The Authority: Coup D’état – Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Micah Wright, Robbie Morrison

Authority Coup DetatThe Authority has always been about pushing boundaries. About thinking bigger. But not even Millar and Ellis thought about deposing the United States government. An idea both genius and frightening.

This book is a series of one-shots from The Authority, Sleeper, Wildcats, and Stormwatch: Team Achilles that covers this event. If you are only into one series then your particular issue will do you just fine. If you want to know about the wider picture then they all add more detail to the plot. The big disappointment is Sleeper which only exists to kick things off. You don’t get any clues on who these characters are or any reason to want to know more about them. Such a waste of Brubaker’s talent.

The star of the show is actually the Wildcats issue. Even knowing nothing about this title the questions it raises and their response to the Authority’s action is the most intriguing. No one is backing down here. You have always followed the Authority as “the good guys,” or at least anti-heroes. Now this book cleverly makes you question that. How far is too far?

There are four different artists here and it is right they should stay true to their books. The differing styles, whilst interesting, do break up the flow. Rather than a unified whole this does serve to keep things separate with each title and its characters having a cameo of the week feel.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Five: Harsh Realities – Robbie Morrison

A05How do you follow Ellis and Millar? You can’t but Morrison certainly gives it his all, blending the epic action and dirty politics of the previous two writers.

There is an issue zero which presumably was good enough for Wildstorm to let him loose on a longer gig. Then a four issue story which does a great job and has an interesting villain. This is saying something seeing as The Authority have taken on God. Then there is a single issue story that shows a more grounded and emotional understanding of what you can achieve with this title.

If you try and forget about the majesty of Morrison’s predecessors then he actually does a fine job of understanding and using The Authority correctly. Jenny Quantum can now talk and so Morrison makes her his own. Her unique viewpoint is very valuable to the last story and she is certainly well portrayed.

Dwayne Turner does a great job on the art adopting the familiar strong lines and detailed faces of his forerunners. David Baron is still the colourist and his signature effects of the Doors and the Bleed, plus excellent lighting effects remind you this is still the familiar Authority you know and love.

Unfortunately the last story is very different. Tang Eng Huat chooses an incredibly fine line style with distinctive detailing. This coupled with the switch from black backgrounds to white make it feel quite alien, although you can still feel it is the Authority, even if it doesn’t look like them.

Thumbs Up!

The Monarchy: Bullets Over Babylon – Doselle Young

MonarchyIt’s bonkers. And not in a Grant Morrison, good bonkers, kind of way. Apparently it lasted 12 issues but only four are collected here and there were no more Trades. In Stormwatch P.H.D it is hinted that these events here are in fact an L.S.D. trip.

The art is disappointing. It takes the Stormwatch model, paints it black and adds digital highlights. There are one or two good quirks but nothing that benefits or elevates the story.

No Thumbs.

The Authority: Human on the Inside – John Ridley

Human on the InsideThis is another volume that doesn’t sit well in the Authority timeline. It has no volume number and as far as I know was never released as single issues.

It is self-contained and references the “fake” Authority that Millar introduced and were active in the issues about this time. It also has an appearance by an old Stormwatch member.
This is written by novelist and screenwriter John Ridley. He does a reasonable job and has obviously read some of the backstory. It doesn’t go for Ellis’ politics or Millar’s slapstick but there is a bit of meat on the characters and the drama.

The art is very different from the usual glossy dayglow. It reminded me of the Adi Granov work in Iron Man: Extremis that would appear two years later. This is a very matt texture that looks hand coloured using pencils or similar. The layout too is creative and imaginative and goes back to the “widescreen” origins of the series.

The hardcover version is lovely with a beautiful buff cover and metallic green foiling with a portrait of Swift on the front. There are additional cover sheets that give a quality feel and because there are no issue dividers it flows wonderfully into a single-sitting read.

It is entertaining enough for a Thumbs Up!

Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority – Mark Millar

Jenny SparksIt’s an origin story. A series of five one-shots that details how Jenny meets the individuals who would become the starting line-up of The Authority.

If you were getting attached to Mark Millar’s run and want more then this will have to do. Rather than a scathing political commentary this is played for laughs. We dip into Jenny’s 100 year past for a series of pulp adventures dating back to 1913. Most of those mysterious questions you had about where everyone came from – the kind that are better left unanswered – are explained.

The art is great with John McCrea doing a fine job picking up the baton and Ian Hannin working hard to live up to the fabulous colours of David Baron. Nothing innovative and not particularly ‘widescreen’ but all the characters you love are definitely there in the flesh.

This is a book that doesn’t need to exist but if you don’t want to let Millar or Sparks go just yet then this should bring you some chuckles. It’s got Hitler in it, what’s not to like.

Thumbs Up!

The Absolute Authority Volume Two – Mark Millar

Absolute Authority 02Once again The Authority benefits from the premier treatment. The increased size and most importantly the high gloss paper make all the difference to the art. You can see just how cinematic comics can become.
The slipcase and specially commissioned dust jacket add a luxurious edge to this product. The hardcover in burgundy and gold is just as practical as it is beautiful opening fully to lay flat.

The internal treatment is just as lush with additional pages inserted between issues along with text free covers. The only extra is a brief pinup with some unusual names contributing.

This collects all twelve issues of the Millar run but there is no sign of the Annual or Special that chronologically occurred during this period. It is also missing the “Transfer of Power” issues that were interleaved with final “Brave New World” which marked Millar’s exit.

Not all it could have been but a Thumbs Up!

The Absolute Authority Volume One – Warren Ellis

Absolute Authority 01This is how to read comics. Even though the pages are only slightly bigger having that area makes a world of difference. Plus having a glossy paper as opposed to the newsprint stock Wildstorm usually uses allows the colours to be seen as they were intended.

The whole product oozes quality from the sturdy blue hardcover with blue foil embossing to the full colour dust jacket to the stylised slipcase. The book isn’t too heavy to hold, fits nicely in the hand and opens right up to lay flat with ease. There is even a ribbon bookmark to mark your page.

The covers are within the story (not at the back in a gallery like the smaller TPB’s) making great issue dividers. Each issue also has additional chapter labelling that was omitted from the TPB. There is the full script to issue one reproduced life-size and some notes on the creative changes the pages went through. There is full page creative breakdown and some witty creator biographies.

This is the whole of Warren Ellis’ run and packaging all 12 issues into one volume makes so much more sense. This is definitely the way to experience the Authority and comics in general.

Double Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Four: Transfer of Power – Mark Millar & Tom Peyer

A04This book sees Mark Millar’s exit from The Authority. This is a shame as he was just beginning to have fun and tell some interesting stories. In this tale he installs a fake, puppet Authority and rather than killing off the originals the Powers That Be condemn them to their own personal hells. These two vehicles show that Millar has a great understanding of these characters and it is a shame he never continued. But always leave them wanting more right?

We also have Tom Peyer writing a story solely with the fake Authority that is interleaved with the Millar tale, alternating on an almost issue by issue basis. He also does a great job of getting what the message of The Authority is and it would have been nice to see what he could have done with the real team.

The art is good despite the artist changing every five minutes. Quietly is there briefly before being replaced by Arthur Adams and then Gary Erskine, making a return from the original line-up. Dustin Nguyen manages to stay for the whole of the Peyer story and thank goodness we have David Baron’s excellent colours to tie it all together.

Looking behind the curtain The Authority was clearly a troubled series. On the surface however a lot of talented and creative people were working very hard to hold it all together.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Three: Earth Inferno – Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, Joe Casey & Paul Jenkins

A03This volume contains the middle Millar stories plus three mini stories from various specials.

The Millar story isn’t bad and you see him twisting and bending the characters to express the more home-grown political message he is wanting to. He has fun with his new toys and spins an interesting yarn. Casey delivers a run of the mill action romp with some old Stormwatch references. Jenkins turns in a mature and touching story whose title, Isolation, says it all. This is the star of the show.

Ellis has clearly said goodbye to The Authority by this point. He basically has Hawksmoor recap the previous stories while doing parkour. While this is a definite let down story wise it is actually quite a poetic and elegant delivery.

There are plenty of artists at work here. Even the main story changes penciller and inker halfway through in a noticeable but not disastrous way. All the minor stories are beautifully rendered, obeying the previous conventions. The Ellis story does have a very different visual style with the words and pictures kept very separate and this compliments the internal narration very well. Weston’s two issue stand-in for Quietly makes the biggest impression and his pin sharp detail seems to be the closest to the original Hitch vision and the most suited for the ‘widescreen’ format.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Two: Under New Management – Warren Ellis & Mark Millar

A02This is an odd volume as it has the last story from Warren Ellis and the first one by Mark Millar.

The Ellis story is a rather unusual take on the god is a Spaceman idea. He also builds to a climax for the team and certain characters superbly. You definitely get a sense of the curtain coming down. Not for good but for a planned intermission.

Then the entire creative team changes and Mark Millar discovers the project he was born for. Without any kind of restraining baggage normally present with superheroes he explodes in quite an accomplished and humorous state-of-the-world-address. There is plenty of violence and vulgarity, and no shortage of subjects to include in his tirade – including comics – but he takes to the concept of The Authority like a duck to water.

The art also changes. We say goodbye to the crisp clean lines of Hitch and hello to the looser style of Frank Quietly. You quickly accept him and it is a smooth transition. His habit of hiding interesting details in the background convinces you this isn’t just another paid gig for him.

One of the only people to bridge the two books is the letterer. The familiar captions and conventions established under the Ellis vision remain and bond these two stories together. The colouring is still bold and gorgeous even on the crappy newsprint paper Wildstorm insists on using. The covers are reproduced in a gallery at the end.

It seemed an odd choice to put the switch between two creators in one book but it actually works and serves to show you that The Authority is in great hands.

Thumbs Up!