- The Drummer, watching Batman hurtling towards him and Elijah Snow: "There's some kind of transvest!te ho0ker running down the alleyway at us."
If you already know who and what Planetary is, skip this paragraph. For those scratching their heads, Planetary is a covert global entity, with offices located around the planet, dedicated to unearthing the world's secret history. Its primary investigative branch consists of three superhumans: the superstrong, super-resilient, suffers-no-fool-gladly Jakita Wagner; the century-old, temperature-manipulating, sort of elitist, Elijah North; and the perhaps insane master of machinery, the Drummer.
PLANETARY: CROSSING WORLDS collects three Planetary one-shot stories stemming from the more-often-than-not innovative mind of Warren Ellis, these stories showcasing these "Archaeologists of the Impossible" in various team-ups, some clunkier than others. Phil Jimenez illustrates "Ruling the World." Jerry Ordway draws "Terra Occulta." John Cassaday provides the visuals for "Night on Earth." Jimenez and Ordway's efforts are workmanlike. Cassaday's stuff is stellar.
"Ruling the World" kicks off this trade, and it may leave you with tangled reactions. The Authority, as you know, is all about making big, splashy statements. The Planetary slinks in the shadows. So, naturally, the two teams' warring philosophies mandate the inevitable crossover story. Others may think this frustrating or a cop out, but I think it's actually pretty interesting that, even though the Authority and Planetary become peripherally aware of each other (with Planetary being more cognizant), the two parties never do make contact with each other. (Elijah and Jenny Sparks' eyebrow-raising encounter in 1939 doesn't count, does it?) The unifying element is a cache of alien eggs which, when activated by human contact, produces horrors on a Lovecraftian scale. The Authority, them metahuman busibodies, step in in grand fashion to save humanity. The Planetary trio, meanwhile, harbor doubts regarding the Authority's totalitarian approach and opt to sneak onboard the Bleedship that serves as the Authority's headquarters in hopes of stealing invaluable datafiles. Both teams separately spring into action. The world somehow doesn't end. It's an okay read, if you like narratives that end with a whimper.
"Terra Occulta" is unsatisfying on several levels. The primary nitpick is that this is not the Planetary that we know and love. In some alternate universe, a Planetary gone all sinister has taken over the world. It's left to three individuals - Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, and Clark Kent - to work in concert to end the Planetary's reign of tyranny. The interesting thing about this story is that we get to see what's become of the potential members of the (non-existent) Justice League. For example, the panel featuring the Flash's gruesome fate is a bit disturbing. Maybe if this story had been longer, the writing would've allowed for more extensive characterization and more opportunity to go into further details. As it is, it all feels very busy and rushed. and what's up with the bald Elijah Snow? But I did like the death duel between Jakita and Diana. The bat costume that Bruce debuts sucks.
"Night on Earth," gorgeously illustrated by John Cassaday, is the primary reason to get this trade. In a Gotham City that had never seen a Batman, Planetary tracks down a serial killer who can alter reality. As the killer activates his powers - of which, it turns out, he has no control - Planetary is exposed to a series of Batman incarnations. Ellis does a fantastic job of paying homage to 70 years' worth of the Batman. You get a sense of how his physical appearance and personality have evolved down the decades. Miller's huge and intimidating Dark Knight is very recognizable, as is Adam West's officious and doughy interpretation. We also get a peek at the Neal Adams' version and the mostly forgotten Bob Kane rendition. People tend to forget that, when he started out, Batman sported a gun. I love that Jakita gets hot and bothered by the first Batman ("Tell me you're single.") but then is quickly turned off when Adam West pops up.