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The Good Doctor
The most succinct and accurate way to summarize the plot to issue five would be to say Snow and Doc Brass spend an afternoon chatting about life. To go into any kind of detail would, frankly, take longer for you to read than the story itself. And since we can all rest assured that Messers Ellis and Cassaday are much more skilled storytellers than I, you need to drop what you're doing and go on a quest to find issue five and read it thoroughly six or seven times (if you haven't already).
That said, I can tell you that Doc and Snow discuss their unusual mutual birthday (1-1-1900) and the fact that it's a date they also share with Jenny Sparks (of The Authority fame). They discuss the Hark Corporation a bit, but most of what we see is the Doc's memories of his old friend Hark and impressions of Anna, the Corporation's presumed leader. We finally get some brief background info on Doc's old team, fleshing out the characters we first saw in Planetary issue one. We learn a bit about the Doc's sense of duty and purpose to the world, and learn that it's a feeling that Snow seems to be beginning to share.
Snow's purpose in talking to Brass was to gain insight into Planetary and the bigger world picture. Brass points out, "You're asking advice on (Planetary's) possible private agenda in regard to the world's secret history from a man who's been in a mountain for fifty years." Kinda brings things into perspective. At issue's end, you get the feeling that Snow and Brass have established a level of mutual trust and comfort.
The revelations, hints, and conformations given this issue are lengthy. Hats of to Mr. Ellis for making it seems as natural as any conversation between friends! Between the conversation and flashbacks, presented in the old Pulp style of text pages with occasional black and white illustrations, we are treated to information on nearly every major subplot, including:
The most important developments of this issue involve tying together plot threads and a little cross-title continuity; The Authority is indirectly brought into this issue in two ways. First, we are beginning to get enough foreshadowing to conclude that whatever mysterious bond ties Jenny Sparks to Doc and Snow will have to be brought to light on no uncertain terms (perhaps in the much talked about Planetary-Authority crossover due out in the spring of 2000!). Second, we are given a description of function of The Charnel Ship. It's departure from our reality is marked by "blood-colored tides beyond space and time." This description bears an uncanny resemblance to the effect that can be seen in The Authority where the group's ship, the Carrier, sails in the Bleed, the space between dimensions. It would not be too much to assume that the Carrier and Charnel Ship are traversing the same interdimensional space, and this means the nature of interdimensional travel will have to be consistent across both titles.
- Snow, Brass, and Jenny Sparks share the 1-1-1900 birth date.
- New information on Snow's abilities, including his lack of scent and unusual personal "temperature emissions" (as detected by the ever-amazing Doc Brass).
- Snow alludes to his past, but only in the most oblique way, and we are reassured once again that there is much more to Snow than we are currently aware of.
- Snow articulates his lack of trust for his teammates, and looks to Brass for an ally to help him figure out their true agenda. This includes determining the identity of the mysterious Fourth Man.
- The Hark Corporation, its founder Anna Hark (who's motives, we learn, may be less pure than her father or Brass would like), and the genius of her father, Brass' onetime foe.
- More background on how Brass came by his abilities: ancestry to a secret society that innovated a breeding, diet, and training program that resulted in a man with powers and abilities greater than those of normal men. We also learn that Brass' parents fought on the side of evil.
- Doc Brass' team fought an enemy with dimension-hopping abilities all the way back in the forties (more on this below).
Planetary links itself to the rest of Wildstorm continuity in a couple of other places this issue. Snow and Brass discuss the Wildstorm character known as The High, both having met him at different points. There is also a reference to a battle Brass had with Demonites, creatures found in other Wildstorm titles including the first WildCATS series. Finally, when Snow and Brass discuss Jenny Sparks, reference is made to her appearances in the news lately and to some of the earth-shaking disasters that The Authority have prevented in recent months.
Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, but you need to refer to two past issues to put it together. The Charnel Ship that is discussed this issue has its prow shown in the first issue, part of the trophies on display in Brass' headquarters. The design of this prow bears a striking resemblance to the design of the the Shiftship that Jim Wilder discovers in issue four. This ties together the technologies of an ancient ship, a fifty-year-old ship, and the current ship seen in The Authority, showing a common heritage if not an identical origin. This may also explain how Brass and friends could have created their quantum computer, characterized by the Snowflake seen in issue one. Assuming the technology is identical to that seen in the shiftship Wilder found, we can now hypothesize that the snowflake seen in issue one was not created solely by Brass, but more likely borrowed from the Charnel Ship. No disrespect to Brass and his friends, but this makes much more sense; to go from simple binary computers (mentioned in issue one) to a quantum computer is a leap that stretches credibility, even in the fantasy world of a comic book.
What ever happened to the quantum computer Planetary retrieved at the end of the first issue, and will they be able to tap its potential? Will Planetary look to Wilder to explain more about the nature of the technology of the shiftship (and Brass' computer)? How exactly did the Murder Colonels come across the technology in the first place, and could their smaller ship have been a part of the much larger ship uncovered by Wilder? Will Brass seek a meeting with Anna Hark, and what will that show us of the Hark Corporation? Given what we've learned of Anna, is the Hark Corporation a force for good or evil?