"Was that Spider Jerusalem?" was my thought when I saw the ending to the first story. And then the riffs on Hellblazer, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern... but I'm jumping around. But then that's what Ellis and Cassaday do with this strange series, Planetary, they leap from one story to another, each one seemingly unconnected, with odd glimpses into sci-fi storylines that seem faintly familiar and intriguing.
Readers who made it through the first book hoping for more clarity in the second will be surprised to see that no, unlike most series where explanations occur some ways into it, Planetary eschews this model to continue baffling the reader. This is my second time reading this series and I'm still not sure why the mystery of the fourth man is so important or who these characters are and what they're doing, but it's building to something, sometime, somehow.
In this second volume there are world famous superspies who fake their deaths to kill superheroes, giant desert ants and ghosts of Cold War experiments gone wrong, mad scientists, aliens, eye lasers, and literary allusions aplenty including alternate takes on the Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman mythol.
I find that so long as you're looking for a traditional narrative and go along with the ride that the books are more enjoyable to read. Trust in Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, they probably know what they're doing. Some of the stories are interesting, some not so, but hang in there because I know Book 3 makes the first two books make a bit more sense and a larger picture of the storyline emerges in it. Meanwhile, enjoy some whacky and abstract short comics in "The Fourth Man" and give yourself an entertaining headache.