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. In Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, 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 by John Cassaday and the appreciation for superhero history as summed up in its most popular character more than make up for a light plot.
“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.