January 10, 2005


GLOBAL FREQUENCY: Planet Ablaze. (Writer: Warren Ellis. Art: Various.) I admit it; Warren Ellis's choices sometimes baffle me. The idea underlying this series--an organization run by a mysterious figure named Miranda Zero which employs 1,001 experts in all sorts of arcane fields to respond to scientific and military emergencies that the regular Earth authorities can't or won't handle--is perfectly sound, providing a great set-up for cool puzzle-stories in which a team races to overcome high-concept science-fiction problems with clever solutions. Yet far too often in Planet Ablaze these advantages are tossed away; the story frequently tries to get us invested in sketchily-characterized team members we've only seen once and never will again, and the problems are often solved with a burst of simple violence at the end.

This doesn't mean the stories are terrible. There is at least one nifty thing to think about or look at per issue, and that's running an average higher than eighty percent of comic books. For example, the second issue features a shot of an "enhancile" (cyborg) both truly disgusting and plausibly realized, as well as a final killer image of the team member who took out the enhancile at the cost of irradiating the entire area--thereby guaranteeing himself a slow, painful, and utterly lonely death--leaning next to its corpse, smoking a cigarette. Miranda Zero herself is intriguing, and the politics are, if not deep, neither conventional for the genre nor insulting in presentation. The diversity of the characters is also welcome (even if one does occasionally get the impression that Ellis is showing off his edginess more than anything else). Each issue has a different artist, but they're all at least competent.

Still, the urge to go for the quick fix of sentiment or violence baffles me and limits the book. Ultimately, Planet Ablaze feels like sci-fi lite. I'll be checking out the next trade (just released), but not buying it.

Posted by Sarah T. at January 10, 2005 07:09 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?