Avoiding Closure: My unread copy of Planetary #27

Hey guess what everyone! The last issue of Planetary came out! After an impressive 4 year hiatus, the concluding issue, number 27, finally hit stores. And how incredible was it?!… Actually, that’s not a hypothetical question, I really want to know, was it incredible? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Did it fulfill 4 years of expectations and fantasies? No wait! Don’t tell me, I’m going to read it… soon, right?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t have it. I’m a huge fan, I bought it as soon as it came out. I’ve been reading Planetary since issue #1, when I half dismissed it as a dorky monster movie kind of thing, only to slowly reevaluate that assumption. The story of the (very likable) main characters grew and blossomed into a wild and sprawling snowflake, echoing the disturbing snowflake effects of their protagonist’s experiments with time and space.  It was a consistently satisfying read, and I felt that it was absolutely worth the wait between issues. In fact, I often used to say that other comics could stand to come out less often, if they’d only deliver the kind of quality and levels of interest that Planetary maintained. The only downside to it’s erratic schedule was that I’d forget I’d bought it, and buy a second copy. That only happened 6 or 7 times, and it afforded me an opportunity to give the odd copy to friends and try to turn them on to this great comic book, so I didn’t mind. And it worked, 10 years on, I’ve got enough people hooked that I’ve had company over the last few years, friends to say “when is that last book coming out then?” and “Is it still going?”

These same 10 years have seen massive changes in my reading habits. When Planetary began, I generally followed artists, paying only a cursory bit of attention to the names of writers. This was the first book that made me realize that while the development of Cassaday’s art was a pleasure to watch, I’d been reading a hell of a lot of Warren Ellis, and consistently enjoying his work for years. Even though it was the first time I noticed his name, Planetary wasn’t the first book I’d read by him, I hadn’t yet acknowledged or noticed Ellis’ writing habits and patterns. 10 years on, I have a better understanding of his work, and I know that while he has some of the most outstanding ideas in comic books, he’s doesn’t seem that enamored of endings. Often he just doesn’t end books, they just sort of peter out, not really ending, more stopping. In some ways it could be said to be unsatisfying, but from another point of view, it feels more organic, more like life. I have plenty of friends who I’ve lost touch with. I love them just as much as I did 10 years ago, we just hardly see each other anymore. I feel the same way about the characters in Fell and Desolation Jones. They’re friends I used to see all the time, who I’ve simply lost touch with recently. I suppose something like Planetary always had a very strong feeling of a story building to a conclusion, and so I ought to want to read that ending, ought to want to know what finally happens, what it all means, where it all leads to… But sometime in the last couple of years I stopped feeling that terrible desire and began to lapse into a relaxed, zen-like state of acceptance. They’re friends who’ve drifted away, and I’m not quite ready to let them go yet.

Having said all of that, having analyzed and reveled in my strange reluctance to read issue #27, you might think that I’d simply hide the comic from myself, admit that I feel this way and move on. Maybe it’s like a lot of things in life; you don’t know what you want until you have it. I thought I wanted issue 27 of Planetary, but now that I’ve got it, I’m not sure I do. In fact, there are two issues in my apartment, because my brother (who’s my roommate) bought it too. So it would be very easy to at least open it up and assuage my concerns by at least taking a fleeting glance through it’s pages. But somehow I can’t. I’m paralyzed by 4 years of heightened expectations. What if it’s not good? What if it’s all over, and I don’t like it anymore? What if something happens to a character I like? It’s been a couple of weeks now, the comic book sits on the table in my room and stares up at my balefully. Even though I couldn’t wait to get my grubby little hands on this comic book, despite my years of whining and complaining at it’s tardiness, now that I have it, I’m scared to open it.

How does this happen? How is it that a die-hard fan of a book can grow to fear and avoid that book? It might be easier if this were not such a good comic book, if my expectations (needs, even), weren’t so high. But they are. I want so much for these characters, too much, it’s unrealistic, that I fear I can only be disappointed, and I dare not take the risk.

Last night I was determined to read it. I decided that if I reread all of preceding issues of the story, then perhaps I’d be able to pretend to myself that I was starting fresh and come to the last issue with clear eyes. So I went through my shelves and excitedly got out the stack of books… Then I finished the washing up. Then I made a cup of tea. Then I brushed my teeth, got into bed, and watched repeats of a really bad show (disturbingly, I can’t even remember what it was, so that must have been really important,). When I’m washing up and watching bad tv instead of reading a comic book that I’ve craved and yearned for (for literally years), then it’s time to admit that I have a problem. Tonight I am determined; I will grasp the mettle of life and read this damn comic book. After a 4 year wait for it, I might not feel ready for closure, but it’s here and it’s time to immerse myself in that reality, and then move on to the next great love of my comic book life. I wonder if I’ll be any more reasonable about that book?

Sonia Harris lives in San Francisco. On Halloween this Saturday, she’s going to dress up like a superhero, and embarrass herself with all the other grown-up children in this strange city. She’s a bit nervous about it. Mail her about it (and other things) at sonia@ifanboy.com.


  1. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who procrastinates over the enjoyment of things that I love or that I’m anticipating. 

  2. I understand your plight more than I care to admit.  I got Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 in HC the day it was released.  I have yet to read it.  Why?  I don’t know.  I waited and waited and waited to read it in trade.  Although it’s been a short wait comared to Planetary, I guess I feel like I’m still saving it.  I’ve re-read Fall 1152 numerous times and still can’t bring myself to read Winter. 

    Maybe I was waiting for Winter itself.  In a few weeks I just might get to it…

  3. Really great article Sonia.  I have to say that managing expectations for things that we really want is difficult.  At times we get ourselves so worked up about something be it a movie, book, television show that even if it is really good it somehow disappoints us because of how hyped up we have gotten about it.  I know this sounds sad and contrary to a fan mentality but it is at times better  to assume something is probably going to be mediocre at best and then be pleasantly surprised by how well something was pulled off then the other way around. 

  4. This is a great article. I was definitely feeling a lot of these feelings a couple of months ago. Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways is the book that got me into comics and I still love it to death. When Whedon came on, it was okay and then we got the reboot. I read a couple of the issues and just couldn’t bring myself to keep going. I let the old relationship fade away instead of keeping it going. I know it’s not the exact same situation, but it’s the closest thing I have that relates to this. I guess my collecting all of Seven Soldiers and not reading them yet is closer. I’m just so nervous that it won’t be all I’ve built it up to be. (Okay… So I’m still tracking down a couple of issues before I actually procrastinate.)

  5. @sonia: I wasn’t on the Planetary band wagon until now.  I just recently picked up a copy of Planetary #1. It was the "After Watchmen what’s next?" $1.00 version.  I enjoyed it and want to read more. However, I think I may wait until all the issues are collected into one badass edition. I like how you point out Ellis’ trend of ending books, or rather, not ending books.  It reminds me of a lot of Japanese film and literature where it abruptly ends with no closure.  In many cases writers do that to leave the ending of a story to the viewer’s/reader’s imagination, but with Warren Ellis who knows, right?

  6. If you’d have made yourself a sandwich and gone ahead with a full bath instead of just washing up, that would’ve been (Douglas) Adamsian-level procrastination.

    Good luck!


  7. I still haven’t watched the last two episodes of the last season of Red Dwarf, and i still have the special tha recently came out to watch as well. i’ve own the last season on dvd for a year, yikes

  8. @sonia – I can relate quite a bit to this, but most times I blame my procrastination of reading on, having too much stuff in my "stack" to get to title ______ . This was not the case with Planetary #27.

    Having #27 sit in my pile for roughly a day or two after that particular Wednesday, I found myself with some free time to read a few of my books. I looked at 27, and for a brief moment almost decided to skim through the previous 26 issues as a refresher. I often did this as each 100 Bullets tpb came out, and it was a great help on re-establishing myself with the title. This go around with Planetary I decided, "F That", cracked open 27 and just went for it. I’m writing this up as a bit of a gamble, but that’s what it felt like…….I was, however, pleasantly surprised and fulfilled. Loved every moment of it. And contrary to other Ellis titles, this one does have a very nice ribbon and bow tied to the end of it.

    Enjoy it. 

  9. I totally relate, I put off reading it for almost week after getting it because I almost didn’t want to close the door on these characters and this story. I kept thinking I should go back and reread everything to make more of an event out of it, but life got in the way (although hopefully I will do this somtime in the future). Finally, I cracked it open and was very happy with it.It’s a really satisfying, hopeful ending.


  10. @Sonia: Honestly, here is what i would do.

     Start from the beginning of the run but read only one issue a day. Force yourself not read anymore. Become re-acquitted with the caharacters and the situation. Let the anticipation build until the final chapter.

    I have read it, i loved that series. I seriously don’t think the final issue willl disappoint

  11. I’ve yet to experience this with a series, but I’m sure the time will come.  Your situation is completely understandable though.

    I’m an Ellis "virgin" if you will, but I’m definitely trying/wanting to read some of his work.  I know his big main series are Transmetropolitan and this, Planetary.  I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for which I should experience first, or if there are other books of his that are better to start with.

  12. Of course, now you have to leave a comment saying whether or not you actually did screw your courage to the sticking place and read the book, and either what you thought of it or your best excuse.

  13. There was just under a 3 year wait between the last 2 issues of Planetary. Hope you enjoyed it. It’s a great issue, but now I’m just preaching to the choir right?

  14. Personally, I can’t relate to this situation in the least.  I didn’t wait 3 years, but I think I waited about 9 months, and I couldn’t wait to read issue 27.  I marked the release date on my calendar, and read it the day it came out.

    So just cut it out and read it 😉

    Seriously, though, it’s a great issue, and so very well wraps up a fantastic series. I personally would not have guessed what they were going to do in 27 based on what came before.  I was a complete surprise to me, and I loved it.

  15. I read it and I loved it. Really bloody LOVED it. Thank you for all the encouragment.

    Now I want to do what Edward suggested, and read the entire run.

  16. Damn it!

    You should have fought the norm! You could have made it a generational thing, passing down that last issue from child to grandchild. Noneof you ever knowing the conclusion!

    Now THAT would be cool. I think I am gonna do that with this lastest run of Deadpool!