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Comic Book / Planetary

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Jakita Wagner, Elijah Snow and The Drummer
"It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way."

Comic Book series written by Warren Ellis. The series revolves around a trio of "mystery archaeologists" tasked to expose the secret history of the WildStorm comic book universe and protect these secrets from a quartet known as "The Four" who seek to hoard the secrets for their own selfish desires.

The series was conceived as a metaphorical anthology series for Ellis: each issue would be a different genre and theme, with the only constant being the main trio. However, due to artist John Cassady being poached for work on mainstream books such as Captain America and Astonishing X-Men, and Warren Ellis quickly growing tired of the book (having regretted giving up The Authority to Mark Millar and seeing that book become a huge genre changing mega-hit), the series hit a massive Schedule Slippage crisis that led to the series being released on a severely sporadic schedule after issue #12, for the remainder of the series run.


The main characters were:

  • Elijah Snow — A reclusive and grumpy "Century Baby"; a super-human born at 0 Midnight on the 1st of January 1900 which, as with others sharing that birthday, had granted him virtual immortality and special abilities — in his case, the ability to freeze things with his mind. The series begins with him being approached by Jakita Wagner to join the Planetary team.
  • Jakita Wagner — A beautiful and easily-bored superstrong speedster who worked with the organisation primarily because it stopped her from getting bored (by, among other things, giving her the opportunity to beat up various monsters, aliens and giant ants).
  • The Drummer — A mad technophile who had the ability to visualise any and all forms of information and to communicate with computer systems and other forms of technology.
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  • The Four: A quartet of super-powered ex-astronauts who bore a disconcerting resemblance to a certain family of superheroes. They oppose the Planetary trio, as part of a conspiracy to keep the various wonders and marvels of the universe hidden from the population, in order to protect the Earth from alien forces who would destroy Earth in order to gain control over them.

A persistent background mystery in the early part of the series is the identity of the mysterious "Fourth Man" who founded the Planetary organization. Elijah Snow's discovery of the Fourth Man's identity in #12 is a significant turning point in the series.

In addition to the main series, there were three crossover one-shots: Planetary/The Authority: Ruling the World (2000), Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta (2002), and Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (2003). (Alternate universes were involved for the two DC Universe crossovers.)

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Wimp: Sort of - Superman in an Elseworlds story where Planetary is the quartet of evil overlords seems to be killed by being Blown Out The Airlock on the dark side of the Moon. He's based on Post-Crisis Superman, and can't breathe in space.
  • Affectionate Parody: A lot, with special mention going to "To Be In England, In The Summertime," an only slightly over-the-top recreation of a Delano-era Hellblazer story.
  • All Myths Are True: A notable modern take on this concept: not only are most myths true, but a great deal of classic fiction is true as well (in some form or another), and almost everything that 21st century pop culture loves to obsess over (superheroes, space travel, suave superspies, giant radioactive monsters, mystical martial arts, etc.) exists in some form. The whole series springs from the idea that this is the case but nobody knows, since it's all kept under lock and key by The Conspiracy.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Pretty much every character who appears apart from the main ones, including versions of the Fantastic Four, Superman, James Bond, and more besides.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: In the Elseworlds JLA crossover "Terra Occulta", Planetary have massively altered society by making super-technology publicly available, unlike in the main Planetary timeline where it's all been hidden away.note 
  • An Ice Person: It's right there in his name! It's a more low-key variant than most examples, though, described as "heat subtraction": he can't shoot ice at people in a fight or generate dramatic-looking "ice beams", but he can freeze anyone/anything solid in just a few seconds.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: The Fourth Man, whose identity constitutes a major portion of the plot.
  • Anti-Hero: Elijah Snow is grumpy, world-weary and quite ruthless, especially during his quest for revenge against the Four.
  • Anyone Can Die: "Terra Occulta", being set entirely in an alternate universe, doesn't have to worry about keeping the regulars alive. It kills nearly every DC character seen in it except for Batman and Wonder Woman.
  • Arc Words: see the page quote, above.
  • Artificial Limbs: John Stone's hand is not as ordinary as it looks.
  • Art Imitates Life: "To Be In England, In The Summertime" is an issue-long satirical rant on how the so-called "British Invasion" of comic book writers - Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan, etc., which so intensely impacted the landscape of American mainstream comics in The '80s - was simply a mirror of the dark, cynical reality of the decade;
    Jakita: (Americans) had a doddery old president who talked about the end of the world a little too often and was being run by the wrong people. But (Britons) had a prime minister who was genuinely mad. You know there were even feminists and women's studies theorists who denies she was really a woman anymore, she was so far out of her tree? She wanted concentration camps for AIDS victims, wanted to eradicate homosexuality even as an abstract concept, made poor people choose between eating and keeping their vote, ran the most shameless vote-grabbing artificial war scam in fifty years... England was a scary place. No wonder it produced a scary culture.
    • It may also count as Self-Deprecation; Warren Ellis himself admits that the world survived it.
    Elijah: I dunno. Maybe it's ten years difference between here and the culture that produced them, but... Don't they look fairly ridiculous?
  • Artistic License – Biology: In the Batman crossover, at one point, Elijah uses his powers to give someone what he calls "an ice cream headache." What he actually does is freeze a portion of his brain. Which would either do nothing, since the brain doesn't have sensory nerves, or just kill the person outright.
  • Badass Crew: Though Planetary and the Four definitely have their badass moments, the real standout is the Secret Society, a team of adventurers who were almost entirely killed in the line of duty in 1945. The team's roster is essentially an all-star lineup of early 20th century Two-Fisted Tales, including obvious Captain Ersatzes of Doc Savage, Tarzan, Fu Manchu, The Green Hornet, Operator 5, G-8 and Tom Swift.
  • Big Dumb Object: "Mystery in Space"
  • Bizarre Baby Boom: Happens once a century every century in the Wildstorm universe. These "Century Babies" (such as Elijah Snow himself) are born a second after midnight on the first day of a new century and usually grow up to be immortal and superpowered. They're said to be unliving, artificial constructs made for the purpose of preserving and advancing life on Earth.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Ambrose Chase, originally a member of the group, had the bad fortune to come across a character who had the ability to make Horror Tropes the laws of physics, explicitly including this one. Of course, they Never Found the Body. In the final issue, the above example is subverted; it's revealed he activated his time field and is currently preserved exactly a moment before his actual death, allowing Elijah to save him.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Elijah Snow and Kevin Blackstock both had relationships with Jakita’s mother, a priestess from an advanced hidden African city. Her people didn’t have a problem with her sleeping with a white man, but having a child with one is another matter.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Axel Brass' shameful secret is that his parents were also brother and sister. As he's the product of generations of selective breeding by members of an ancient secret society, it's possible he has several other incestuous pairings in his ancestry.
  • The Can Kicked Him: A guard suffers this fate thanks to Elijah and his freezing powers. Specifically, he's pissing into a urinal when Elijah freezes the urine stream from the basin right up his dick and into his bladder.
    Hello. There is now a solid rod of ice leading up into your body. If you try moving, something very important to you is going to snap off. If you say a word, I'm going to kick it. Are we clear?
  • Cast of Expies: Very many characters are transparent Captains Ersatz of well-known characters from superhero comics and wider pulp-fiction.
    • The main arc villains, The Four, are The Fantastic Faux.
    • In a flashback in the first issue, a quantum computer creates an imaginary Earth with a set of Justice League analogues. Ellis even asked Cassaday to draw them as such.
    • Another issue features a technological take on Captain Marvel (DC Comics).
    • Not to mention the ersatz Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern that get brutally murdered to demonstrate how evil the Four are.
    • The Secret Society is a group of Pulp Magazine adventurers. Ellis describes them lovingly, and though all but one of them are dead, many of them had an impact on the entire world - just like the pulps had an important if unrecognized impact on comics.
      • The sole survivor, Axel Brass, is Doc Savage AKA "The Man of Bronze". He has lots to say about those times, and turns out to be an excellent source of information on how the Four came to be.
      • Hark is Fu Manchu. His daughter, Anna Hark, is one of the most powerful individuals in the world.
      • Kevin Sack, Lord Blackstock is Tarzan, AKA "Lord Greystoke", with a little of Marvel's Kevin "Ka-Zar" Plunder added (Sack = Plunder, after all). Notably, he's Jakita's father, begat on the high priestess of a Hidden Elf Village in Darkest Africa.
      • The Spider is The Green Hornet with The Shadow's "mind-clouding" abilities. He's even the son of the Dead Ranger, just as the Green Hornet was originally The Lone Ranger's nephew. One of the Four, William Leather, is in turn his son - except the Spider's wife cheated on him with a loanshark, leaving William bitter about what could have been and ripe for recruitment into Dowling's plans. For bonus points, Dowling's grandfather was the leader of the Dowling Gang, the bandits who murdered the Dead Ranger's family.
      • Jimmy is Operator #5.
      • Edison is Tom Swift.
      • The Aviator is believed by some to be G-8, but he could be any number of Ace Pilots from the Dead Horse Genre of aviation fiction.
    • Between the faux Justice League in issue 1, the death of the High mentioned in issue 5, the caped hero in issue 7, and the star child in issue 10, various ersatz versions of Superman pop up disturbingly regularly. They all die.
      • Jakita Wagner's (adoptive) parents, though never shown, are likely intended to be parallels of Jonathan and Martha Kent. It's explained that they had an 'unfortunate incident' with a downed spaceship shortly before she was adopted, making Jakita an ersatz Superman of sorts as well.
    • John Stone is the Steranko version of Nick Fury, complete with psychedelic 1960s adventures in flashbacks. His Red Right Hand is very specifically based on the Satan Claw, a power glove used by Fury's foe Baron Strucker that Fury himself memorably used in one of his better-known stories.
    • Even many minor and background characters fall into this. For example, the caped man in the Vertigo homage is Miracleman, and the Bride is Madame Hydra/the Viper.
    • Issue 0 had a brilliant scientist attempting to create a new kind of bomb and instead being horribly mutated by its effects, and Elijah discovered the Four's secret cache of weapons after finding a fossilized stone stick that swaps places with a legendary hammer.
  • Catchphrase: "It's a strange world."
    • "Let's keep it that way."
  • Chainsaw Good: Fully-automatic chainsaw bullets.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The Drummer.
  • Coconut Superpowers: Perhaps the only time this has happened in a comic — Dowling's scary-ass superpower is going to cause everything to go straight to hell, right? Right? Well, they apparently ran out of page space to show it.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Elijah Snow isn't hesitant to kick someone in the unmentionables, or to use his cold power to simply freeze an opponent solid. Or do both at the same time, resulting in an opponent's crotch region smashed off their body entirely — as Dracula found out first-hand. And that was when Elijah was still a kid. If anything, he's gotten more ruthless with age.
  • Continuity Snarl: Early on there were multiple references to events in The Authority and even a crossover. But as the Planetary storyline continued to develop, cross-references ceased and even world-shaking events in The Authority were never referenced. And don't even try to reconcile it with other Wildstorm series, particularly since they eventually became an After the End setting, while Planetary actually had a Happy Ending (which itself involved potentially world-changing events that were never reflected elsewhere in the Wildstorm 'verse).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Anna Hark. She gets better.
  • Corrupted Character Copy:
    • The 4 are directly based on the Fantastic Four, with similar concepts and powers, and an origin story involving something happening to them during a space flight.
    • An early issue revolves around a quantum computing experiment that resulted in reality being invaded by a group of supervillains who are twisted counterparts of the Justice League, with matching powers and similar appearances.
  • Crossover: Two with DC Comics, both via alternate universes. In "Night on Earth", the Planetary team pursue an antagonist who keeps flipping them into alternate universes, where they meet various versions of Batman. "Terra Occulta" is set entirely in an alternate universe that contains both a version of Planetary and a version of the Justice League of America.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The anti-climax that was the final confrontation with the Big Bad.
    • Ambrose Chase Vs. Kim Suskind. Poor lady never had a chance.
    • In the Alternate Universe JLA/Planetary crossover, Elijah Snow vs. Bruce Wayne. Snow never had a chance.
  • Cure for Cancer: The final issue includes a string of news reports about major technological advances Planetary has been able to make with access to the Four's hoard; one is, of course, the development of a cure for cancer.
  • Decompressed Comic: Notable because Ellis was one of the first to do it in major Western comics.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: "Night on Earth" pulls this on Batman. The story initially cycles through iterations of Batman which either depict him at his violent, uncompromising worst or are the versions that tend to be derided (like the Adam West version), but they gradually become more reasonable and favourable as Planetary are able to get through to him. The point is to show both what a flexible character Batman is, and to demonstrate that his less sympathetic depictions aren't all there is to him.
  • Deconstruction: In some cases just outright demolition.
    • Even Deconstructions are deconstructed; the widescale Darker and Edgier trend in superhero comics in the 1980s and 1990s is deconstructed with the appearance of a former Cape who, having apparently suffered one of these during that period and angrily blaming the John Constantine Expy for it, angrily rants that he didn't want or need such a deconstruction just for the hell of it and liked his former, more innocent life perfectly fine, thank you very much.note 
  • Deconstruction Crossover: The Planetary universe as a whole.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: In case you haven't noticed by now, their were a lot of these.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: In the "Planet Fiction" issue.
  • Everybody Lives: The end of the series as a whole. Ambrose Chase is revived and the full team go off into the sunset on their shift-ship. This wouldn't be quite as notable if Warren Ellis didn't have a Tomino-esque reputation for Kill 'Em All endings.
  • Evil Counterpart: Planetary to The Four, evident in their respective derivations from the Fantastic Four. Illustrated best by an Elseworlds story where Planetary are the world's dominating cabal, only they control the world by granting advanced technology, not withholding it.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the penultimate issue, before departing from a parlay he invited them to in the desert, Snow claims that he's about to kill Dowling and Suskind. The two villains note that for all of his bravado, Snow has only ever known one thing that they didn't know themselves. Then they remember what that one thing is, namely the location of an alien spaceship hidden beneath Earth's surface. Snow has just tricked them into standing on top of that ship and has it blast off, killing them.
  • Explosive Leash: In one issue, the Planetary field team raid one of the Four's facilities, where a group of child prodigies in explosive collars are being forced to subvert the internet.
  • Expy: In an odd double way. Jakita's ex-lover Jack Carter is a blatantly obvious (London-based, blonde-haired, trenchcoat-wearing magician) one of John Constantine. Then at the end of that story, he's shaved his head, changed his trenchcoat for a black jacket, and gotten tattoos reminiscent of Spider Jerusalem. (Though he was originally meant to be King Mob.)
  • Eye Scream: The way they torture William Leather in the final volume.
  • The Fantastic Faux:
    • The Four are a Corrupted Character Copy of the Fantastic Four, with similar concepts and powers, and an origin story involving something happening to them during a space flight.
    • The Planetary field team are like a photo-negative twist of the original Fantastic Four. Specifically:
      • The Thing, a slow and hideous mutated strongman who desperately wants to be normal again, becomes Jakita Wagner, a sexy woman in a sleek jumpsuit, and is superhumanly fast and strong at the same time, and revels in her superhuman status and constantly seeking new strange thrills.
      • The Invisible Woman, the team mom who could make herself and other things invisible, becomes The Drummer, a boy sidekick who perceives things all around him that most people cannot — namely, information. For an added bonus, the Invisible Woman has often been written has having some strong emotions simmering under a calm surface. The Drummer, on the other hand, is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander with a calmly idealistic center.
      • Mr. Fantastic is a white man, who creates strange gadgets and distorts his own body via stretching. His counterpart is Ambrose Chase, a black man who uses normal semi-auto guns, and distorts physics and reality around himself rather than distorting his own body.
      • The Human Torch is the youngest member, impulsive and brash, who throws around fire, and usually functions as the fire support for his family, strategy-wise. Elijah Snow is the oldest member of his team, is a thoughtful detective, subtracts heat from his environment to freeze things, and finds himself a natural leader with Jakita and Drums when he joins them.
      • The Fourth Man is also an inversion of Doctor Doom. The source of his problems really is his Reed Richards nemesis, but the Fourth Man isn't really obsessed with his foe — Dowling is an obstacle to be overcome, and once removed from the picture, the Fourth Man barely acknowledges his victory before returning to his real agenda. The Fourth Man is also a Third-Person Person; much as Doom refers to himself, the Fourth Man usually discusses himself as "the Fourth Man" rather than in the first person. Because Elijah spends most of this time unaware that it's him!
  • Fate Worse than Death: David Paine was an extraordinary scientist who proposed a model for a reality-altering computer, with the objective of creating a new type of bomb. During the initial test, he got caught in the radius. The original overseeing general proposes he successfully completed the equations necessary to transform himself into something that could survive the blast, but was unable to turn back. Instead, his new monstrous shape took the military twenty-four days to bring under enough control to toss him down a five-mile deep shaft burned out by a nuke, and seal him in without food or water. It took him twenty-one years to die.
  • Flash Step: John Stone has his Blitzen Suit which enables short-range teleportation.
  • Flying Brick: William Leather clearly won the superpower lottery on his team: speed, strength, flight, durablity and pyrokinesis.
  • Genre Shift: Every issue has Planetary encounter a different genre. Some of these are even "remixes" - Planetary #3, for instance, is The Spectre done as a Heroic Bloodshed story, and Planetary #19 is Galactus done as an exploratory Big Dumb Object story.
  • Gilligan Cut: In Night on Earth, after he sees what the issue's antagonist is capable of, The Drummer announces that this time he's going to stay in the base where it's safe. Turn the page, and the next panel is him out in the field with Jakita and Elijah, complaining loudly.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The protagonists of the series, particularly Elijah Snow and Jakita Wagner, are genuinely decent people with good intentions and solid morals. However, they have few qualms about beating the crap out of their enemies. Snow is even willing to resort to torturing William Leather in order to stop the Four.
  • Good Wears White: Elijah Snow dresses in white and has white hair. His white clothes foreshadow his status as the amnesiac Big Good.
  • Groin Attack: Against Dracula. Somewhat less successfully against William Leather. Which is not to say that it worked poorly against Leather - it incapacitated him for a realistic time while Elijah got in a good rant, but nothing could be as successful as the one against Dracula.
  • Guns Akimbo: Both the ghost cop and Ambrose are fond of this.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Jakita Wagner.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The lost city of Opak-Re.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": First name: The, last name: Drummer
  • Informed Ability: We never actually see Randall Dowling's reputed Mind Virus power in action. Most likely because it would make him literally impossible to fight.
  • Interplanetary Voyage: The Gun Club attempt to land on the moon using a Verne-style cannon. It doesn't work.
  • Intrepid Fictioneer: One issue features an expedition to a fictional world that brought... something... back with it when it returned.
  • Isle of Giant Horrors: The kaiju issue has the team exploring an island somewhere in the vicinity of Japan that was home to a variety of giant prehistoric monsters, all of which have supposedly died out. Emphasis on supposedly.
  • Jumped at the Call: Jakita Wagner.
  • Kaiju: Complete with homages to Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan.
  • Karmic Death: Dowling and Kim in the climactic showdown.
  • Kick the Dog: The revelation that the Four slaughtered the entire population of a parallel earth so that they "had somewhere to store their weapons". With their abilities, they could just as easily have accessed an uninhabited parallel world.
  • Killed Offscreen: Doc Brass's teammates aren't shown dying onscreen, but he says that none of them survived their battle with the Invading Refugees of a parallel world.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In issue #12, Elijah is revealed as a victim of this. He's the Fourth Man, and the founder of the Planetary organization, but Dowling erased his memories to make him forget this.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Of course, these alternate versions, whilst recognisable, are entirely distinct from the originals.
  • Legacy Character: Bret Leather is the second Dead Ranger.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Jakita Wagner is durable enough to survive being defenestrated from a skycraper without harm, strong enough to "...drop-kick a rhino over the Grand Canyon" and fast enough to out-run trigger-pulls.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: See Laser-Guided Amnesia, above. All the other regular characters know what that character's forgotten, but have their respective reasons for letting the situation continue.
  • Martini-flavored Spy Fiction: John Stone's entire existence.
  • Metafiction: In additional to all its other themes, you can read Planetary as a metacommentary on 20th century North American comics, in which the superhero genre eclipsed all other genres (crime, horror, spy, western, pulp sci-fi etc.) at the start of the Silver Age with the release of the Fantastic Four. See this review.
  • Mighty Whitey: Lord Blackstock. A member of an advanced hidden African tribe he occasionally associates with explains to Elijah that, while Kevin is always polite to them, they can tell he sees himself as superior and thinks of them as his subjects. He also seems bemused that Elijah could find a black woman attractive and he describes Africa as his “childhood haunt”, indicating that he sees an entire continent as his personal estate/playground he can drop into whenever he feels nostalgic.
  • Mind Virus: While the other members of The Four get their Marvel counterparts' powers, Dowling gets this: "Anyone who's ever been within a hundred feet of Randall Dowling... probably is Randall Dowling." This is an interpretation of Reed Richards' physical stretching ability mixed with his superintelligence — Dowling can 'stretch his mind.'
  • Mirror Universe: "Terra Occulta", an AU in which evil versions of the Planetary central characters are the villains, and versions of the JLA are plotting to bring them down.
  • Mysterious Employer: The Fourth Man.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Lampshaded.
    Elijah: He's getting away!
    The Drummer: Leave me behind! I'll only slow you down!
    Elijah: Okay.
    The Drummer: I didn't mean it, you evil old geezer.
  • No Poverty: The home of Jakita's mother.
  • Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Averted. The Green Lantern Expy who falls on Earth naked has vagina-like genitalia.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Subverted in "To Be In England, In The Summertime"; the cast attend the funeral for John Constantine Expy Jack Carter, and there they (and creators) reminisce on Vertigo Comics of the 1980s and 1990s (and the political subtexts thereof). The Affectionate Parody of the issue is somewhat undercut when Snow points out that, being relics of a particular time divorced of their cultural and political contexts, they can't help but look a bit ridiculous. Although she passionately defends and supports them, Jakita is forced to concede he has a point.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Planetary Zambia field office holds three “angels”; androgynous, blue-skinned Winged Humanoids who feed on information. Elijah explains that they are aliens who landed in Berlin in the thirties.
  • Papa Bear: Elijah, eventually.
  • Pass Fail: Jakita is black/white biracial yet looks sufficiently white to pass in 1930's Germany. It's explained that most of their black mother's people’s racial traits were caused by recessive genes, which is why they opposed any mixing. That, combined with their white father's superpowered Century Baby genes resulted in a child that looked like a slightly tanned white person.
  • Pastiche: Blurring the line between Affectionate Parody and playing itself straight, the strange, strange world of Planetary deconstructs and rebuilds works and tropes spanning the length and breadth of 20th Century fiction (and slightly before it), with each issue focusing on a slightly skewed but often affectionate look at various works, swapping story and character beats between genres and delivering a panoply of Shout-Outs and Take Thats along the way.
    • "To Be in England..." again, as an elegy for the "British Invasion" of comics during the 80s/90s. While the majority of the story calls out the unnecessary deconstructions of formerly optimistic and idealistic characters, the story makes it clear that these were still good stories. The problem is that people are too hung up on how good they were, but that doesn't mean the stories they deconstruct deserve to be kicked to the curb and forgotten. In which respect Planetary, the team and the comic itself, are part of the effort to recover and preserve that past — looking back on Vertigo's heyday, do they really look any less silly than the tights-clad superheroes that came before them? And who's to say Planetary and their contemporaries will be any different?
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: In issue 3, a guy attempts Car Fu on Jakita Wagner. She kicks him and the engine out of his vehicle.
  • Phrase Catcher: Drums, once an issue, has someone ask him, "What's the word?" He then delivers a one-word summary of the mission at hand.
  • Production Foreshadowing: In the What If? story "Terra Occulta", part of the plot involves the creation of a time machine. Seven years later, in the main story line, the final issue revolves around the creation of a time machine of identical design.
  • Reactionless Drive: Planetary has access to a spaceship that generates thrust by rewriting local spacetime so that it has it. The Drummer sees it as it eating and excreting information, and is stunned.
  • Really 700 Years Old: several characters. Snow was born on January 1 1900 and still looks like a very vigorous forty-something. Anna Hark and Jakita Wagner are the daughters of Century Babies, and both of them are around 70 by the time of the comic; Anna estimates that she (and probably by extension Jakita) will live for roughly 300 years. John Stone, thanks to some very neat drugs, has aged about 5 years since 1965.
  • Red Herring: Regarding the identity of the Fourth Man, Anna Hark. Several lines of dialog can be interpreted as clues that she's the Fourth Man, including Axel Brass speculating that the Fourth Man may be a woman, and a passage about how she likes to remain hidden and behind the scenes. It's done subtly enough that savvy readers are likely to think they're very clever for figuring out the truth... which of course is set up deliberately by Ellis in order to throw them off the Fourth Man's real identity.
    • The scene most fans point to is when Ambrose is first promoted to the field team. The common fan theory was that Ambrose was about to say "but you're a woman." Then issue 13 came along and proved them all wrong.
    Ambrose Chase: You're the Fourth Man? But you're—
    The Fourth Man: Yes, I noticed that, too.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Deconstructed; the Four are the evil Mirror Universe equivalent of the Fantastic Four, and they want to hoard all their glories and advances for themselves. As William Leather tells Elijah, "We are adventurers, my crewmates and I, on the human adventure. And you can't all come along." By the end of the series, Elijah finally gets to avert this. He takes back Dowling's database and uses it to makes the world a better place. The ending can also be seen as deconstructing why this is so often an Enforced Trope. The issue after Reed Richard stops being useless, the series ends, because it becomes much harder to tell interesting stories.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Averted.
    • The inhabitants of Science City Zero typically (and horribly) avert this, usually dying of it.
    • Suskind herself has this problem, too, as turning invisible also blinds her.
  • The Reveal: Elijah is the Fourth Man, but he doesn't know it—because Dowling erased his memory. When Jakita and the Drummer "recruit" him in the first issue, they're actually trying to bring their boss out of retirement.
  • Rule of Cool: Even though this is a cynical, yet nostalgic exploration of fiction of the last century, it still operates on the Rule of Cool Like how about ghost cops that go Guns Akimbo? Chainsaw bullets? Jakita playing Soccer with the head of a giant ant as a ball? A Tarzan expy punching out a giant cyborg snake? An all-out brawl between Doc Brass's pulp-fiction era heroes and expies of the Justice League? The gang going head to head with several incarnations of Batman? Let's face it. This series is awesome.
  • Saving the World: Unlike most series, Planetary digs into what "saving the world" really means, in more ways than one. It's not just "saving the world" from runaway alien technology or interdimensional monsters. It's not even just saving the world from the Four. Snow's an archaeologist - it's about preserving the past for the betterment of the future. Not just saving lives, saving information.
  • Slow Electricity: In the issue "Percussion", the Planetary field team raid a facility where a group of child prodigies are being held captive. A guard triggers a fail-safe that sets off the Explosive Leashes the children have been fitted with. Jakita runs across the room, first at the same speed as, then faster than the radio signal, kids' heads popping like zits just as her hands touch their leashes, with her beating the signal only to the last one.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Elijah Snow and John Stone are standouts in this regard.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The veiled hint about Lord Blackstock's early love life doubles as a reference to a similar idea in Philip José Farmer's novel Tarzan Alive.
    • In the final issue, it's mentioned that the Planetary's job has now become a "rescue mission". Those same words were used in the final volume of The Invisibles to describe how the eponymous group's job description has changed. Both series end with the protagonists getting past a simplistic black-and-white conflict, and trying to save the whole of humanity instead.
  • Shrunken Organ: In one issue, a giant man is seen in one panel, dying from his sudden artificial growth. His autopsy reveals "a normal-sized brain hanging in a web of nerve tissues like cables in a skull several feet across."
  • Something We Forgot: An early Planetary mission introduced a character who was a refugee from a fictional Earth that had been given substance. He killed a whole bunch of people and then escaped. The issue ends with an ominous caption telling us that he is "still at large." The series then forgets about him and he's never mentioned again until the final issue, where it's noted in passing that the lead characters still don't know what happened to him.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Drummer. "First name The, second name Drummer."
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: The bracelets of the Wonder Woman expy can generate glowing copies of any weapon she can imagine.
  • Spy Catsuit: While Jakita Wagner is not a spy, it is definitely a catsuit.
  • Stable Time Loop: How the final issue basically ends, albeit with a twist.
  • The Starscream: John Stone.
  • Stat-O-Vision: This is how The Drummer sees the world.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Elijah Snow, who has the power to freeze things.
    • Seems to be common with century babies. See Jenny Sparks, who can control electricity.
  • Super Cell Reception: The Drummer receives a cell call while on the Authority's spaceship/headquarters - located outside of the universe!. Possibly justified in that The Drummer's superpower is control over information and information transmission.
  • Superhero Trophy Shelf: All the teams in the comics maintain a collection of strange artifacts and secrets. Most notably the Four, who slaughtered the entire population of a parallel earth so that they "had somewhere to store their weapons."
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Issue #16 prominently stars Ah Lien Hark, practitioner of Night Forest School and features a spectacular wuxia-style battle between herself and the villainous Lo. It is hinted later in the issue that her modern descendant Anna Hark also knows the style.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: A major theme, especially concerning children of those born right on the turn of the century (and their kids).
    • Subverted by Dowling and Suskind, their radically altered genomes means they can't breed with each other. One of Dowling's labs contains tanks with hideous stillborn mutants in them, apparently his attempts to create children from their DNA.
  • Take That!:
    • In Night on Earth, the first Batman (1966) Jakita meets is the 2011 version, whom she hits on roughly as hard as she actually hits him. The next is the Adam West version, whom she finds a lot less attractive... and that was before he hit her with Bat-Female-Villain-Repellent.
    • On a similar note, the final version of Batman Planetary encounters makes a speech about how John Black can make the world "make sense" by showing people they're not alone and give them the safety they need. The exact opposite mindset of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns version, who insists that "the world only makes sense when you force it to."
  • Technicolor Fire: William Leather wields blue fire. Though it's hinted to be something more strange and powerful than fire, since it seems to allow him to do things like pass through solid walls while wreathed in it.
  • Time Crash: Worst case scenario of using the Four's time machine. It can only travel back up to the moment of its activation, meaning if you want to check out history, that's pretty much the only meaningful place to go. If any point of the future can only travel to one spit in the past, then not only does the normally variable future collapse into predestined events, but those events are paradoxically erased before they can happen. They use the time machine anyway and only nearly collapse spacetime.
  • Time for Plan B: In the issue "Percussion", the high-rise building the Planetary field team are in starts blowing up around them, forcing them to resort to "Exit Plan B" — jumping out of the nearest window and being caught by a net trailed by a passing aiplane.
  • Time Stands Still: One of the effects that Ambrose Chase is able to produce with his Reality Warper powers. This is also how he saves himself from dying after being shot in the first issue he appears in, only to be rescued in the finale by being broken out of his area of frozen time.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The mysterious Fourth Man, who the Planetary team secretly takes their orders from? It was Elijah all along. Elijah just didn't know it, because the Four wiped his memories in a previous mission.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Inverted by the Four who betrayed humanity to a bunch of evil superhumans from an Apokolips-Expy dimension in order to become transhumans.
  • Troperrific: Considering the series explored a different genre every issue, it's not surprising.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Elijah's first big adventure was in 1919, where he hunts down a conspiracy of 19th-century geniuses/monsters;
    • "The Baron and his creature" aka Frankenstein.
    • John Griffin, The Invisible Man.
    • Robur the Conqueror.
    • Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.
    • Dracula.
    • Others included H.G. Wells...
    • ...and their leader, Sherlock Holmes.
      • Notably, once defeated, Holmes admits that their conspiracy had gone way past the Moral Event Horizon; the theories they championed - eugenics, re-education, controlled economies - would go on to create the evil empires that soaked the 20th century in blood. He's such a Graceful Loser he spends his final years teaching Elijah all his methods, in the hopes his successor would correct his mistakes.
    • The Gun Club from Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon also make an (obviously posthumous) appearance in one strip, when their primitive spacecraft crases to Earth, containing the skeletons of three members. It's revealed that their bullet-ship fell into a stable orbit around the Earth and the moon for over a century before finally falling out of the sky.
  • Un-Paused: Not played for laughs in the eighth issue, where a dead woman is successfully revived, and finishes what she was doing when she died: screaming.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: William Leather relies on his raw power to deal with any problems, but he's so used to this being enough that he doesn't stop to think about any other options. It's what gets him pushed to the periphery of the Four.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: William Leather has serious daddy issues.
  • Wham Episode: Issue #12. Elijah Snow is finally cured of his amnesia, and we find out that he founded Planetary, that he himself is the Fourth Man, and that it was the Four who put those memory blocks in his head. And now he's gonna take them down!
  • Wham Line: "And the Fourth Man, the Fourth Man... I'm the Fourth Man."
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Inverted. Dowling and the Four intentionally sought out someone to give them superpowers because they were already insanely ambitious. The actual transformation doesn't seem to have had much effect on their mental balance for any of them, apart possibly from Greene.
  • World Building: Continuity Snarls aside, this series fleshes out a timeline and history for the Wildstorm universe.
  • You Can See Me?: Carter's story in issue 7. "Oh, for God's sake. You can bloody see me, can't you?"
  • Your Head Asplode: In the flashback to The Drummer's childhood, the children in the bomb collars all suffer this fate except The Drummer-to-be, who is saved at the last moment by Jakita.


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