In from the Cold

25 cover This issue's cover is stylistically reminiscent of an old 50s Cold War era Soviet propaganda poster. It turns out to be primarily decorative, as the issue doesn't focus on the cold war elements of the Artemis project or the final fate of the Soviet cosmonauts who followed The Four's path into space, but it's a great cover nonetheless.

The story opens in The Last Shot bar, where super-secret agent John Stone waits with two beers: one for himself, and one for a guest. As his guest, Elijah Snow, arrives, Stone says, "Here we go again," as though anticipating another talk like the last one they had in this location (back in Issue 11). But this is going to be a different kind of talk.

Snow quickly puts Stone off guard, as he states that Stone arranged their meeting there last time to attempt to dislodge Snow's memory blocks without The Four hearing, that Stone is working for The Four, and that Stone engineered the event that made Jim Wilder a superhuman (after The Four destroyed the Hark building to access the travelstone buried underneath).

Unwilling to respond to Snow's accusations, Stone attempts to leave, but finds a trap has been sprung. Jakita Wagner is standing outside the bar with an armed squad of Planetary agents. Drummer steps out from a back room and announces the location of a transmitter in Stone's body. Soon after, Drummer detects Stone's "Blitzen Suit" powering up, and Jakita rushes to grab Stone. Too late, Stone flashes through the fall and off down the mountain landscape outside. Showing the level to which Snow has prepared for this operation, he allows Drummer to remotely detonate hidden land mines outside, stopping Stone from running. After chemically starting a fire to delay the Planetary soldiers, Stone draws an odd looking pistol, only to have it kicked away by Jakita.

After the two each ask the other to stand down, Stone reveals a electricity-discharging mechanical claw under what had appeared to be his normal right hand. He describes it as the "Devil's Paw." After a back-and-forth hand to hand battle in which Stone actually manages to injure Jakita, Jakita ultimately overpowers Stone and knocks him unconscious.

Stone wakes in what appears to be a hospital room (presumably a secure one run by the Planetary organization), missing his right hand and looking considerably worse for wear. Snow is there, and reveals that in addition to the beating he took from Jakita and the removal of both his claw and the internal surveillance device, they also had to remove a bomb Stone had hidden in his chest cavity. Injured, beaten, and severed from the controls The Four have had over him, Stone is interrogated by Snow about the origin of the fantastic powers of The Four.

Snow and Stone speak of a (previously undisclosed) probe that Dr. Randall Dowling sent on the Artemis flight path prior to the actual flight. We learn that this was a calculated move by Dowling to test the "crack into the bleed" that he had learned might be there, and for something more. Stone explains that it wasn't the contact with the bleed or the snowflake that changed the group; it was what lay beyond.

The narration shifts here, and we experience the event as though we were there. We see Dowling explaining to his crew that they've traveled to the multiverse (based on the information retrieved by his earlier probe), and shows them a different earth. The earth of this slice of the multiverse is completely covered by either cities or machinery, and jets of fire that appear to be coming from faces in the landscape. Dowling describes a world of superhuman beings with whom he has struck a bargain: Dowling and his crew will be (randomly) given superhuman abilities in exchange for, first, information about the secret history of our world, and second, our world itself, deliverable after fifty years. Then The Four's ship continues towards the orbiting, hexagonally-shaped device that ultimately triggers the transformation that gave each of The Four their powers.

As the story shifts back to the hospital room. Snow asks about Dowling's power, as it's the only one he's never seen or heard about. Stone describes Dowling's power as stretching... him mind. Dowling's mind has a self-replicating, parasitic (though not directly telepathic) ability to "lay eggs" and reproduce in other people's minds. Stone explains that anyone who's been in any kind of close proximity to him "probably is Randall Dowling," not in outward appearance, but insofar as Dowling is essentially sharing brainspace with them.

If Snow is surprised by this information, or if it is to have any impact on his plans, he doesn't show it. He simply tells Stone "I'll take it from here" as the issue closes.

It may have had a normal page count, but this issue was so dense that it weighed a metric ton. And, like an early-series issue, it seemed to raise as many questions as it answered. All this, with just one "normal" issue remaining and a "coda"-type issue possibly to follow... how will this all get wrapped up? While it's hard to not think of what's going to happen next, though, let's focus on what we've learned this time around.

The bombshell revelation this issue is the nature of Dowling's powers. Given the parallels to The Fantastic Four, everyone expected some sort of stretching or transformative element to Dowling's powers. But after Ellis delivers a feint by having Stone say, "He stretches, Elijah. He extends," we learn that it's just his mind that does this, by way of "laying eggs" in the minds of others with whom he has shared proximity. The implications are frightening. We know at minimum that Dowling has been in close proximity to Snow and Stone, and might assume a degree of proximity to Anna Hark and perhaps even the young Drummer when he was a prisoner at one of Dowling's facilities. The implied nature of this isn't so much telepathy as it is a hive-mind situation. If the little bits of Dowling's mind left behind to grow can connect with the primary mind, then Dowling's spies are everywhere, and they might know what you know. At the very least, you could argue that they know what you're experiencing and process it independently. At most, I guess you could argue it's almost like an Agent Smith situation from the Matrix, where growing Dowlingbrain actually takes over the space in your skull and you effectively are a replication of the original. This last scenario begs the question of whether the infected party could infect others, but that's not quite how Stone presented it--it seems proximity to the original is required. Also, Stone expressed doubt about what was going on in his own head, suggesting that one's own mindspace is independent but that the Dowling portion might be able to assume control if it desired.

The point here is that it creates an environment where Dowling is potentially omniscient. Even if he were only inside Stone and Snows brains, it makes defeating The Four an almost insurmountable task--Dowling would know your plans before you hatched them. Even Snow's current gambit of defying expectation would be vulnerable, not only because of his own probable infection, but because on of the key elements of the plan was the capture and torture of Leather... who is very likely carrying Dowlingbrain in his own skull!

There would seem to be a mountain of evidence to the contrary here, given the way Snow has taken out Leather and Greene, and delivered other setbacks to The Four (e.g., Issue 15's prevention of a dreamtime incursion). But this could be answered in the same way the overall question of Planetary's continued survival has been answered: Dowling allows it because it is useful to him. When The Four get their powers in this issues flashback, Dowling comments on the desire for information and safety that his new allies have, and how this has a paranoid side. It wouldn't be too big a stretch (pardon the pun) to think that Dowling has grown mistrustful of his fellow voyagers over the years and is content to allow Snow to do the dirty work of eliminating them, all the while allowing Snow to continue to uncover the world's secret history. While time is almost up for the series, this is a question that will very likely be answered before the end of the next issue as we see Snow execute whatever endgame he has planned. As noted earlier, he seemed outwardly unconcerned by Stone's bombshell information.

On another note, I'd like to make some observations on John Stone. Stone seemed like a good person and a good friend to Snow when introduced and in every appearance since, and even though he's revealed as a pawn of The Four this issue, it's a nuanced role. Note the way he handles Snow's trap: first he plays dumb, then tries to talk his way out, then tries to run away, and even gives Jakita a last chance to let him go before actually fighting her. He's managing his position in steps, not ready to just immediately resort to lethal force (or to try to contact The Four to extricate him). And look at the style of his actions! He's completely composed as he mounts his escape. When Drummer's mines go off, he recovers very quickly. Note how in one panel he's falling, in the next his hands are already in his pockets as he strikes the ground, and in the next he's throwing a dangerous-put-nonlethal powder that will create a wall of flame to deter, but probably not kill, the soldiers. The next panel his gun is drawn. And while we don't know how he might've been enhanced over the years,the fact that he holds his own with Jakita for as long as he does is a testament to his fighting ability. Later, in the hospital, he reveals that he deliberately loosened the memory blocks in the hopes that Snow might somehow be able to save him from his life as an unwilling ally to The Four. Stone is simply a likable, sympathetic character, whether you classify him as a good guy or bad guy. He even cracks wise from his hospital bed! The man's got style. Considering his condition now, we've probably seen the last of him in this series; his presence from here out will only be felt via the information he might provide Snow "off camera." But he's been a great part of this series.

A last point of general interest this issue was the concept of The Four having fifty years before giving over our earth, or roughly by 2011. Since that date is much to far off to coincide with the end of the series (yeah, I know, I shouldn't tempt fate like that), I'm going to guess that it's a passing reference to the theory that the world will end December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ends there, and Terrence McKenna (whose work was heavily reflected in Issue 21) had a modified theory on the end of time that was based in part on the Mayan calendar. Grant Morrison's series The Invisibles used this timeframe as one of its primary thematic elements, too, and it's reasonable to expect that Ellis is familiar with that series. This isn't a critical plot point either way, really, but at the very least it's an intriguing near-coincidence. If done intentionally, it's a nice touch!

Connection to Jack Kirby and Early Marvel
This issue mined a lot of early Kirby and Marvel material, and also some later non-Marvel Kirby material, mixing it in some fascinating ways. For instance, we've long known that The Four were a riff on The Fantastic Four, a Kirby/Lee creation. But here Ellis extends their origin from a random exposure to a snowflake and/or the bleed (to parallel the cosmic rays encountered by the originals), to a much more calculated visit to another earth. This other earth looks very much like a couple of Kirby "Fourth Word" creations. The planet, with no visible water or greenery, and with jets of fire shooting from it, is immediately recognizable as an homage to Apokolips.

Cassaday's alternate earth, with a Kirby Apokolips alongside (inset).

In addition, Kirby has a Fourth World creation known as The Source Wall. Later, after Kirby's intial work, the wall was characterized as covered by titanic "promethian giants" whose stonelike faces are often characterized as having beams of power or light spraying from their immobile eyes and mouths. This is called to mind by the faces on Cassaday's planet, whose mouths are the firepits associated with Apokolips. It's an interesting mix of these two Kirby (and after-Kirby) concepts, intermingled with an origin of Kirby-based characters from a completely separate comic universe! (Thanks to James for pointing out that the promethian giants weren't part of the canonical Kirby material.)

Another Kirby concept that gets some play in The Four's origin is the concept of a race of people who all have super powers. We learn that the alternate earth The Four visited is populated solely by superpowered beings which, again, is much like the New Gods/Fourth World environment. But the difference here is that these beings have human ancestry, and developed a process to enhance their already-advanced natural powers. To ensure their powers are pushed to the limit, they created machines like the hexagonal, space-based device The Four flew through to obtain their powers. This is much like the Inhumans (thanks, Angel!), a segregated race that, while possessed of human ancestry, is now composed entirely of super powered residents. Another concept in the Inhuman's lore that is echoed this issue is the random assignment of human powers after exposure to the mutation-enhancing Terrigen mists. In the Inhumans' history, the practice was abandoned due to the often non-human results. This is akin to the fate of Dowling and Suskind's non-human children. And note that Dowling explains to his shipmantes that the earth they're visiting is (emphasis added) "a planet of eternal superentities who learned the secrets of inhuman powers many centuries back." This could be a significant choice of words, for our purposes, since the history of The Inhumans includes having descended from The Eternals, who themselves were the result of alien genetic manipulation of early humans.

As for the device that changed the Artemis team into The Four, it called two classic references to mind. One was DC's silver-age invention of Krona, an Oan (the race that evolved into the Guardians of the Universe) who unleashed evil on the universe by trying to peer back in time past the Big Bang. In doing so, he saw a ghostly, astral hand cradling a nascent universe. That's not Marvel, nor is it Kirby-esque, so let's look at another parallel. Galactus has, on many occasions, created his heralds by transferring his cosmic power through his hand to transform a non-super being. Since Galactus is a Kirby creation, that will be the preferred reference in this case.

Getting firmly back to the Marvel universe, let's look at Stone's Devil's Paw. This is an homage to the Satan Claw worn by Nick Fury villain Baron von Strucker. Where the Baron's Claw was a gauntlet, Stone's Paw seems to have replaced his real hand, based on the fact that Stone appears in the hospital with an amputated right hand and Stone's own reference to having hacked it off an opponent years earlier. On the other hand (oh, pardon the pun), it's possible that this is an homage to the fact that Nick Fury once chopped of the Baron's hand to separate him from the claw.

Top: Stone and the Devil's Paw.
Bottom: Cassaday's take on Baron von Strucker alongside a Kirby-esque Strucker, both sporting the Claw.

This is a bit of a stretch, but the Baron was known for having a "Death Spore" in his body that was lethal, and Fury once had to carefully contain the severed Satan Claw to prevent the spore from spreading and killing people. I was reminded of this by the fact that Snow discovered a bomb in Stone's chest and had to freeze it to contain it until safe removal was possible.

A note on the Steel Claw (added 6/3/06) Many folks have written in since this analysis was first posted to point out a possible connection/similarity between a Devil's Paw-wearing Stone and an old (1962) Valiant character named Steel Claw. Before the emails started coming in, I had never heard of Steel Claw. After a little research, I found a fairly extensive history. (I also found out he was part of the 2005 Alan Moore series "Albion," which featured other old British characters.) Steel Claw's history includes starting off as a lab assistant, then turning criminal after first getting the claw, since it turned the non-claw part of him invisible (useful in criminal endeavors). He eventually went the secret agent route (gaining various gadgetry in the metal hand along the way), then bounty hunter, and even costumed hero for a while. I read that much later in his history, his claw got electrical powers akin to the Satan Claw/Devil's Paw. Quite a resume, to be sure, but it doesn't parallel the whole 60s James Bond/Nick Fury character that Stone was built by Ellis to emulate.

The tenure as a secret agent, as well as having an actual steel hand (instead of a gauntlet--this is where the Stone/Baron Strucker legend is changed) does bear a similarity to Stone's circumstances, I'll admit. But from what I've read, Steel Claw looks like a character who started as one thing and then kind of got morphed by the prevailing zeitgeist into a secret-agent derivative. Everything else about the character's history, though, seems to make the Nick Fury/Baron Strucker link a much better fit. Knowing Ellis and his eidetic memory for this kind of thing, I certainly can't definitively say that he didn't have some Steel Claw in mind while working on this issue. And while Ellis might acknowledge the connection if asked today (which would send me scrambling to retract these comments, of course), I'm more persuaded by one comment he has already made on-record where he stated, in response to a question about John Stone as a mix between Nick Fury and James Bond, "Obviously, yes. The careful and slightly mad student of Wildstorm comics may also infer that S.T.O.R.M. is a precursor to Stormwatch." Ellis didn't exand the description, or hint that there might be more there.

It could well be that I just don't know enough about Steel Claw to be adequately persuaded, I guess. But let this update stand as an acknowledgment of the similarity as suggested by those who know more about the Steel Claw than I do.

Now let's take a quick trip through prior issues to see how the revelations this issue relate... or don't, as the case may be.

Prior Issue Connections
Issue 4: Strange Harbours We learn that it was actually Stone and The Four who were behind both the destruction of the Hark building and the "accident" that made a superhuman out of Jim Wilder. Snow explains it as a plot to get to the travelstone buried there, and that Stone himself selected Wilder as the test case. This helps make plausible Snow's theory that the whole event was engineered--it makes the whole notion of tricking someone into running over an alien artifact slightly more believable. An agent of Stone's ability would have at least a chance of making something like that happen, if involved in such a hands-on way. Still a stretch, to be sure, but perhaps less so than before. We now know that The Four either knew or suspected that the travelstone would lead to a shiftship, and were content to let someone else test the theory for them. And, if Snow is right, we also learn that Stone's failure to deliver this location, and the resulting punishment for the failure, is what inspired Stone to start playing one side against the other.

Issue 6: It's a Strange World The Four's origin is more fully, and plausibly, explained here. The notion that a trip to outer space would happen to hit a seam in the bleed, and that it would happen to imbue the travelers with power when that happened to be the top goal of their leader, was always too convenient.

Though not explicitly stated, I also feel like this explanation of The Four's origin solves the mystery of the disappeared Soviet attempt to replicate Project Artemis' flight path and incursion into the bleed. At this point, it seems safe to say that they successfully found the rift. But having no foreknowledge of the specific universe that lay on the other side, and no bargaining chips to use with the superhumans there, it would seem reasonable to assume that the cosmonauts were killed before reaching the other earth (if their ship even survived a trip though the bleed).

Issue 6 also attempted to lay out a hazy history for the four space flight participants, describing Dowling as someone held back by his "background" (his activities at Science City Zero in the early 50s, perhaps?), and Suskind as someone with a Nazi father. William Leather was supposed to have been one of the last people on the Nautilus, which we learned was very likely a bad thing in Issue 11 when we found that Stone and S.T.O.R.M. were attempting to sink that vessel with Leather on it. But the true depth of their natures is brought into crystal-clear focus this issue. As Dowling explains the true purpose of their mission and betrayal of the entire human race, the rest of the team's responses are limited to "what about us," "what will we become," and "hell yes." Humanitarians they ain't. This gives new meaning to Leather's comment in Issue 6: "We're adventurers...and you can't all come along." We won't be coming along because we're all going to die sometime around 2011.

Issue 11: Cold World This was our first meeting with John Stone and the Last Shot bar, which was of course the setting for the opening if the current issue. It was fun seeing the parallels of the Issue 11 60s-flashback John Stone in action and comparing it to this issue. Stone reacted to Snow's ambush with the same style he used to beat back Bride's assault: hands behind his back, smug grin, Stone activates his Blitzen Suit by flipping back an artificial fingernail (in a frame that was simply a resized and re-colored take from the original panel in 11!). Stone also held a similar pose while he drew a similar gun. And, just as he gave Bride a chance to surrender back then, he tries to offer the Planetary team a chance to surrender this issue. In a bit of a reversal from the 60's flashback, where Bride revealed a hidden weapon in her anatomy (her left eye), this time it's Stone's anatomy that is not what it appears as he reveals the Devil's Paw. But, as it was with Bride, a secret weapon is not enough to carry the day.

One new element the current issue creates a new link too Issue 6: Snow told Stone then that he wanted to know why he was working for Anna Hark, and it now appears that it was all to help lead The Four to a shiftship. And it appears that Stone's failure here, and presumed subsequent punishment from The Four, is what inspired Stone to arrange the meeting in Issue 11 that gave him the opportunity to loosen Snow's memory blocks.

Other loose threads from 11 were tied up here. Stone commented at the first meeting that the memory blocks placed by Dowling were very elegant, and this issue we find out that it's due to Dowling's power as opposed to a more mechanical, science-based mindwipe. And the choice of meeting place in both issues, selected by first Stone and now Snow, suited both men's needs to prevent The Four from eavesdropping as much as physically possible. Note that Stone's dialogue in both issues is carefully parsed so that, even if Dowling were still listening, he would not be able to accuse Stone of outright treachery! Finally, Stone's slow aging granted him Century Baby status in the minds of many readers (many of whom also believed him to be Jimmy, a supposed Century Baby from Doc Brass' crew), but this issue's comment to Snow, "Do we all look alike to you Century Babies?" should finally put this issue to rest. Stone's slow aging is attributable, at least in part, to Dowling.

But here we have a contradiction. In Issue 11, Stone notes that he's only "put on about 5 years since 1954." This issue he states he's barely aged since 1965. A simple gaffe by Ellis? I suppose you could argue that his aging began slowing in the 50s and almost stopped by 1965, thanks to some unknown process developed by Dowling. We saw a pre-superhuman Dolwing working with life-extension techniques on Allison in Issue 8, after all. but the timing there is a little dubious, since Stone says he was trying to kill a pre-superhuman William Leather in the late 50s--would he have risked a 50s alliance with Dowling by trying to kill his right hand man? Or is it a case of the slowed aging having two components: one from the Nick Fury mythos that begins for Stone in the 50s, and a different one that's Dowling-based that began in the 60s? With the time left in the series, this questions will no doubt go unresolved.

As a final comment here, there's probably a parallel between Issue 11's title "Cold World" and this issue's title, "In from the Cold." There's a symmetry there, no?

Issue 12: Memory Cloud 12 was the issue of the "big reveal" where Snow tells the team that he's remembered that he's the Fourth Man. In it, he talks about beginning an investigation into stone, claiming that he thought it a bit too big a coincidence that his memory blocks would begin to melt away while meeting with stone. Snow also asked that issue why Stone wouldn't be sent in to investigate the bombing of the Hark building, since he was already on Hark's payroll. This question is answered this issue. At the time, Snow speculated that Hark elected to not send in Stone since she had planted the bomb herself, but we now know that it was actually The Four.

Issue 14: Zero Point When Suskind entered the base, she tells Dowling that "they (Planetary) have our children." A the time it was uncertain if the creatures there were figuratively or literally the offspring of Dowling and Suskind. Stone's comment in the current issue reveals that these creatures were literally their children, the result of the "impossibly messed up genomes" of their parents. And by extension, since Stone knows of this event right down to a quote from the incident, it's possible that he was the "leak" that Suskind referred to at the time. To be fair, this is an inference only; it's possible that Stone wasn't the leak, but knows of the incident through his association with The Four. Also, since we now know of Dowling's abilities, it's possible Snow himself was the unknowing leak! But either way, this case would appear closed, or will remain unsolved at this point in the series.

An open question was created, however, when the hospitalized Stone referred to the time Snow and the field team "penetrated his (Dowling's) arctic base." In that issue, we saw Suskind pry back the doors to the facility, and they had a Planetary logo. This had led us to believe that this was another hidden Planetary base, not a Four stronghold. Suskind's first remarks also seem to bear this out: "they have our children" implies the children were spirited away. If this were a Four base, a statement dealing with having been "compromised" or "invaded" would seem more to the point. Finally, when Suskind calls Snow out, Snow says "welcome to my world" and shortly after asks Chase to "remind our guest of where she is." Can you be a guest in your own secret base? And the "where she is" bit also makes more sense in the context of the location being Planetary's home turf, not hers. This apparent inconsistency is really in the interpretation of things, and really doesn't harm the overall narrative arc at the end of the day, but it was a bit strange.

Issue 16: Hark Issue 16 saw Snow confront Anna Hark, and in doing so he accused her of being involved in the destruction of her own building and the manipulation of Jim Wilder in order to create a "personal superhuman detective.". Based on Hark's reaction, the lack of denial would seem to indicate that this accusation was true. But this contradicts the revelation this issue that Stone engineered Wilder's transformation on behalf of The Four. Snow specifically says that Stone "never did anything for Anna Hark after all," "the alliance was all for show," and "she still doesn't know it was you who got WIlder to stand on that travelstone." It is difficult to square these contradictions. It's possible that Hark, working a little blind as to The Four's true goal (to find the shiftship), was complicit in the destruction the building and the activation of the travelstone, but remained unaware of Stone's role in Wilder's transformation, thinking of Stone merely as an ally by proxy in her uneasy alliance with The Four.

Issue 18: The Gun Club Stone is the one who tipped off Snow to the re-entry of an orbiting object, and the likely solo appearance of Leather to retrieve the object. Stone raises that point in this issue to defend himself against charges of working for The Four. But Snow assumes that Stone's actions were at Dowling's direction, deflecting the argument by stating that a victory by Snow or Leather then would have served Dowling's purposes. Snow also tells Stone that he won't be "playing us against The Four," which would seem to indicate that Snow felt that Stone still had his own agenda. By the end of the issue, this interpretation is a little in doubt, as Stone appears to genuinely seek the defeat of The Four. But then again, this is not a man to stand to firmly on principle; he fell in with The Four in the first place, right? The horse he backs at any given moment very likely is the one he's calculated to have the best odds of advancing his own agenda for the time being.

Oh, and how does one kill a pigeon with a flicked cigarette? Flick it with the hand that's really the Devil's Paw, of course. Stone's left hand flicked the butt in 18, while it was his right that was revealed as the Paw this issue. But, for me, it's easy to assume a small slip by the creative team on this point. Easier, at any rate, than trying to figure out how it could be explained otherwise!

Issue 21: Death Machine Telemetry Issue 21 really set the tone for the issues that have followed, since it set up the concept that Snow had a job to do here. Drummer identified that job two issues ago: to save things. Snow continues in that mode this issue as his entire approach to the capture of Stone involved staging it in such a way that Stone could appear loyal to The Four (helping safeguard Stone against possible repercussions later), but to maximize the chances of capturing Stone in a way that would let Snow save him. Even Stone seemed to have at least an intuitive understanding of this part of Snow's being, as he says he loosened Snow's memory blocks specifically so that Snow might save him.

Melanctha suggested in 21 that Snow's job had to be more important than hounding The Four, but the revelations of this issue put the lie to that: since The Four have agreed to sacrifice earth, Snow must defeat them to save it. (Logically, the superhumans of the other earth aren't going to write off Snow's earth just because their appointed agents were defeated, but that probable conflict is clearly outside the scope of the series.) So... was Melanctha simply wrong, due to her own lack of understanding of the situation? Or was she actively trying to serve the ends of The Four with this misdirected advice? I'd guess the former, but this is another of those threads that will probably not be specifically addressed before it's over.

Issue 22: The Torture of William Leather 22 is notable for two things. First, it established the character of Dowling as one out to further his own ends and acquire power at all costs, and an almost preternatural command of some of the secret goings-on in the world (e.g., the power of Century Babies and their offspring), a trait confirmed in spades this issue as we saw into the true origin of The Four.

Second... wasn't it funny the way the table Leather was strapped to had all of those rods going into his skull? Y'know, like there was something about Leather's brain that Snow needed to control. It wasn't Leather's native intelligence, we know that. So what could it have been that Snow was out to control? Leather's powers, which Jakita has established can be dampened by punching Leather in the brains? Or, maybe, Snow was taking steps to control... the little bits of Dowlingbrain that he suspected were there?

Okay, we're running out of time here, right? There's only so much baseless speculation left!

Questions Raised
One "normal" issue to go, and no progress made in Snow's quest to bring Chase back: is there time to see this thread play out? What are the implications of Dowling's power for the final confrontation? Will Wilder, Hark, Brass, Leather, or any other members of the supporting cast play a role? Will anyone from the Planetary team survive? And do you think that the folks at DC/Wildstorm realized that by putting all of the ads at the end of the book, they'd cause us to frantically flip through them repeatedly looking for another page of story? (I can barely keep from doing this even after serveral reads!)


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