Comics and games are a lovely pair.

*I know what you want! Another means of devouring all of your free time! I’m the same way; that’s why I’m playing this neato freeware game, “God of Thunder”, which was created by a Mr. Ron Davis in 1993. It’s a bit like the classic NES puzzler “The Adventures of Lolo” in which you have to push blocks around to black enemy fire and get needed objects, but this is a good deal easier and a lot more action-oriented. It’s also pretty big, with three large worlds to explore. And it’s free! There’s even a free hintbook included on the same page. It’s built for DOS, but I’m having no problems under Windows XP. I like it.

*And while we’re talking games, I also found a video for an upcoming release for the shiny new Nintendo DS, a next-generation handheld system that’s coming out at the end of November. What sort of magnificent adventures can you await on this awesome new platform? How about… puppies! Yes, the game is hopefully called “Puppy Times”, although it may get whomped with the much clunkier title “Nintendogs”. Yuck. The gameplay consists of, well, playing with puppies via the touch-screen capabilities of the DS. You can pet the puppies and play catch and watch them bark and everything! And wow does it look good. Totally pointless, but damn cute. I can’t imagine paying $30 for a puppy simulator, but as a graphics demo - yikes.

*The Comics Journal message board offered up this little tidbit; Fantagraphics is re-tooling their "Blood Orange" anthology for 2005. The four issues anticipated for that year will now include mainly 'alternative' style Japanese and European artists, some of them doing continuing serials. I wasn’t impressed with the most recent “Blood Orange”, but this may prove to be just the thing the book needs; I’m certainly all for added US exposure for some of the more experimental Manga talents, and I’m looking forward to new European creators. Keep in mind, Fanta will also be debuting a new anthology with a fixed line-up of more familiar creators that same year.

Planetary #21

In which the book suddenly begins to resemble “Promethea”. Mr. Snow visits a very Strange magician looking for info on how to eliminate the remaining three members of the villainous Four. He gets a whole lot more than he’d anticipated: a journey into the very heart of creation. Warren Ellis has actually been building up to this issue for a while; think about the soul machine during the HK action homage issue. It seems like there’s a much more scientific basis behind the human soul, and many secrets are about to be revealed, not just about the nature of creation itself, but about Mr. Snow’s special part in it. There’s even ties to “The Authority”, although you don’t need to have read any of that to enjoy this. But the real core of this chapter is the breaking down of Snow’s (pardon the pun) icy exterior, and his possibly climactic confrontation of how tiny his seemingly grand ambitions to better the world really are in the face of what he ought to be doing.

Since nobody is reading “Planetary” except for seasoned fans at this point, it goes without saying that this particular issue isn’t very friendly as a stand-alone piece. Scenes from earlier chapters are visually cited, and concepts introduced before are expanded upon, even tied together. Yes, it’s basically an issue-long infodump, a very blunt and swift method of cracking through Snow’s emotional defenses, but we’ll have to wait for subsequent issues to determine exactly how critical these events are toward explaining the “Planetary” universe and Snow as a character; ironically, only after much waiting (and with “Planetary“ there will always be waiting) will we know exactly how abrupt this issue really was.

John Cassaday seems to be almost intentionally avoiding comparison to J.H. Williams III’s sweeping, boggling “Promethea” layouts. Each and every page of Mr. Snow’s wild trip is set up precisely the same: three widescreen panels, one atop the next. The effect is that of consciously sapping the dazzle from cosmic awareness, leaving the unexplainable utterly grounded. It will be up to the reader to determine which brand of attempted expanded awareness he or she prefers. Laura Martin’s colors seem particularly crisp this time out. The world of the dead has a fabulous polar atmosphere, fitting for Mr. Snow.

“Planetary” is fast approaching the moment when it can no longer operate on a chapter-by-chapter level without timely review of prior installments. But the quarterly schedule (which the book seems to be maintaining well) makes waiting for the trade, probably an easier means of consumption, a difficult chore for longtime fans who’d rather more, and far sooner.

*Quick note: David B.'s new release "Babel Vol. 1" is superb stuff, despite its hefty price. Full review soon!