Review: Planetoid #4

With only one issue left in this thrilling and gorgeous miniseries, things are certainly coming to a point in “Planetoid”. And while this issue does have a few flaws to its name, Garing’s storytelling and character design exceed their usual high standard, making this the most absorbing and engaging issue yet.

Written and Illustrated by Ken Garing

After a period of calm the Ono Mao strike back! How long can the newly formed settlement survive without the protection of Silas?

“Planetoid” is one of those ridiculously good miniseries that never ceases to surprise; in addition to its gobsmacking art, it’s got an economical and hard-hitting storyline. This issue is no exception to the rule: as usual, there’s quite a bit of plot packed into this issue, but as usual, it doesn’t feel inordinately compressed either. Garing has an uncanny knack for making each issue feel like a journey, parsing out the action in exactly the right way.

As it happens, things have gotten a bit dire for our protagonist Silas, and as he undertakes a harrowing escape, that skillful manner of compression makes itself felt particularly strongly. We get a long arduous trek as well as its attendant realizations and consequences, all in the space of one issue, and yet it still feels like an arduous trek and an emotional watershed, something Silas is enduring and learning from. It’s hard to say exactly what affords Garing’s pages that sense of spaciousness, of time passing, but he does it extraordinarily well.

The only weak plot element in this issue comes right at the end, and it’s not so much weak in itself as is predictable and emotionally underdeveloped. The other character involved simply hasn’t had enough enough screen time to become a fleshed-out personality yet, so the implications aren’t as vital as they could be and the whole thing comes off a bit inevitable and mechanical. In a series where the opposition between the brutal, hegemonic, and domineering and the stranded, hardscrabble, and desperately hopeful is a major running theme, the humanity of the protagonists should always take centre stage. For whatever reason — this may be the compressed storytelling finally showing its seams — that doesn’t quite happen here, and the issue does suffer for it

Artwise, Garing’s work doesn’t quite have the same polish that it’s has these past three issues (this is mostly evident in the first few pages), but its bones are still good, and the landscapes in particular still amaze. The planetoid is one sparse and brutal place, with the “slab” — a dead-flat scab of industrial scrap, floating in a sea of sludgy petrol — easily dominating most pages, and keeping the mood dire and bleak. Garing’s layouts and visual storytelling are, as usual, fantastic, with movement coming across vividly and tangibly.

Another particularly strong aspect to Garing’s art is the character design, afforded some additional variety here as we glimpse two races of alien humanoid that we hadn’t encountered before. And while the context is devastating (it turns out there are some acts in Silas’ past that he’s none too proud of — an incredibly bold move in terms of character development, by the way), the aliens themselves are believable as well as quite distinct from one another. It takes a committed science fictional imagination as well as a talented artist to make an alien race compelling, but Garing makes it look easy.

The strongest character in this issue, as it happens, may well be Koma. A helpful and loyal Komodo dragon-esque creature that accompanies Silas on his journey, she gets a lot of screen time here, and manages to convey a heck of a lot of emotion and personality along the way. They say that a key test in animation school is being able to animate a bag of flour — can you make it look happy or sad, or express any other emotion you can think of? — and the equivalent in a science fiction comic might as well be a reptile with a bandage over its eyes. A well-placed —snort— or an implicating glare are made to go long way with this character, and she winds up being one of the most memorable elements in an issue that maintains a high level of quality all round.

(Imma just add Koma to my “best animal sidekicks” list, right next to Lying Cat from “Saga”.)

While this isn’t a perfect issue, it’s still got a very long list of strengths, and the plot has moved certainly moved forward enough and raised the stakes high enough that the final chapter has its work cut out for it. And while the emotions here may not always been running as high as they could be, the sheer spaciousness in terms of art and plot elements gives it a lot of weight, making this a chapter that more than makes its imprint on the mind’s eye.

Final Verdict: 8.0 — Buy

About The AuthorMichelle WhiteMichelle White is a writer, zinester, and aspiring Montrealer.

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