around two events: the revelation of the mysterious Jacob Greene, and a new plot thread dealing with Elijah Snow. The former looks to be resolved, while the latter has no doubt sent shockwaves out among the Planetary fan base!
First let's look at Jacob Greene. Ellis, describing this issue back in July '02, said, "The Space Issue. We see Jacob Greene for the first time. It's not pretty. We see exactly what Elijah Snow is now prepared to do to take the Four down. It's not pretty." Consider that promise kept! Greene is very clearly Ellis' take on The Thing of The Fantastic Four, but with the darker twist he's employed with the other members of The Four. His appearance here is more reminiscent of the original appearance of The Thing: less rocky, and more lumpy. The Thing wasn't always the rocky character we know today (although he's moved back and forth along the rockiness spectrum quite a bit over the years), and at first his hide was simply rendered as thick, near impenetrable, but not made of stone. Ellis and Cassaday borrow from that original theme here. Rockiness is suggested more by the teeth, tongue, and toes of this beast more than his limbs or torso. The eyes are completely alien. His head seems to be without a neck, and the creature's mouth seems to attach at the top of his chest. Making Greene have to struggle to speak is probably more realistic than the rocky Thing's loquaciousness, though speaking at all would seem to be next to impossible with the oral equipment presented to us here.
The real nature of what we see is left a bit vague. Last issue, there was mention of "high thermal output" when Greene's ship arrived. Is he to be interpreted as a creature who gets his rocky qualities from a volcanic interior? Some of the fluid leaking from Greene's joints could be blood, or possibly lava. The darkness of his exterior is suggestive of volcanic rock. The coloring of the grass around Greene's footprints is leaning to a brownish color, and the footprints themselves almost look scorched. But Greene's murder victim doesn't appear to be burning in Greene's fist. All of this seems inconclusive. And while the angels collected data on Greene's makeup, it's doubtful we'll get to hear too much more about it, if Greene is truly out of the story now.
On this point, however, there may be some debate. If Snow has a space-worthy craft at his disposal (and still has 18 more left, according to his statement last issue), and Dowling has been caching weapons and all manner of alien tech both here and on other planets, is it too far a stretch to think that Dowling could find a way to rescue Greene if he were so inclined? Why wouldn't he have, or be able to acquire, another ship? Why not use the saucer we saw back in Issue 14? Or whatever technology The Four used to shoot down the "blue lantern" over the great red spot of Jupiter, as referenced in Issue 10? Greene may be gone, but that doesn't mean he has to stay gone. He certainly won't be forgotten.
The other bombshell element of this issue was right at the end (naturally). Jakita suggests that Snow has changed since his memory began returning, and the dual implications are that 1) it's a change for the worse, and 2) Jakita may not be willing to put up with it for much longer without challenging him on it.
This is definitely an unexpected plot twist. But it is, in some ways, confusing. Do we as readers have much evidence of a change in Snow's behavior or attitude over what we've been shown in pre-memory-block flashbacks? Snow's tendency towards viciousness and/or cruelty is not exactly a new element to the character. Issue 13, chronologically our "earliest" encounter with Snow, in 1919, has him freezing Dracula and then kicking his frozen crotch off of his body. He talks of having tortured the Invisible Man for information as well. In Issue 11, circa 1969, he freezes Bride solid. (Sure, he was saving John Stone's life, but had he not waited so long to act he could have stopped her without killing here. And kicking her to pieces was a superfluous gesture at that point, and can be interpreted as an additional cruelty.) In Issue 14, circa 1995, right before Dowling gives him his memory blocks, Snow informs Dowling of his intent to kill each of the Four. So a hard-line approach to things isn't exactly out of character from before he lost his memory.
We've also see examples of a benevolent pre-memory-loss Snow: with Jakita's upbringing; Snow's apparent fondness for Abrose Chase; and concern for the well-being of the field team in Issue 14. But the current Snow has exhibited compassion as well: his move to make Abrose's wife and family financially secure in Issue 15; his affection for Jakita, seen in a gentle gesture in Issue 12; his insistence on helping Jim Wilder in Issue 4; his compassion for Allison in Issue 8; his budding friendship with Doc Brass (as displayed in Issue 5 and 15); and his infrequent, and therefore notable, moments of affection for Drummer, as seen in last issue's launch of the angel's ship. So it's not like Snow has become so single-minded in his need to beat The Four that he has lost all traces of compassion and humanity; the argument could be made that, based on what we've seen, he hasn't changed much at all.
Even in the events of the past two issues, though Snow has made some hard, calculating decisions about his approach to the Four, it hasn't been without recognition of the consequences. He's been under a lot of stress, and it shows. His body language over these last two issues has been nervous: checking his watch, tensely gripping his hands together, perhaps a bit more clipped exchanges than usual with Jakita... he's clearly had a lot on his mind as these events have played out. After all, the last time he engaged The Four directly (in Issue 14), he had contained Leather and Suskind successfully, but was still overcome by the sudden arrival of Dowling. His attack on Leather in Issue 18, followed by this issue's gambit to eliminate Greene, could easily have resulted in dire consequences, had Dowling or Suskind been watching events more carefully.
What of Jakita's view of things? Admittedly, in the last two issues (months for us, but hours for her), she's found out about a Planetary base she didn't know existed, spacecraft she didn't know Planetary had, angels she didn't know existed, and a strategy for dealing with Jacob Greene that has been concocted without her knowledge or input. Still, her anger seems a bit excessive, given the situation. While Issue 14 made it look as though Snow would keep the team apprised of his plans, it isn't out of character for him to keep some things more secret. For instance, Kwelo, the base, the spacecraft, and the angels were all around before Snow ever got his memory blocks--why didn't he tell Jakita back then?
I think Ellis tried to underscore the wonder with which Jakita and Drummer looked upon the spacecraft, angels, and the Rama-like space ark. Both were clearly in awe, with Drummer even volunteering to visit that ship personally. That could lead one to believe that Jakita's anger is partially the result of her sympathy for the angels and other creatures who are now trapped in the presence of an unkillable monster. But over these last two issues, she seems more upset from having been kept in the dark on the base, the angels, and the Trojan horse strategy of the exploding ship.
In Snow's defense, what DOES she expect him to do? He said back in Issue 6 that he wanted to kill The Four for what they have done. But so far they have only captured Leather (although again, just like last issue, they don't seem to reference this fact appropriately) and exiled (not directly killed) Greene. This is consistent with Snow's bid to capture, not kill, Leather and Suskind back in Issue 14. One could argue that Snow has been the picture of restraint in both cases!
On a different note, John Cassaday continues to stun. The human-like-fireflys, living in stalactite-based caves carved out to look like hanging skyscrapers, was another in his growing catalog of beautiful vistas in Planetary. And the shot of the angels as they exceeded Mach 1, for those of you who have never seen it, shows the same effect that can be seen of fighter jets as they break the sound barrier--the compression is actually a visible phenomenon. Brilliant!
Why is Jakita so convinced that Snow has changed? Can the Planetary team finish off The Four if there's dissension within the Planetary ranks? Is Greene really out of the picture for good? Where is William Leather being held, and why does it still seem like this event is being ignored? Could the telemetry gathered on Greene help the Planetary team better attack or defend against Suskind and Dowling?