Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth

The raison d’etre of Planetary has been using thinly-disguised versions of other people’s characters to explore genre literature. This time, Warren Ellis is able to use the real thing, which makes this entry the best of the series. As expected, there isn’t much of a story — the Planetary team, while chasing a superpowered freak, encounters various versions of Batman — but the gorgeous art and the appreciation for superhero history as summed up in its most popular character more than make up for a light plot.

Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth cover
Planetary/Batman:
Night on Earth

“What happens next” isn’t the point; “why do we care” is. Ellis’ superheroes for the new generation, the so-cool-their-leader-is-living-ice Planetary team, are as hip and sexy as ever. Heck, on page three, a demented version of Dick Grayson flat out says so. With the artistic attention paid to Jakita’s luscious eyes and lips, can you blame him? This story is set in their world, so they’re running the show. Batman is a museum piece, a curiosity, a side effect, an obstacle to their real mission.

Does the world really need another self-conscious adult re-examination of the superhero genre? Sure, if it’s as attractive as this one. More interesting, though, is the way it wears its contemptuous fascination on its sleeve. Superheroes are old-fashioned, this says, unnecessary, fetish leatherboys, yet all this work has been put into lovingly delineating this appreciation of the king of the genre. There’s a beautiful fight scene between Jakita and Batman at the center of it all that immediately cuts to a viciously accurate Adam West parody. At the core, you can’t create something this insightful without knowing the material inside and out.

Art samples are available as part of this thorough issue summary.


8 Responses to “Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth”

  1. Chris Galdieri Says:

    Planetary generally leaves me cool, but there are two things I remember liking about this: The fact that Adam West (SPOILER ALERT!) wins his fight with Jakita, and the “fusion” Batman at the end of the story. I’d love to see more of that version of Batman; perhaps if Frank Miller ever leaves ASB&RTBW…

  2. BarryDubya Says:

    I’d be interested in reading a review that explores Planetary/Batman as a satire of superhero comics, which it clearly is. But if you compare modern day superhero satire with satire from other mediums, such as film, the approach isn’t quite the same. First and foremost, there isn’t that sense of outright contempt for the genre, characters or conventions that are being parodied. Only in superhero comic books is there such a strong sense of self-loathing that it becomes a part of the genre itself.

  3. hcduvall Says:

    Funnily enough, I didn’t take the Planetary/Batman stories as particularily comtemptous of the older material. If anything, I read it as light ribbing, a mostly affectionate take. Though pieces of it were harsher than others, the bit with Dick Grayson Johanna mentioned and probably the Dark Knight bit (which should be mocked a bit more, imo, but hey)…it was all pretty mild compared to say, the Planetary issue that had all the vertigo characters.

    I have to say though, I think Johanna’s right that you’d have to know the tone of the Adam West Batman to create what they did. But I actually think that makes this one of the weakest of the series. It might be that I’ve internalized too much of that genre reading myself, and I just don’t see it when I read them, but I think some of the other issues in the series seem more approchable than this one, and that might make them better stories in the end.

  4. Johanna Says:

    There’s a real level of knowledge demonstrated in this and similar projects. Once the reader knows that the author gained that knowledge somehow, they know that at some time, at least, they shared the same interest.

    HC, I don’t recall any other individual Planetary issues at this point, so I can’t say whether others would be more approachable. I know that the most recent ones don’t seem to be nearly as good as the earlier ones — due to the delays, this series seems to have outlived its time.

  5. Dan Coyle Says:

    Another thing is that the series has pretty bluntly held Marvel analogues up as the series villains- but the delays are such that the artist and author of the book are now WfH favorites at the House of Ideas. It’s very difficult for me to take the book seriously when Ellis is taking his checks from the house that Stan the Man built when it’s all about Snow avenging himself on a thinly disguised Reed Richards.

  6. Ralf Haring Says:

    I don’t think the perceived difference in quality due to the delays. The earlier issues could play around with being riffs on different genres. The new issues need to wrap up the plot.

    Ellis and Cassaday working for Marvel now has no impact on my enjoyment of the book. I never read the FF analogues being the evil masterminds as any kind of denunciation of Marvel in the real world.

    As far as standout single issues, I think my favorite is probably the one with the Captain Marvel analogue who gives up his normal life to help the stranded spaceship get home. A problem with these types of stories is that you often have to know too much about the source material. I think that issue still works very well without having to get the reference (and it’s really just superficial anyway).

  7. Dan Coyle Says:

    “Ellis and Cassaday working for Marvel now has no impact on my enjoyment of the book. I never read the FF analogues being the evil masterminds as any kind of denunciation of Marvel in the real world.”

    Reread issue #10 and then come back and try to type that with a straight face.

  8. *Superhero Comics Worth Reading » Comics Worth Reading Says:

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