The Authority: Prime – Christos Gage

Authority PrimeStormwatch and The Authority turn up and fight each other over some old Bendix hardware before teaming up to fight the man himself. Or his hologram. Or his clone, Or his A.I. Or whatever the Bendix of the week is. Didn’t the Fantastic Four do this in the 1960’s?

Gage has done some good and some bad work. Despite the hackneyed plot and blatant sequel bait this isn’t without redemption. If you can remember the original Stormwatch, with Lamplighter et al., then there are plenty of hidden gems for you. Otherwise this is a six issue fight scene with constant jabbering. Whilst there are clever twists and some jeopardy it isn’t a taxing or meaningful read.

Robertson puts a lot of effort into livening up the fight scenes but outlines can feel too heavy at times. There is good lighting and adept panel structure but it’s all about the words and not the pictures unfortunately.

There is also an irrelevant use of the Cthulhu Mythos as an opener. Clearly Gage has either never read or understood Lovecraft’s work.

No Thumbs.

The Authority: The Lost Year – Grant Morrison & Keith Giffen

Authority Lost YearWow, The Authority written by Grant Morrison? A dream come true! Well that was the plan. Unfortunately Morrison lasted two issues then handed his notes to Giffen and was never seen again. Or something.

It’s a mess you can live without. Without the bigger picture that The Authority was founded on then they are just another annoying superteam. You can see the Morrison genius just sprouting before it is snatched away. Giffen has done a reasonable job with the Midnighter standalone title but here he is telling the kind of story he hates. So even he disappears for a while and Brian Stelfreeze takes the strain.

There are also five artists in these six issues as this troubled book was passed from pillar to post. We start off with Gene Ha whose digital manipulation takes a moment to get used to but he produces some incredible effects. His photo-manipulation brings makes it feel really intimate, just as if you are there.

Three other artists, including the esteemed Darick Robertson, do a serviceable job but a new name to me is Jonathan Wayshak. He really stands out, but for the wrong reason. His caricatured style and warped expressions definitely don’t suit this title, which could be why he only did a single issue.

Grant Morrison’s ideas and Gene Ha’s art definitely deserve a Thumbs Up but the rest doesn’t. A real shame.

Grifter & Midnighter – Chuck Dixon

Grifter & MidnighterOh no another cynical crossover cash-in. But fear not, this is good. It has a strong pace driven by action, witty dialogue, and doesn’t disrespect the characters. Although the narration does insult you, the reader, directly. But that just makes it quaint.

You don’t need to know who Midnighter or Grifter are, or the Authority who briefly cameo. There are references to previous continuity but they won’t trouble you. The bad guy is just generic monster from outer-space so you won’t be required to do any thinking. Read this because it is fun[ny].

The art is good. Plenty of variety in style and technique. It is very digital overt with tons of motion blur and the like. As it is used competently this shouldn’t bother you.

Thumbs Up!

Midnighter: Assassin8 – Keith Giffen

Midnighter3Here are another three stories about Midnighter. You know they won’t be as mind-breaking as the Brian K Vaughan masterpiece from the previous book but Giffen is getting used to Midnighter. He is also becoming quite adept at sneaking The Authority in through the back door.

Be aware in these last two volumes the story order has been moved to make TPB issuing easier but these one shots don’t affect continuity too much. We get another dose of Midnighter and sidekick in Harmony and are presented with a good point to close that storyline. There is an extended fight scene but its mute panels and expert choice of palette elevate it above mere padding.

The two standalones are good insights into the Midnighter’s character but could have been done in less than 22 pages each. These would appear to be stopgaps before Giffen came aboard.

The art is good for the main story, ok, for the last but one of them is completely different from anything previous. The Authority and now Midnighter have always had clean, sharp, full-colour art. The subdued palette and humongous black lines of something like a Vertigo book are definitely inappropriate. Which is a shame as that story has some good character development.

Thumbs Up!

Midnighter: Anthem – Keith Giffen & Brian K Vaughan

Midnighter2This is an outstanding volume of two stories created by some exceptionally talented people.

The longer story concerns Midnighter trying to have a normal life and to discover who he was before Henry Bendix. A tall order. The small town he visits is great plus the evil corporate antagonist and their ensuing ideology is also well written. There is plenty of good dialogue particularly with his new sidekick and his daughter. There is also a lot of action – which you expect in a Midnighter book – that feels more of a necessary evil in the early part of the story.

Giffen does a superb job with the character but the fact the entire art team from penciller to letterer changes virtually every issue is disappointing. You do get to see a good variety of styles and effects but having your hero look different every five minutes is unacceptable.

The star of this volume and the entire series is the one-shot written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Darick Robertson. The art and the colours are simply breath-taking. You can tell everyone has gone above and beyond in rendering this stunning book.

The story is pretty much disposable nonsense BUT it is told backwards. Like the film Memento in a way we learn what has gone before. At first you think it is just flashbacks but then the penny drops. The sequence of pages has been reversed. What is testament to Vaughan’s genius is that you can read it in both directions. And it is very rewarding when you do.

This story is possibly the most astounding piece of creativity I have ever seen in comics. This deserves the King of All Thumbs Up!

Midnighter: Killing Machine – Garth Ennis

Midnighter1So, you are asking ‘is there enough depth to Midnighter to justify a solo series?’ And what will Garth Ennis do with him?

Seeing as this is Ennis, Midnighter enters a war zone (with tanks) on page 8. Contemporary war zones – politics aside – aren’t enough grist for the Ennis mill so he sends him back to WWII. To kill Hitler. But it’s after that that things get really crazy! This is excellent and Ennis brings some much needed humour back to the character.

There is a second one-shot story set in mediaeval Japan featuring Apollo too which isn’t really meant to be cannon. It is a rather beautiful, thematic piece that makes for a lovely interlude before we hit volume two.

This being Midnighter, and this being WWII, there is a lot of black and grey but there is also a lot of attention to detail in the art. The authenticity of the uniforms, the intricacy in the panels, the sense of motion in the action sequences is all top notch stuff. They certainly aren’t skimping on the production values here.

The Japanese story is rendered in a slightly different style and has a subdued palette which does compliment the fact the story is told in flashback. There are some strong nocturnal sequences but there isn’t the movement on the page that samurai action should have. Although there is a superb digital composition of a sword in motion that leaps off the page. A shame there weren’t more of these moments of brilliance.

A highly recommended Thumbs Up!

The Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor – Mike Costa

HarksmoorThis is definitely a departure from the Authority both in art and writing. The aggressive angles and thick lines certainly aren’t what you are used to. However, good colouration and a rapidly moving plot means you don’t dwell on the distinct lack of details.

The story also gets off to a bumpy start as Costa struggles with keeping all his balls in the air. A tale within a tale is an odd choice for what is a Hawksmoor prequel, not an origin tale. If you persevere you get rewarded with an original antagonist and a Jack that feels authentic.

This can’t compete with Jenny’s Secret History but it is a good effort. Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Eight: Revolution Book Two – Ed Brubaker

A08 Rev2Well Brubaker certainly knows his history as Bendix is not the only blast from the past. Trouble is if you don’t know your Stormwatch you will definitely be lost. Brubaker has a reputation for dialogue and our villain spends forty odd pages espousing his evil machinations. Admittedly it is the best plan ever and only someone with his knowledge could prove a serious threat to the Authority.

There are lots of little touches if you have been a reader from the beginning. He handles Jenny Q and the other Jenny’s very well. He is respectful to the source material but picks it up and runs with it. There is even some ideology, but this is definitely second fiddle to the thriller/ action movie he is intent on creating.

The art is certainly colourful and imaginative but it doesn’t have that widescreen feel to it. A lot of effort goes into it and with locations such as the Bleed and the Garden, and new ones being introduced, there is certainly a feast for the eyes. It has a tough ancestry to compete with and you will have to make up your mind if it delivers or not.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Seven: Revolution Book One – Ed Brubaker

A07 Rev1Brubaker continues the story he established in Coup D’état with the Authority taking over the USA. Naturally all does not go well.

Sadly there isn’t a lot of time to brood over the political metaphysics this situation creates. Brubaker, who is well known for his deep characterisation, plunges headlong into action. It is a thrilling ride and the Authority are constantly on the back foot, something hard to achieve with their powers, but… The reveal of their new antagonist is great and the story breaks at a real low point for the team. You definitely can’t wait for the next six issues to kick ass and take names.

The art is serviceable but not up to the amazing beginnings of Hitch and Quietly. This is a shame as Nyugen has done sterling work previously. The colouring is fine but it is definitely a shame to see the longest serving Authority contributor, David Baron, finally depart.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Six: Fractured Worlds – Robbie Morrison

A06Following Morrison’s success on the previous volume he throws himself into The Authority and produces some great results. The first of three stories deals with a new religion. Whilst interesting it doesn’t ask as many questions as it could have, being more of an action romp instead.

Then the events of Coup D’état take place off-screen (collected in a separate trade paperback) and we enter a new story. This is definitely the highlight Morrison’s run with an unusual and unexpected antagonist, the Authority pushed to breaking point and some very hard decisions being made.

Finally we have a one shot concerning Jack Hawksmoor. This is a much more personal tale dealing with the death of just one person. An interesting choice but one possibly motivated by the announcement Morrison was being replaced.

Dwayne Turner does a fine job on the art but it isn’t the clean, sweeping strokes of the original Bryan Hitch work. Whilce Portacio does the last issue and really shakes things up in terms of layout making the visuals just as unusual as the theme. The colours for this are also distinctive and well chosen.

The curse of The Authority is that no one (other than superb colourist David Baron) lasts more than a year.

A proud Thumbs Up!