Thursday, August 23, 2012

Planetoid #3 Review

After a two week delay, this week saw the release of Planetoid #3, the latest chapter in Ken Garing's science fiction epic.  I've been quite vocal in my support for this title and I want to personally tell you (yes, you) that this issue is the best one yet.  Yes, admitting that up front might kill a bit of the suspense for the review itself, but you can already read my recommendation in the post's tags below anyways.  What's important is why this issue succeeds, so I hope you'll hit the jump so I can share my thoughts on that very topic.

Written by Ken Garing
Art by Ken Garing

One of my favourite parts of the series is how each issue has been different from the preceding one. The first one was all about Silas exploring the planetoid after crash landing on it, focusing on his discovery of the physical landscape of the world. The second issue was about Silas getting to know the inhabitants of the world, along with a bit of the world's history, focusing more on interactions and the nitty gritty on how one could survive the dangerous environment. And here in issue #3, the story shifts to Silas and company setting up an actual settlement on the planetoid and building something new. Something permanent.

It's an exciting proposition, and Garing really sells it within the pages of this book.  The issue takes place over the course of sixty-odd days, and we see the settlers go from almost nothing, where even having enough food is not a guarantee, to establishing a thriving little hamlet in spite of the harsh world around them and the killer robots of the Ono Mao.  Garing once again demonstrates his keen storytelling instincts, placing the perfect amount of focus on the settlement's early challenges and setbacks so as to make their eventual successes feel all the more meaningful.  There's one scene in particular towards the end of the issue where Silas interacts with a group of children that really shows this change.  In a sense, it's pretty banal, but in the context of everything the group has gone through, it becomes both an incredibly sweet and incredibly poignant moment for the comic.

The issue also sees a marked change in Silas' characterization.  Before now shown to be more of a loner than anything else, his actions at the end of the last issue are the catalyst that make establishing a settlement  an actual possibility.  Along with that, Silas is thrust into a leadership role that he initially really doesn't seem ready for.  But Garing does an excellent job of tracking Silas' evolution over these thirty pages.  His movement from reluctant leader, who physically distances himself from his followers by hiding in the crashed spaceship, to a proactive, lead-by-example person who works with all the people who have put their faith in him feels natural and true to the character.  Like the settlement itself, we see the change in Silas take place slowly, following his missteps and victories all along the way.  Indeed, the development of the settlement and Silas' personal growth are clearly meant to be linked, as the interaction between Silas and the children that I alluded to earlier is a triumph of the settlement and of Silas' maturation.

However, this is not to say that this is the Silas show all the way through, as Garing does spend a bit more time with the secondary characters in this issue.  It helps the reader care about the success of the settlement, giving us more sympathetic characters to root for beyond the series' protagonist, and it generally adds interest to the story.  As well, it's another clever way to show how the settlement is growing in size, as we actually meet some of the place's new faces over the course of the issue.  I also find it demonstrative of Garing's work on the book as a whole, as he is really in the habit of wringing the utmost out of every single thing he does.  The best part is that so much of the character development, like most of the issue itself, is accomplished through showing instead of telling.

A big reason that can be done is due to Garing's brilliant artwork.  Like his writing, I feel his art has been improving with each and every issue, and there's some really spectacular things going on here.  I've already raved about that Silas / children moment towards the end of the issue, but its success definitely hinges on the full page splash Garing gives it to cap off the scene.  I was also particular impressed with Garing's sense of timing throughout the issue.  There's a number of wide-out shots of the settlement at the start or end of pages and they convey a great sense of place, but also of the passage of time.  Garing manages to really make it feel like these two months of story-time do go by in these thirty pages, a rather amazing feat.  But it's just another example of Garing's keen comic book senses.  Every panel is important and rife with meaning.  There is no wasted space here.

Verdict - Must Read.  Ken Garing's Planetoid is truly something special.  Garing is telling an engaging science fiction story of survival and triumphing over adversity, and one of the most exciting parts is how the emphasis of each issue has changed while still remaining true to the wider narrative.  Judging by the closing page of the issue, the greatest challenges for this new stage of Silas' life are yet to come, and I'm excited to see what happens.  Good on you if you're already reading this.  If not, you can buy this full-colour, ad-free, thirty page beauty at your local shop or online at Comixology.

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