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The Day the Earth
The sci-fi/horror film genre experienced a high water mark of sorts in the cold war era fifties and sixties, with the moviegoing public devouring the high volume of both classic and not-so-classic celluloid generated by Hollywood during the ten to fifteen year stretch. As the Planetary team is about to discover, Hollywood's flights of fancy were fueled by an all to real horror.
The story opens in the desert where Allison, a softly glowing woman in fifties-era attire waits for Planetary to arrive. The site of their meeting is a long-abandoned scientific research city known as Science City Zero. Greeting Planetary, Allison notes that it's not on any maps, just like the old Soviet secret research facilities. Allison goes on to explain that she's been living "underground" since 1960, but that she knows what Planetary was been doing lately, particularly their work at the site of the destroyed Hark facility (seen in issue four).
Before Allison's cryptic remarks can be pursued, the team is interrupted by the emergence of several five-story tall ants. After ordering the rest of the group inside, Jakita battles the ants alone. The exhilaration and lust on her face seems to be equal parts amazement at her foe and love of battle.
Inside, Allison reveals to the team that this facility was where American dissidents were sent at the height of the red scare to be experimented on and changed, and remarks, "This is where we made the monster movies." Allison herself was actually killed here, shot by a firing squad, only to be resuscitated by a scientist, one Doctor Randall Dowling. Dowling reports to a Miss Hark, an Asian woman among those present at the experiment, that Allison now has a "radioactive half-life of fifty years."
What was done to Allison pales in comparison to what was done to others at the facility. Allison goes on to describe the experiments done to others, and we are given images of a partially invisible man, bones and organs visible through his flesh; hideously deformed people with insectiod appendages, or a quantum snowflake slicing through a living man's skull; a gigantic man and woman being shot down by soldiers; atomic dogs running loose around the facility at night; and a man whose body looks to have been some kind of portal, with dozens of arms reaching, grasping to escape through him. Allison observes that the pretext of the experiments, to gain the technology to build a super-army to combat the soviet menace, was false, and known to be so. In most ways, the experiments were about nothing more than pushing the envelope of cruelty, just because they could. Allison apologizes for not having come forward sooner, and urges Planetary to search the base for information on Dowling and use it, for her sake and the sake of everyone who suffered at his hands. Then, announcing her fifty year half-life to have expired, she softly implodes in a cloud of glowing dust and is gone.
Just as Ellis suggested that movies about giant lizards and their monstrous brethren were based on the existence of actual creatures, he carries this theme forward by positing that many of the classic sci-fi/horror films generated during the cold war fifties were based on the experimental results of Dowling and his ilk. Some of the images of the creatures in the story appear to be homages to movies like The Amazing Colossal Man, The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, and of course the countless giant insect movies of the time. Even the story title is a nod to the classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Allison herself may be an homage to Marilyn Monroe; she has a blonde starlet quality to her appearance, and was disappeared around 1960 for "sleeping with the wrong men." This could be a reference to Monroe's alleged affair with President Kennedy and subsequent mysterious death at about that time.
The cold war paranoia that helped breathe life to these creations was hard to see at the time (a forest-for-the-trees phenomenon), but Ellis deftly illustrates the way that the government used the Communist Threat to justify all manner of atrocity, and even shows how this fear was voluntarily perpetuated in that society by the entertainment of the day. Ellis takes us on a fun ride through this nostalgia, imparting a fresh sense of horror and disgust to material that would be hard pressed to elicit anything more than superior smirks from the average media-savvy, atrocity-numbed moviegoer of the present. But as always, Ellis doesn't let his integration of other fiction into his world detract from the ongoing plot lines of Planetary. This issue carried a lot of material that clarified characters and provided fuel to speculation.
Upon first meeting Planetary, Allison indicates that she knows what they've been up to, specifically referencing the destroyed Hark Corporation building. This building had been blown up by a group identifying themselves as "The Snowflake." Allison knew something of snowflakes from her time at Science City Zero, as a fellow inmate had one stuck in his head. Could she have affiliation with or knowledge of The Snowflake organization? On the other hand, when describing her encounter with who we assume was Anna Hark, she mentions "something called the Hark Corporation," which would indicate that while she knew that Planetary had investigated a destroyed building, she didn't know to whom it belonged. She did seem to be in-the-know enough to remark that Dowling had "more than one change of fortune" that decade, surely making reference to the event in '61 that changed Dowling and his colleagues into The Four. So there is definitely more here than was revealed this issue--Allison is part of an underground of indeterminate size that has at least some knowledge of some of the same type of events that Planetary seeks to uncover.
Anna Hark makes a brief appearance this issue, but an important one. The fact that Anna was representing her company in the presence of Dowling and his ilk does not speak well for the corporation. This seems entirely consistent, however, with the poisonous snake imagery used to describe her in issue five. She seems to be out to satisfy her own ends, no matter who she has to associate with to do so.
Are there more former Science City Zero residents still alive out there, and have they too been following the activities of Planetary? Does Hark Corporation still have ties to the Four Voyagers? What exactly is Hark Corporation involoved in these days? What materials did the Planetary team uncover at the base?