Sunday, December 28, 2014

Planetary: Crossing Worlds Trade Paperback Review

Planetary: Crossing Worlds
DC Comics - Wildstorm
192 pages
$75.00 (2014) Omnibus
$14.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401202798

Contributors: Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Laura DePuy, Ryan Cline, David Baron, Jerry Ordway, Wes Abbott, and Michael Heisler

Reprints: Planetary/The Authority: Ruling the World; Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta; Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth

Synopsis: The Planetary organization is a mildly covert group of mystery archaeologists focused on uncovering the secret history of the world.  Their field team consists of Jakita Wagner, indestructible and perpetually bored, the Drummer, techno-shaman and grunge rock burnout, and Elijah Snow, reclusive adventurer with holes in his memory.  These three pursue an altruistic mission to wrestle secrets from the covert organizations, both private and public, in order to place them in the hands of humankind for a better tomorrow.  Let's just say they're not very popular around town.
The Authority show up to deal with a massive monster terrorizing
a small American coastal town.  Guess who's already on the scene?
While they seek to uncover the truth about our world and the universe in general, sometimes they cross paths with other clandestine groups with similar yet vastly different purposes.  Three of these tales are presented here:
  • Ruling the World - The Planetary field team investigates a strange object in a small town and accidentally unleashes a monster.  It draws the attention of The Authority who are a group of superhumans who have proclaimed themselves stewards of humanity and act above the law to punish those perpetrating evil upon their fellow being.  They are incredibly dangerous and not the sort of people you want to mess with.  Perfect targets, according to Jakita, to have their secrets stolen by Planetary.  The Authority are led by Jenny Sparks who has something in common with Elijah Snow - they are both Century Babies.  Born on January 1, 1900 they age slowly and have incredible powers - Sparks electricity and Snow temperature control.  The field team attempts the impossible and assails The Authority's massive craft which traverses extra-dimensional space.  Seems like a really bad idea!
  • Terra Occulta - The Planetary organization rules the world from the shadows.  They have provided amazing technology to advance humankind including Bleed teleportation for public transit and anti-grav cars.  Despite these advances, Planetary holds the best technology for themselves and crushes anyone who opposes them.  Their base is a citadel built on the surface of the Moon.  Three individuals have comes together in secret to oppose them, but will this coup be any different.  They are Bruce Wayne, playboy heir to a billion-dollar fortune in Gotham City, Diana Prince, beautiful scientist who is secretly from a technologically advanced island of women, and Clark Kent, Kansas-born big-city reporter who possesses incredible superpowers.  Can these three take down Elijah Snow and his crew of super-powered henchmen?
  • Night on Earth - The field team arrives in Gotham City to investigate a series of grisly murders perpetrated by someone with trans-dimensional capabilities.  When they finally encounter their suspect they are taken on a journey through dimensions with one unsettling constant - a strangely dressed vigilante who is vehemently determined to bring this murderer to justice.  Our unwitting group may have met their match!
Batman takes on Jakita Wagner, get ready for a serious battle!
Pros: Some great artists - Jimenez is highly detailed, Ordway is a great storyteller, Cassaday is an impresario, Ellis writes some interesting stories with a few good plot twists and quirky dialogue, I liked seeing the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) as the underdogs with Planetary as Earth's overlords, Cassaday's portrayals of Batman were great, funny past meeting of Elijah Snow and Jenny Sparks
Three clandestine heroes meet to defy the
oppression of the Planetary organization

Cons: Planetary never actually meets The Authority in their crossover, ending to JLA crossover is a little too neat (plus what happens to Superman), plot for Batman crossover is really simple (could be a good thing), 'villain' in Batman crossover has a slightly goofy character design

Mike Tells It Straight: I've reviewed the first three volumes of Planetary here (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3) and decided to take a break before tackling the final volume.  I read this collection of crossovers which were all written by Ellis, but had a pair of different artists (Jimenez and Ordway) along with co-creator Cassaday.  The three stories were vastly different and of varying quality.  The first story is a crossover between two of Ellis' most successful creations which I expected to be a grand slam.  Oddly enough it was a flop with too much going on in the plot and the two teams never actually meeting.  Planetary started out as a typical in-universe Wildstorm title and it was important they operated completely under the radar from the line-leading The Authority.  While the art by Jimenez was detailed, it just didn't stand up to Cassaday's groundbreaking work and the book was mediocre.  Some good dialogue, but too much crap thrown in to be taken seriously (like what happens to the extra-dimensional Jenny Sparks).
Elijah Snow comes face-to-face with an alternate dimension Batman
(looks pretty similar and just as deadly as a certain Returned Dark Knight)
The next story was an unofficial crossover with the biggest DC title at the time - JLA (Justice League of America).  It was branded an Elseworlds tale (outside of continuity) and gave Ellis a huge sandbox to play in.  He reimagined the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) as underdogs with Planetary taking the place of The Four, lording it over humanity.  I loved the character redesign of Elijah Snow to look more like Lex Luthor.  It was an engaging story because the reader doesn't know what will happen next and Ellis makes a few bold moves.  I didn't like the neatly wrapped up ending, but Ordway did a great job visually telling the story.

Ellis writes some funny dialogue
Our final tale is considered a classic as it's just received a deluxe hardcover reprint (similar to Batman: The Killing Joke a few years ago).  This story is drawn by Cassaday and excels because it's such a simple, straightforward tale.  Cassaday's art is amazing and he's really at the top of his game here.  The different renditions of Batman are great.  Ellis tells a simple story which works really well with all of the characters.  I don't think it's a true classic because nothing really changes for any of the characters, but it's a good read.  This collection is decent, but you won't lose anything by not reading it with the main Planetary series.  The stories are included in the omnibus and I suggest buying that book if you like the series.

TO BUY and Recommendations: