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Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth
By Warren Ellis, John Cassaday and David Baron
Published by DC/Wildstorm

It's been a long time since we've seen a new Planetary story -- and this is definitely the real thing, with Jakita, Snow and the Drummer exploring the unexplained and crossing paths with not one but multiple iterations of Batman.

John Black is (in addition to being a character on Days of Our Lives) a child of Science City Zero (first introduced in Planetary back in the 20th century), who has grown to adulthood, is in Gotham City (the history of which is nicely and funnily summarized by Snow) and is causing space around him to rotate through the multiverse. Planetary is hunting him down when Batman arrives on the scene. Hijinks ensue.

The central conceit of the story is that we get to follow "our" Planetary through the rotations of the multiverse, while Gotham City and it's famous protector go through some extremely familiar changes. I really, seriously don't want to spoil the gag for you, but it's fair to say that just about any fan of any era of Batman is going to get a real kick out of this book.

The script adheres pretty stringently to the formula from the first dozen issues of Planetary, with lots of edgy rudeness between the three members of the organization, and a feel that we're being shown a previously unknown but altogether fascinating hidden history of the world through their investigation. The most recent continuity of the title is eschewed in favour of a fairly straightforward adventure, and that's fine. It's an utter gas to see these three encounter and attempt to deal with Batman, especially when the terms of the negotiations keep changing every few pages.

Ellis and Cassaday are fully on here, there's no phoning it in at all. My only complaint, and it's extremely minor, is the artwork appears to have been shot from pencils. I really just don't care for this technique at all, and I don't know if it was an artistic choice or a scheduling necessity (I suspect the latter), but it detracted just a tiny bit from my full enjoyment of the art. That having been said, Cassaday's pencils are reproduced well and the look works better for this book than on most I've seen.

That's a minor quibble, though, in the grand scheme of things. Here we have a top-notch Planetary adventure, John Cassaday having a great good time with the artistic history of one of the most iconic characters of the past century, and Warren Ellis giving us what he does best -- tense, twisted action/adventure/mystery with tongue in cheek, but with delivering a good story the primary goal. If the long-awaited return of Planetary in a few weeks meets the standards set here -- and there's no reason to think that it won't -- the book will very quickly return to its rightful place as one of the very best fictional comics being published. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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