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Authority, The: Relentless Paperback – May 1, 2000
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Are we ready for yet another take on superhero morality? Let's hope so, because The Authority: Relentless retools old ideas for a new century. Warren Ellis has his heroes think globally as they kick butt locally, stopping or slowing down to consider how they can use their powers to "make the world a better place." How he can pull this off in our oh-so-ironic age is an artistic mystery, but the results are clear: superheroes with believable personalities and community spirit. Two story arcs, each encompassing terror and evil on a global scale, pit the group of seven against armies of superhumans dispatched in scenes reminiscent of the best action movies. Many of the characters from the older StormWatch series reappear here, and fans will be pleased to learn that Ellis has, if anything, improved his depth and storytelling prowess. Bryan Hitch's penciling, Paul Neary's inking, and Laura Depuy's coloring are all equally responsible for the gloriously lovely artwork-- from interdimensional spaceships to dismembered spinal cords, they make saving the world beautiful. --Rob Lightner
Top customer reviews
First, the art in the second two-thirds is atrocious. Everyone looks like they just finished smoking 2 cartons of cigarettes a week for 20 years. Their bodies are disproportionate and distorted, almost like a grotesque. Apollo, the worst, looks like a balloon person.
No relationships are elaborated on, no powers explained or expanded, and, pretty much, nothing happens.
Granted, the first story is in the old style of "The Authority" so it's actually good. But as soon as you move to the next story, forget it. Terrible. Just terrible. I don't even want to buy the other volumes because the artist and the writer are the same.
I gave it an extra star for the first story being good.
But I gave it four stars for a reason. For all its flaws, The Authority is unique, interesting, and really fun to read. The characters have interesting powers and they're used in interesting ways. The stories are action-packed enough that they don't leave much time for character development, but the characters are still pretty great. And the storytelling is good -- the plots are easy to follow without being simplistic, and the art is beautiful. It's nice to see a 'gritty' comic that uses such a full, bright color palette.
Those colors are appropriate to the tone, too. Sure, it's gritty and violent and serious, but it's also a lot of fun -- even the characters seem to have fun a lot of the time. Over the course of the series, you really get to see how being a superhero is both the best and the worst job in the world. And that's pretty cool.
So the bottom line is that I highly recommend The Authority to anyone who's entertained by violence and sardonic humor, and doesn't mind a bit of left-wing moralizing -- they lay that on a bit thick sometimes.
When Grant Morrison and Howard Porter relaunched DC Comics' "Justice League" title in the mid-90s, they envisioned it as a non-stop action story pitting DC's biggest guns against the vast array of inventive threats that sprang forth from Grant Morrison's demented mind. The result was very popular, though I'm rather ambivalent on how well most of it was conveyed; Morrison writes the introduction to this trade paperback, where he calls Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch's "The Authority" the first great superhero comic of the 21st century; Ellis and Hitch take a similar idea to that Morrison and Porter use, but they do it a lot better. Hitch's art is much stronger than Porter's, and Ellis incorporates his imaginative technology into the story much more cleanly and coherently than Morrison's often frenetically incoherent pacing.
There are two story arcs collected here; the first sees the new team assembled, from the ashes of Ellis' previous "Stormwatch" series, employing several of the characters from said run. Jenny Sparks (a 99-year-old woman, one of the "century babies" (see Ellis' "Planetary"), with electric powers), Jack Hawksmoor (poorly-defined powers relating to cities), Swift (basically DC's Hawkgirl, though Asia), Apollo (Superman analogue), and Midnighter (Batman analogue) (the two are also gay, which is handled as a background detail), members of previous groups, return; they are joined by two new characters, the Doctor (an incredibly powerful magician) and the Engineer (a woman with nine pints of nanotechnology in lieu of blood, which she extends over her nude body to form a metal skin and weaponry in battle). The villain of the first story, Kaizen Gamorra, is a blend of Fu Manchu and Marvel Comics' Doctor Doom; he's basically evil for the sake of being evil, and to give the team someone to fight; indeed, his final exclamation is that he just wanted to have "some fun" by causing massive death and destruction. The second story arc pits the team against invaders from an alternate Earth, and features a conclusion where we see just how far the Authority will go in order to change the world (even one that isn't their own); this is a major theme (and a heavily politicized one) in runs by future writers such as Mark Millar and Ed Brubaker.
"The Authority" is generally recognized as an incredibly influential piece of writing, introducing the widescreen style of storytelling that both Ellis and Hitch would take with them to future projects, such as Hitch's "The Ultimates" at Marvel Comics. Ellis is a versatile writer, and is capable of producing works of great depth and spectacular style; "The Authority" consciously skews toward the latter. There are little touches of character here and there (I particularly like some moments with Angie/the Engineer), but it is mostly about pure, ultraviolent action and cynical humour, without pretence to anything more; Ellis' "Nextwave", over at Marvel, would later take a similarly stripped-down approach to superhero comics, but from a much more humourous and satirical angle. If you're looking for some good old-fashioned action, rendering impeccably and laced with fun dialogue, look no further than "The Authority".
"Volume 2: Under New Management"
Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch's famed 12-issue run on "The Authority" concludes here, and Mark Millar's succeeding run (with initial art by Frank Quitely) begins, thanks to DC/Wildstorm's somewhat strange decision in terms of packaging; this sort of mixing of distinct bodies of work is generally not seen in trades, particularly when the two runs are themselves distinct; it would really have made more sense to release Ellis' last four issues as a trade, and then group Millar's first eight issues together (instead of this and the slimmer "Earth Inferno and Other Stories"). Regardless, marketing nit, and it reflects not in the least on the stories contained here.
As Ellis' run concludes, we've followed the Authority as they battle a pseudo-Fu Manchu and an alternate reality United Kingdom, and now, for his grand finale, Ellis pits the team against "God" (thus allowing Jenny Sparks to comment on their need to find a way to kill Him), who is actually a giant space creature who created as a retirement home and wants to empty it out. Ellis opts to take Jenny Sparks, the Spirit of the 20th Century, with him on the way out; this makes sense both in-universe, since the 20th century was ending as he wrote the story, and metatextually, since the chain-smoking blonde was another of Ellis' signature mouthpiece characters based on his own assumed personality (see also: Jerusalem, Spider; Wisdom, Pete; Snow, Elijah). Ellis and Hitch's run emphasized pure action plots with inventive sci-fi concepts, for the most part, though they include some character stuff around the edges, such as Sparks' approaching demise, and one of my favourite scenes in the series, Angie/The Engineer's first trip into Outer Space, which effectively captures the fun and wonder of the situation.
After Ellis departs, Mark Millar arrives on the scene. Millar was the batman of his friend Grant Morrison throughout the 90s, working with him on such properties as Marvel's cult "Skrull Kill Krew" and DC's "JLA" and "Aztek: The Ultimate Man"; being exposed to Morrison's brand of high-octane weirdness is certainly a winning apprenticeship for following Ellis, and Millar gets his shot at the big-time here. For fans of his future Marvel work, the political themes and satirical characterization that would later mark "The Ultimates" and the like can clearly be seen. Ellis mostly left the characters' politics unsaid, but Millar puts it centre-stage through the course of his run; indeed, his first arc begins with the Authority slaughtering the leadership of a Southeast Asian military junta and liberating thousands of refugees. Likewise, the Authority's media profile is brought into sharper focus (also like "The Ultimates"). The main story pits the Authority against the Americans, a secret US government team (whose membership parody Marvel's "The Avengers"; the idea of the Avengers, particularly Captain America, as jingoistic thugs, is one Millar would revisit on "The Ultimates"), over the possession of baby Jenny Quantum, the new Spirit of the 21st Century. Millar's work is a worthy follower of Ellis' stories, albeit, as stated, more overtly political. Frank Quitely on art means the book becomes 100% uglier, but I can overlook that, though one would much rather if Hitch had stuck around; Quitely is an artist whose appeal I've never really understood.
Recommended for people looking for some simple punch-up heroics (with a dose of political satire).
I see the Authority as the next generation of superhero, spiritual grandchildren of Stan Lee (the creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men), who gave the world heroes that were more complex. At the same time, the Authority is also based on archetypes found in other super groups such as the Avengers or, in their case, the Justice League.
The difference? The Authority takes any means necessary to 'fix' a situation, including violence and killing. This is a departure from the "code against killing" that was de riguer for most comic heroes since 1950.
The heroes are less what you'd expect. What if Wonder Woman was a whiskey-swilling, chain-smoking, foulmouthed Brit? What if Batman had not problem with killing people and was also Superman's lover? The Authority takes the aforementioned archetypes and turns them on their head.
I highly recommend this graphic novel as a great introduction to a super-team you will find familiar yet different, entertaining, and in places, funny as hell.
Most recent customer reviews
Inventive and well drawn, the Authority is a comic for mature readers -- adult readers -- and not for...Read more
The art is fantastic. No complaints there at all. Very "widescreen" and cinematic.Read more