Batman: "Stand aside, citizen. There's a miscreant on the loose in Gotham City."

One-shot comic book, published by DC Comics and Wildstorm Comics (actually a subsidiary of DC) in August 2003. It was written by Warren Ellis, with art by John Cassaday and David Baron.

Crossover comics can be tough to put together well, and Ellis' "Planetary" series has had a rough time of it. The JLA/Planetary crossover was just plain awful, with all the characters painfully re-imagined. Things were quite a bit better in the Planetary/Authority crossover, but the two teams never actually met -- it wasn't much of a crossover anyway, since the Authority weren't much more than background elements anyway. But I think he finally got it right with the crossover between Batman and the Planetary crew.

I'm sure you've already heard of Batman, but you may not be familiar with Ellis' Planetary. They are a small team of metahumans who travel the globe, bickering with each other and trying to uncover the secret history of the world -- the super-people, the hidden civilizations, the secret societies that have made the world go 'round. They call themselves "Archeologists of the Unknown," and that's not a bad description. They include Elijah Snow, a century-old hardass with ice-control powers; Jakita Wagner, a beautiful powerhouse who works with Planetary because it keeps her from being bored; and the Drummer, a goofball who can sense information of all kinds.

Elijah: "I don't believe it. The Drummer finally gets punched into unconsciousness and I didn't get to do it."

The story starts with the team arriving at the Planetary office located in Gotham City -- not DC's version of Gotham, but the Wildstorm universe's version, which has a Dick Grayson and a not-all-that-evil version of the Joker called Jasper, but no Batman. Elijah, Jakita, and Drums are investigating a string of murders committed by a man named John Black, whose parents were tortured in a secret lab run by an evil conspiracy called the Four. Black has acquired the ability to move himself and others through alternate realities, but the powers have driven him mad. The team runs into Black just after he's killed a prostitute by shifting the flesh on half her body to another dimension, and as they pursue him, he panics, triggers a dimensional shift...

...and everyone finds themselves in a different Gotham City. One with a guy who dresses up like a bat.

Drummer: "There's some kind of transvestite hooker running down the alleyway at us."
Elijah: "It's the cape guy, isn't it?"

Batman is somehow aware of Black's crimes, but the Planetary team isn't willing to let some weirdo with a leather fetish take someone as powerful as Black into custody. So while Elijah and the Drummer chase after Black, Jakita tries to fight Batman. But when Black triggers another dimensional shift, the team finds themselves facing off against... Adam West? Another shift, and they've got the terrifying badass from Frank Miller's classic "The Dark Knight Returns," then Neal Adams' thoughtful 1970s Batman, then Bob Kane's brutal gun-wielding 1940s Batman. Is there any way for the Archeologists of the Unknown and the various Dark Knights to resolve this predicament?

What makes this Planetary crossover work where others had failed? First, I think it benefits from not having an epic scope, like the others did. Most of this story is confined to Gotham's infamous Crime Alley. There are no monstrous aliens to fight, and the fate of the world does not hang in the balance. There's just the struggle for one criminal, and that helps make the story more personal and intimate. In addition, this story focuses on both Planetary and Batman in fairly equal amounts -- and it does it in a fairly interesting and innovative way. While the members of Planetary are the main protagonists and the people who drive the plot, the Rotating Cavalcade of Batmen means that the story's real focus is on the history and legacy of Batman over the decades.

If you can find it, I recommend it. It is collected with the other Planetary crossovers in "Planetary: Crossing Worlds."

Elijah: "You like him, don't you? He's your special Bat-Friend."
Jakita: "Get away from me."

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