PLANETARY, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, has been one of the most fascinating comic book series I've ever seen/read/enjoyed. It concerns the adventures of a group of mystery archeologists who go round the world uncovering the hidden bits that keep our world a strange place to be in, the way it SHOULD be. These bits take on the shapes of major comics culture touchstones embedded in the conciousness of die-hard fans (Monster Island, Superheroes, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage) but with that arcane twist that has made Ellis a great postmodern comics writer (anothe great title is GLOBAL FREQUENCY--ever wonder what the $6 Million Dollar Man would REALLY be like? Take a look, if you dare.)
The team, made up of: Elijah Snow, born at the turn of the 20th century, has the power to generate cold, cranky as all get-out and the founder of the Planetary Agency; Jakita Wagner, an orphan who hates to be bored and is as powerful as she is beautiful; and the Drummer, who can communicate with any and all mechanical devices with the help of his drumsticks, all roam the world, looking for the aforementioned "artifacts", but also trying to stop those that would with hold those wonders from the rest of us (ever wonder what the Fantastic Four would really be like--once again, look, if you dare).
CROSSING WORLDS takes the reader on a wild ride through adjacent realities where the Planetary team encounter--in order--The Authority (one of PLANETARY's sister team magazines in the WILDSTORM line), a version of the JUSTICE LEAGUE (of DC COMICS fame) and, last but not least, BATMAN (no other intro needed).
Ellis handles the writing chores, while Phil Jimenez (THE INVISIBLES, OTHERWORLD, INFINITE CRISIS) does the artwork on the Authority tale, Jerry Ordway(ALL-STAR SQUADRON, POWER OF SHAZAM) delineates the JLA tale and JOHN CASSADAY (CAPTAIN AMERICA, ASTONISHING X-MEN) brings his unique vision to BATMAN: NIGHT ON EARTH--the best of the three. The Authority tale gives a glimpse of the premiere team of the WILDSTORM universe and the JLA spin unfortunately falls short of what could have been a suspensful tale of what could happen if the Planetary team followed the path of the Four, trying to keep Humanity dull and boring.
BATMAN: NIGHT ON EARTH follows Elijah, Jakita and the Drummer to Gotham City where a young man is committing impossible murders only to meet multiple iterations of the Dark Knight, with Cassaday bouncing through various representations of the character throughout his long history. A sight to behold and a great jumping on point for new readers.
Other Planetary collections; AROUND THE WORLD; THE FOURTH MAN and LEAVING THE 20TH CENTURY gather the hard-to get early issues of this marvelous series.
It's a strange world.
Let's keep it that way.