"Century": In 1919 Germany, Elijah Snow makes his way up a storm-swept mountain to a broken-down castle. Lightning crashes down around him as he enters and lets himself into an abandoned laboratory, a room whose towering walls stretch up many stories to an open skylight above. At the lab's cente
- And so it was that I studied with the world's greatest detective for five years, until he finally died of old age. To his disgust, I never got rid of the accent in his lifetime. It took another ten years of walking across the world to do that. But I never lost my love of the secrets. And I don't think I ever will.
Synopsis for "Century"
In 1919 Germany, Elijah Snow makes his way up a storm-swept mountain to a broken-down castle. Lightning crashes down around him as he enters and lets himself into an abandoned laboratory, a room whose towering walls stretch up many stories to an open skylight above. At the lab's center, a place "where dead men walked," Snow examines an elevated platform some 50 feet above the floor. In doing so, he inadvertently releases several large egg-shaped structures from the walls, hatching five vaguely humanoid monsters that he overcomes only thanks to his agility and unique powers. He then leaves the lab behind for his true objective at the castle: the library, and the three-dimensional, electrical globe he had been told about: the secret map of the world.
Jump ahead to 1920, where Snow is in London and standing outside in Baker Street. Snow then breaks into the home of an elderly man, who he find in a shadowy sitting room, smoking a distinctive pipe: the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. The retired detective is keenly interested of how Snow knew of the Conspiracy's existence. Snow explains that it all began with his encounter with the "invisible fella" John Griffin, who was sent by the Conspiracy to obtain the plans for the Steam Man of the Prairies, which was in Snow's possession. After he tortured Griffin, Snow learned of the Conspiracy. Although Snow admits his admiration and respect for Holmes and his associates, he disagreed with their methods and he wants to put an end to the Conspiracy. At which point, he is attacked by a pale, stone-faced vampire: Count Dracula. Snow overcomes him easily by freezing him solid (and shattering his groin). Snow then learns from Holmes that the detective had wanted to do something similar to the vampire "for the last 20 years."
Holmes sees no point to antagonize Snow and explains more about the Conspiracy. The organization was intended to be an open conspiracy whose goals is to make the world better. However, the Conspiracy is flawed as their notions to "construct a brave new world from the remnants of the old" were far too radical (or controversial) for reality such as eugenics, re-education, and a controlled economy. Instead, by taking to the darkness, they became darker themselves. Dracula's death will likely end the group's association. Holmes honestly admits that Elijah is right that the Conspiracy must end, and he personally wishes that he should have die many years ago rather than living in this unfulfilling second life.
Holmes then ask what Snow want other than ending the Conspiracy. Snow answers that he wants knowledge, the secret history of the world. "To be a detective, then?" says Holmes. "Very well. I can instruct you in my methods." And over the next five years, he does. Snow gets his wish. The seeds of Planetary are sown.
Appearing in "Century"
- Sherlock Holmes (First appearance chronologically)
- Count Dracula
- This issue is collected in Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century.
- The Conspiracy led by Sherlock Holmes is a nodding reference to Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which compose a team of literary characters.
- The "Open Conspiracy" Holmes refers to is a reference to The Open Conspiracy by H.G. Wells. The book is, in Wells's words, a "scheme to thrust forward and establish a human control over the destinies of life and liberate it from its present dangers, uncertainties and miseries." Wells is mentioned by Holmes to be a Conspiracy member who insisted on naming it the Open Conspiracy.
- Aside from Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and the Invisible Man the Conspiracy's members are mentioned to include Victor Frankenstein and his creation from Frankenstein, Thomas Carnacki from Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, and Robur from Robur the Conqueror.
- The Steam Man of the Prairies is the steam-powered humanoid robot from the dime novel of the titular robot.
- Holmes' weary comment on his "second life" is a nod to how Sherlock Holmes' popularity had begun to wear on Arthur Conan Doyle in real life. Doyle attempted to stop writing about Holmes by "killing" him off in "The Final Problem". However, Doyle was pressured from fans to reviving Holmes in "The Empty House".