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

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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:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Superspy John Stone has a gun that fires "Rip Rounds" — bullets with tiny chainsaws built into the tips.
  • 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.
  • Adventurer Outfit:
    • The group shot of Axel Brass's team depicts the Safari, Air Man and Archaeologist outfits as well as few other classic genre outfits.
    • The flashback to Elijah's expedition to Darkest Africa shows him wearing the classic safari outfit.
  • 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.
  • Alien Abduction: Planetary uncovers evidence that the abductions are real but not being carried out by aliens; it's another one of the Four's projects.
  • 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 
  • 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 Number: 196,833.
  • 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." A real ice cream headache occurs when blood vessels in the roof of your mouth are suddenly pinched by very cold food. What Snow actually does is freeze a portion of the person's brain. Which would either do nothing (since the brain doesn't have sensory nerves), lobotomize them, or just kill them outright.
  • Ass Shove: In early issues, before Elijah gets used to The Drummer's habit of drumming on nearby objects, there are several occasions where he threatens to confiscate the drumsticks and return them in this manner.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The 50s-B-movie homage issue includes accounts of two attempts to grow a human to giant size, one a homage to The Amazing Colossal Man and the other to Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. It's not clear that either of them actually attacked anything; the first seems to have died due to imperfections in the process, and the second is shown being taken down by field artillery, but the context suggests she wouldn't have been allowed to live in any case.
  • Badass Back: In the first issue, The Drummer throws an empty bottle at Elijah from behind while Elijah is looking out a window. Elijah reaches back and catches it without turning to look.
  • 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.
  • Badass Longcoat: Jakita's regular outfit is a thigh-length black coat over her Spy Catsuit.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: The coffee in the diner where Elijah and Jakita meet in the first issue.
    Elijah: Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it.
    Waitress: Dawg's gotta go someplace.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The 50s-B-movie homage issue features giant ants, developed by a black ops research facility as guard dogs.
  • Big Dumb Object: "Mystery in Space"
  • Billions of Buttons: John Stone's flying car, apparently. "Dammit, one of these buttons fires the Atomic Death Biter—"
  • 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.
  • Black Helicopter: The Planetary team's usual mode of transport is a black helicopter, fitting with their status as mysterious people who tend to show up when something weird is going on.
  • Blasphemous Praise: In the first issue, Jakita tells Snow that one of the only things they know about the Fourth Man, Planetary's mysterious benefactor, is that he has more money than God.
  • Bond One-Liner: In the 1960s flashback introducing John Stone, he shoots a hole in an enemy plane's refueling hose and blows it up with a flame thrower, crisping the flight crew. Then he pulls out a cigarette and quips, "Got a light?"
  • Bookends: The location chosen for Planetary's final showdown with the Four is the desert where Elijah was living at the beginning of the first issue, near the diner where Jakita gave him her recruitment pitch.
  • Boom, Headshot!: In "Island", a cult leader shoots one of his disciples in the head after the disciple dares to question his increasingly deranged orders. There doesn't appear to be much left of the disciple's head afterward.
  • Breeding Cult: Axel Brass is the last child from a breeding program started by an eclectic group of intellectuals in post-Revolutionary France, gathered together with the goal of creating a perfect human.
  • British Teeth: The author bio in the second volume of the collected edition claims that Warren Ellis has killed a large number of people in single combat, some of them with his bare hands and teeth — "So let's have no more smart comments about British people and their bad teeth... That takes good teeth."
  • 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.
  • Camping a Crapper: A guard is 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."
  • Cerebus Retcon: The issue homaging 1980s British comics parodies their prevalence for this kind of retcon with a dishevelled super ranting for a full page about the comedically exaggerated number of ways his life has been retroactively changed for the worse.
  • Chainsaw Good: John Stone's fully-automatic chainsaw bullets.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In the first issue, Elijah asks what happened to the guy he's been recruited to replace, and Jakita replies that she'll let him know when they've figured it out themselves. At the time it seems like just a throwaway line to establish that Planetary deals with weird things and faces unusual dangers, but the answer to the question of what exactly did happen to him turns out to be one of the driving forces of the plot.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In one issue, Elijah has a secret meeting in a place where a local phenomenon blocks all radio communication signals, although he notes that a teleportation fix would still be able to get through. That exception doesn't end up being relevant — in that issue, but is vital the next time Elijah has a meeting under similar conditions.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The Drummer.
  • The Coats Are Off: Jakita shrugging off her long coat at the beginning of a fight scene often gets a panel all to itself.
  • 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.
  • Collector of the Strange: Both the Four and members of Planetary maintain large collections of the world's secrets, including mementos from dead superheroes and alien artifacts.
  • 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 Nod: In issue #12, Elijah and Jakita discuss his adventure in Rhode Island, which had happened in the recently-published crossover special with The Authority.
  • 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).
  • Cool Starship: The shiftship, a product of a civilization that existed when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, which looks like a flying cathedral and is large enough to contain its own ecosystem.
  • 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 Süskind. 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.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Anna Hark is the daughter of a Fu Manchu-esque mastermind from the 1930s who decided to use his power for the good of humanity and then died saving the world. She inherited his globe-spanning secret empire, and it's quite a way into the series before we learn for sure whether she's also using it for good or following the example of her father's earlier career.
  • Deadly Forcefield: Kim Süskind of the Four can use her force field powers in very dangerous and ruthless ways like exploding people from within or shaping her force fields into spikes.
  • Death by Cameo: In the flashback to John Stone's heyday as a secret agent, he's accompanied by a fellow agent with the trademark cigar, eyepatch and stubble of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD — who immediately gets shot in the head and killed.
  • Death by Irony: In "To Be in England, in the Summertime", Jack Carter encounters a man who has been made Invisible to Normals, allowing him to commit murder with impunity. Carter traps him inside an invisible force-field and walks away, leaving the man unable to move from the spot and with no way to attract attention or summon help. A time skip shows his skeletal remains lying on the same spot years later, unnoticed by passers-by.
  • Death of a Child:
    • One issue tells the story of a doomed alien race whose most foresighted scientist sends his child away in a spaceship, which lands in a farm field on Earth — where the alien infant is immediately killed by William Leather so the Four can steal and reverse-engineer the spaceship.
    • In the "Planet Fiction" issue, a team of commandos tasked to Leave No Witnesses murders everybody in a house including an infant.
    • In "Percussion", the Planetary field team raids a facility where the Four are keeping a collection of child prodigies. They only manage to save one; the rest are killed by their Explosive Leashes.
  • 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.
  • Distant Finale: The final issue is an epilogue set one year after the climax that took place in the penultimate issue.
  • The Drag-Along: The Drummer tends to complain if he has to accompany the field team into a dangerous situation, because his information-gathering powers aren't the most useful in a fight.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The team's visit to the Land Down Under takes place entirely in the vicinity of Uluru.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: In the "Planet Fiction" issue, a black ops team is sent into a house with orders to kill everyone inside. The result is represented by a shot of a bloodstained teddy bear lying near a baby's crib.
  • 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.
  • Evil Gloating: The human antagonist in the Authority crossover spends two whole pages monologuing about what he's up to and how long he's been laying his plans, giving one of his victims time to send out an alarm call to the heroes while he's distracted.
  • 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 Süskind. 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.
    • In another issue, the field team capture one of the Four's agents, and discover that he has a bomb implanted in his abdomen to keep him in line.
  • Exposed to the Elements: On multiple occasions, Elijah and Jakita go into cold environments without changing their outfits; Elijah doesn't feel the cold because he's An Ice Person, and Jakita doesn't feel the cold because she has Super Toughness. Showcased in the outdoor scenes of issue #8, where Elijah, Jakita, and their contact (who also doesn't feel the cold for her own reasons) are standing around in street clothes while Drummer is bundled up in a padded coat and hat with earflaps.
  • 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 Beams: The Diabolical Mastermind in issue #11 is revealed to have had a laser gun implanted in place of one of her eyes so she's never unarmed.
  • Eye Scream: The way Snow tortures William Leather in issue #22.
  • 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.
  • Fight Dracula: The flashback to Elijah's first big adventure as a young man features a confrontation with Dracula.
  • 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.
  • Flying Car: In one scene, superspy John Stone's car converts into a flying car, with the wheels folding up underneath.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: In "Dead Gunfighters", the Hong Kong action movie tribute issue, when a character is speaking in Chinese their speech balloon uses that 'Chinese' font where all the letters are made out of triangles.
  • Foreshadowing: The Authority crossover special contains some foreshadowing for the revelation of the Fourth Man's identity, which was about to happen in the main series, particularly in the scene where Drummer notes that Century Babies seem to have a tendency to found world-saving hero teams, and jokes that Elijah has wasted his life because he never did.
  • Frozen Fashion Sense: In issue #8, the Planetary team meet a woman who's been in an undead state since the 1950s, and she's dressed in 1950s fashions.
  • Funny Background Event: During a park bench meeting between Elijah Snow and John Stone, Stone flicks away the butt of a cigarette he's been smoking, and it hits a nearby pigeon on the head with enough force to knock it cold.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Each of the genre-based issues.
  • 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.
  • Ghost Planet: In one issue, Elijah visits an alternate Earth whose entire population was slaughtered by the Four.
  • 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.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: There is a brief mention of some Russian scientists who discover that souls are merely electromagnetic fuel for a war between Heaven and Hell. They decide to check out on an A-Bomb, so that the EMP blast will destroy their souls. (It should be noted, though, that this is only one theory about the afterlife presented over the course of the series, and not the one that ends up being presented as most likely.)
  • 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 Scars, Evil Scars: The main antagonist in "Dead Gunfighters" has a large disfiguring scar on his face.
  • 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.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: Jakita's Super Toughness is first demonstrated in a scene where she jumps out of a helicopter without a parachute, landing unharmed and leaving two sets of radiating cracks in the rock where her feet made contact.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • The ghost cop in "Dead Gunfighters".
    • Ambrose.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Jakita Wagner's standard outfit is a black leather bodysuit with red trim.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The genre being homaged in "Dead Gunfighters".
  • Hidden Elf Village: The lost city of Opak-Re.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": First name: The, last name: Drummer
  • Hollywood Dreamtime: In one issue, the Four attempt to tap into the power of the Dreamtime.
  • 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.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You:
    The Drummer: So what's the plan?
    Elijah Snow: If I told you, I'd have to kill you.
    The Drummer: That joke is older than you are.
  • Immortal Genius: Elijah Snow is a Century Baby, a superhuman with extraordinary skills and powers including immortality... and he also happens to be a natural born genius, particularly in business and archaeology.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: The pattern for the Century Babies seen in the series — and for the children of Century Babies who have inherited their extended lifespans — seems to be that they age normally until some time in their 20s or 30s and then don't appear to get any older.
  • 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.
  • Interquel: The Batman crossover special was published between issues 15 and 16, but internal evidence indicates that it takes place somewhere between the end of issue 8 and the start of issue 10.
  • In the Blood: Jakita Wagner claims that she works with Planetary mainly because it's never boring and she hates being bored. Issue #17 is a full-issue flashback to an adventure involving her parents, and shows that her father had the same trait, which she apparently inherited from him even though she's never actually met him.
  • Intrepid Fictioneer: One issue features an expedition to a fictional world that brought... something... back with it when it returned.
  • Invisibility with Drawbacks: Süskind can turn invisible, but in that state she's blind. (Unless she wears a special pair of goggles designed by Dowling to mitigate the problem. It's not explained how the goggles help when they're invisible too.)
  • Invisible to Normals: In "To Be in England, in the Summertime", Jack Carter encounters a murderer who has been rendered invisible (and inaudible, etc.) to normals.
  • Ironic Echo: In the flashback that introduces superspy John Stone, he invites the diabolical mastermind to make a Heel–Face Turn, which she rejects; before proceeding to curb-stomp her mooks, he says, "Just remember: I gave you a chance." Later, after it's revealed that he's sold out to the Four, Jakita invites him to give up quietly, which he rejects; after winning the ensuing battle, she says, "Just remember I told you to give up."
  • 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.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Dracula refers to a mortal human as "it" because he sees ordinary humans as no more than cattle.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Played for laughs.
    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.
  • 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.
  • Kill Sat: The Four have one, with the power to level a skyscraper in a single shot.
  • Land Down Under: One issue has the Planetary team traveling to Australia to prevent the Four tapping into the power of the the Dreamtime. The only part of Australia depicted is the remote region around Uluru.
  • 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.
  • Last-Second Chance:
    • A flashback shows the last battle between Doc Brass and the Chinese mastermind Hark. Doc appeals to him, saying that he knows ultimately they both have similar goals, wanting a better world for the people under their protection. It works, and the two men become colleagues in the project of saving the world.
    • Another flashback shows the final showdown between John Stone and the Diabolical Mastermind known only as the Bride. Stone offers her a chance to turn over a new leaf, pointing to the example of Hark. The Bride turns the opportunity down, saying that she just wants to rule the world, and doesn't survive the ensuing battle.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Of course, these alternate versions, whilst recognisable, are entirely distinct from the originals.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Several characters mention a theory that the universe is actually two dimensional but gives the illusion of additional dimensions. The Drummer adds that this suggests that the multiverse consists of a series of flat planes stacked together like... the metaphor he uses is plates in a hard drive, but the metaphor Elijah uses in the final issue is pages in a book.
  • Leave No Witnesses: A group of soldiers in "Planet Fiction" quickly establish themselves as working for the villains by carrying out an order to kill anybody who witnessed the operation they're cleaning up after.
  • Legacy Character: Bret Leather is the second Dead Ranger.
  • Leg Cling: Part of the cover art for the second volume of the collected edition depicts superspy John Stone with a femme fatale clinging to his leg.
  • The Lifestream: The realm underlying reality that Elijah experiences during his vision quest.
  • 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.
  • Literally Shattered Lives:
    • In the flashback to the first time Elijah worked with superspy John Stone, Elijah freezes the evil mastermind solid and then shatters her with a kick.
    • In the flashback to the beginning of Elijah's career, he is attacked by two monsters; he freezes the first one to lay hands on him, kicks it until it shatters, then wields its frozen arm as a club against the remaining one.
    • Later in the same flashback sequence, Elijah is attacked with murderous intent by Dracula himself. Elijah freezes him solid, and instead of simply shattering him, expresses his distaste by aiming a shattering kick at one particular part of his anatomy.
  • Living is More Than Surviving: Discussed when the Planetary team is trying to rescue a man trapped in a bubble of frozen time. The Drummer, who doesn't like the risky plan Elijah has come up with, points out that the man isn't going anywhere and they can take time, years if necessary, to figure out a safer method. Elijah replies that he wants the man out before it's too late for him to go back to his family and continue his interrupted life, because saving his life means more than just preventing his death.
  • 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.
  • Long-Lived: Century Babies, and some of their children, age slowly and live long lives. Anna Hark, the daughter of a Century Baby, estimates that she has a life expectancy of around 300 years.
  • Master of Your Domain: Axel Brass. "I eliminated my need for food and sleep in 1942, stopped aging in '43, and learned to close wounds with the power of my mind in '44."
  • Match Cut: In "To Be in England, in the Summertime", the flashback sequence ends with a wide shot of the street where the flashback scene took place. The next panel shows an identically-framed view of the same street in the present day, as the protagonists walk along it.
  • 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.
  • Monochrome Past: After Ambrose is shot, he has a two-page montage of his life flashing before his eyes in grayscale.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: After Ambrose is shot, there's a two page montage covering the key points of his life and career, which also serves to inform the audience about those things since he was only introduced a dozen pages earlier.
  • Mysterious Backer: The Fourth Man.
  • Mysterious Employer: The Fourth Man.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Superspy John Stone introduces himself this way on his first appearance.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The town of Judgement, Rhode Island, where the first part of the Authority crossover is set, is a fictionalized version of Providence.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The bigoted writer who Elijah met in Rhode Island in 1931 is carefully never named, but bears a very obvious resemblance to H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Averted. The Green Lantern Expy who falls on Earth naked has vagina-like genitalia. The humanoid aliens in the Big Dumb Object also have visible features in the genital area.
  • No Poverty: The hidden city of Opak-Re.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In issue #8, the Planetary team are attacked by a swarm of giant ants which carry off their helicopter with the pilot still inside. Jakita tells the rest of the team to take cover in a nearby building while she deals with the ants. The audience sees her take down one ant, then turn as more ants surround her — then the story cuts away to the rest of the team, discussing the situation that brought them there, and after a while Jakita comes in covered with ant body fluids and announces that she's dealt with the entire swarm and rescued the pilot.
  • Older Than They Look: 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.
  • Open the Door and See All the People: In "Planet Fiction", the Planetary field team infiltrate a black ops research station, and Jakita's banter is cut short when she opens a door and finds that the room beyond is full of armed guards.
  • One to Million to One: In the flashback to Bret Leather's career as a sinister masked vigilante in the 1930s, a group of mooks open fire on him and he appears to disperse into a mass of small black dots — spiders, which swarm past the feet of the gunmen, and then Leather appears again behind the men.
  • 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.
  • Overt Rendezvous: In one issue, Elijah has a conversation with John Stone on a park bench so Stone can slip him some information about the Four's next move.
  • 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?
    • Many of the individual issue covers pastiche an art style (such as a movie poster style or book cover style) associated with the issue's subject. The cover of "To Be in England..." is done in the style of the covers Dave McKean did for The Sandman.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: In issue 3, a guy attempts Car Fu on Jakita Wagner. She kicks him and the engine out of his vehicle.
  • Pensieve Flashback: In the Batman crossover, The Drummer uses his information-manipulating powers to pull the memory of the Waynes' murder out of the ground of Crime Alley and make a ghostly re-enactment of the event appear.
  • Pest Controller: Sinister masked vigilante Bret Leather's powers included summoning swarms of creepy-crawlies to attack his opponents, and a One to Million to One where he appeared to turn into a swarm of spiders.
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: In flashback, the shiftship is shown crashing to earth during the time of the dinosaurs, possibly implying that the crash contributed to their extinction.
  • 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.
  • Playing with Syringes: Science City Zero was a secret research facility in the 1950s that did experiments on captive human test subjects. It was funded and protected by the US government on the premise that it would produce enhanced humans that would give the nation an advantage in the Cold War, but a survivor tells the Planetary team that really that was an excuse, and the people weren't motivated by ideology. "City Zero was simply about testing the human body to the limits of the available technology. It was about seeing what they could get away with doing to us."
  • Precision Crash: A mysterious space object crashes to Earth. While investigating the crash site, the Planetary team realizes that the ruined buildings nearby are the remains of the structure used to launch the object into space in the first place; its eccentric orbit has brought it to Earth at the exact spot that it launched from.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: "To Be in England, in the Summertime" has the unpleasant kind, a government functionary who has been dispatched to murder someone who might be the fulfilment of a politically inconvenient prophecy, and regards this as just an unremarkable part of his job, and shrugs off questions about the morality of it as above his pay grade.
  • 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.
  • Reality Warper: Ambrose Chase's power is a "selective physics distortion field" which allows him to warp reality in small ways in his immediate vicinity.
  • 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.
  • Reduced to Dust: Issue #8 tells the story of a woman who was subjected to an experiment where she was killed and then revived, just to see if it was possible; she lived for another fifty years, never aging a day, and then her body instantaneously collapsed into a pile of faintly glowing blue dust.
  • 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: The inhabitants of Science City Zero typically (and horribly) avert this, usually dying of it.
  • 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.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: In the Batman crossover story, the Gotham field office of the Planetary organization is staffed by AU versions of several of Batman's supporting cast.
  • 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.
  • Second-Face Smoke: During the final confrontation with the Four, Elijah blows a stream of cigarette smoke in Dowling's face while saying that Dowling's threats don't frighten him.
  • Secret Message Wink: In issue 4, team leader Jakita and new recruit Elijah have an argument about how to handle a situation, which Elijah cuts short by taking the action he's been arguing for and silently daring Jakita to stop him. After he storms off, the Drummer winks at Jakita and she smiles back; she actually agrees with Elijah, but she needed to see if he would propose the solution unprompted, and stick with it despite opposition, as part of assessing his future with the team.
  • Secret Test of Character: In issue #4, after Elijah's first few missions on the field team have involved nothing but making records of events that have already happened, the team encounters a man who's in the middle of a difficult situation involving a stranded alien intelligence. Elijah drops several hints to Jakita that he thinks the Planetary organization should use some of its vast resources to help the guy, and when they fall on deaf ears he volunteers Planetary's help unilaterally, silently daring Jakita to contradict him. At the end of the scene, he goes off by himself, fuming about Jakita's attitude and then chuckling over the look on her face — unaware that behind him she's dropped the offended expression and is looking pleased by this evidence that he cares about the people Planetary deals with and is willing to stand up for them.
  • Serendipitous Survival: At one point near the end of the series, the Four level the entire skyscraper the Planetary team are in, and they only survive because the Fourth Man happened to invite them down to the reinforced archive in the bottom-most basement so he could show Jakita the file on her birth parents.
  • 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."
  • Significant Birth Date: All the Century Babies have the same birth date.
  • Silver Bullet: The Dead Ranger, like the Lone Ranger that he's inspired by, used silver bullets to kill the criminals who wanted the silver mine he owned. Unlike the Lone Ranger, he tipped every bullet with mercury, a byproduct of silver mining, so that even if a shot was non-fatal, which many of them were, the victim would still die of mercury poisoning.
  • 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. The resulting explosions visibly travel across the room from where the guard is standing, giving Jakita at the far end of the room just enough time to get the collar off the child nearest her.
  • Slurpasaur: Played with in the 50s-B-movie homage issue. The opening shot shows a lizard in a desert landscape, the lack of scale referents making it look huge. Then a human foot steps into the frame, revealing that it's actually a normal sized lizard.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: In issue #18, William Leather busts into the Planetary helicopter, intending to kill or capture all aboard, only to find that it's being flown remotely and all that's aboard is a lot of boxes filled with explosives. The resulting detonation doesn't kill him because he has Super Toughness, but stuns him long enough for the Planetary team to capture him.
  • 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.
  • Soul-Powered Engine: Elijah is told a story about a group of scientists who came to believe that Heaven and Hell are warring extradimensional engines powered by human souls (which are actually electromagnetic biosignatures) and the only way to escape them is to die in a nuclear explosion so the electromagnetic pulse disrupts your essence.
  • Sound-Only Death: When William Leather murders the alien baby with a pyro blast, the results are not shown, but the next few panels each contain a speech bubble coming from off-panel containing a high-pitched scream that gradually trails away.
  • 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.
  • Spy Fiction: John Stone's entire existence is Martini-flavored Spy Fiction.
  • 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 Packing Heat:
    • Ambrose Chase has minor reality warping powers, but the effects are not entirely predictable, so he also dual-wields pistols.
    • Elijah Snow is sometimes seen using a gun in flashbacks. In the present, he relies much more on his ice powers and his brainpower.
  • 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 Süskind, 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.
  • Super Toughness: Jakita is largely impervious to damage; the fact that William Leather is able to draw blood during their first depicted fight is a major sign of how dangerous he is.
  • Symbol Swearing: A young Elijah Snow remarks "Ah, $#!+" when he encounters a horde of monsters in a mad scientist' laboratory. It's probably a concession to the issue's genre style, because the rest of the time he swears normally.
  • Take Our Word for It: In the issue introducing the Four, Elijah is given a dossier to read containing information about all the atrocities they've committed. The audience doesn't get any of the details, only Elijah's horrified and enraged reaction.
  • 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."
  • Tarzan Boy: Kevin Sack is a partial deconstruction of the trope.
  • 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.
  • Technopath: The Drummer has nebulous powers related to "information flow", which apparently include sensing magic (the "cheat codes of the universe"), but he's usually employed as a super-hacker and living Electronic Counter-Measures device (disrupting security systems, monitoring or jamming enemy communications and such).
  • That's No Moon!: One issue features the revelation that Uluru, the iconic monolith in central Australia, is the hibernating form of an enormous stone man, one of the primordial Ancients who created the world. He seems quite grumpy about being woken up.
  • They Would Cut You Up: In the alternate universe of the Planetary/JLA crossover, there are no active public superheroes because the villains (that universe's equivalent of the Four) response to learning of a new superhero is to capture him and take him apart to find out how his power works, a fate that has already befallen the Flash and the Atom at the start of the story.
  • 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 airplane.
  • 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.
  • Translation Convention: Dialogue in a foreign language is rendered in a different font; Japanese speech in "Island" is in italics, and Chinese speech in "Dead Gunfighters" is in that Chinese Foreign-Looking Font where all the letters are made out of triangles. (The conversation between two Chinese people in the Hark Ah Lien flashback isn't rendered in a different font, perhaps because the flashback turns out to be a story that's being told in English.)
  • Trenchcoat Brigade: Jack Carter.
  • 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 crashes 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.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: John Stone.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: The adventures of Doc Brass and his associates in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Randall Dowling and Kim Süskind. When they're bickering near the end, Dowling says something that suggests he only hooked up with Süskind because she was useful to him, but then again when he recognises their imminent doom a few moments later he seems to be genuinely trying to get her clear.
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: The shiftship. The first time a character enters it, the reader is treated to a full-page panel depicting an enormous vaulted hall with the character a tiny speck at the bottom. And that's just one chamber.
  • 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.
  • Unperson: In the first issue, when Jakita is recruiting Elijah, she mentions that he has attempted to destroy all evidence of his own existence, to hide the fact that he's over ninety years old and been involved in the world's secret history. Part of her recruitment pitch is that Planetary can use its greater resources to finish the job so that nobody else will be able to find him the way she did.
  • 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.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Jakita in "Planet Fiction" after the villain kills Ambrose.
  • Visible Invisibility: The invisible man in "To Be in England, in the Summertime" is depicted in shades of gray, and both he and his speech bubbles are slightly translucent.
  • Vision Quest: In issue #21, Elijah is sent on a vision quest to gain perspective about his intentions; he visits the realm of information that underlies reality and learns something interesting about his place in the world.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: One issue depicts several incidents in which peaceful aliens attempted to make contact with Earth only to be murdered and have their technology plundered by 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."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In issue #4, Jim Wilder intervenes in a mugging and chases after the mugger because he's taken the victim's heart medication and the victim is having an attack brought on by the stress. During the chase, Jim gets sideswiped by the larger plot of the issue; the mugger gets away, and the story never gets around to going back and finding out if the mugging victim is okay. However, a later issue reveals that the mugging was set up to lure Jim to the spot where the plot got him, which would suggest that the victim's heart condition was an invention to encourage him to chase the mugger.
  • While You Were in Diapers: In issue #12, the Fourth Man tells Jakita off for finding him and bringing him back to Planetary after he accepted amnesia and went into hiding to protect the team from the Four. When she protests, he says, "Don't you 'Elijah' me, damnit. I used to change your damn diapers."
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman Wannabe: One issue depicts a secret island with an advanced all-female civilization who decide to send one of their number as an emissary to the outside world; the emissary, whose mother describes her as a "wonder", is an Amazonian Beauty with a pair of Magic from Technology bracelets. (The Four assassinate her as soon as she emerges from the island's protections, to keep her from interfering with their plans.) In case there was any doubt, the Planetary/JLA crossover AU stars a Composite Character of her with the actual Wonder Woman.
  • The Worf Effect: The first time the Planetary team encounter William Leather, he casually defeats Jakita in a fight, establishing that he's an even more powerful combatant than she is.
  • Worldbuilding: Continuity Snarls aside, this series fleshes out a timeline and history for the Wildstorm universe.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Deconstructed. The secret society keeping the population from learning about the world's secrets and the advanced technology it has access to are the villains, and they're doing it for entirely selfish reasons; the heroes are the ones trying to get the information out there. (Because Status Quo Is God, they succeed only at the end of the series, allowing the audience a glimpse of the consequences before the story ends.)
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Played for laughs in the Batman crossover issue. The campy, brightly-colored Batman, confronted with the prospect of a fight with Jakita, proclaims that he would never hit a girl — but proves to have no compunctions about spraying her in the face with "Bat-Female-Villain-Repellant".
  • Yellow Peril: Hark, Doc Brass's adversary-turned-ally. Played with a bit, in that there's an implication that Hark was never an outright villain, only misunderstood and demonized by the West; Doc gets through to him by being the first of his opponents to understand his real intentions.
  • 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.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: In "Planet Fiction", the leader of the secret research base tells Jakita smugly that she can't kill him because he's the only one who has any chances of stopping what they've put in motion. Unfortunately for him, because he just killed Ambrose Chase in cold blood, Jakita is in a mood where she's perfectly willing to kill him and take her chances.

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