Abnett & Lanning are getting into their stride. They are plucking characters from The Authority cannon to make a surprise return. They are also making the most of the UK setting to delve into its rich folklore and history, although this may go over the heads of many readers.
Peril having driven them to rock bottom the team can only go up and we start to see green shoots appear in the darkest hour. This is textbook plotting and you can’t help but smile when a plan comes together.
Everything is done at breakneck speed. This does make this a real page turner and you are glad this is nine issues. But even this seems to pass too quickly. The ending is optimistic and you can’t wait for another instalment. What a shame the remaining issues were never collected in trade.
There are no less than eight pencillers and inkers on this book and the style can change abruptly. But the frenetic pace and the interesting narrative tricks used early on propel you forward.
A stronger Thumbs Up!
The latest in a LONG line of Authority scribes is Dan Abnett, the Swiss Army Knife of literature, with some help from perpetual co-author Andy Lanning. They continue the tradition of average to mediocre stories.
The setting does have merit. The Authority have been taken down before, in clever and impressive ways, but always with a brute force they can fight against. Abnett’s utter desolation of UnLondon and in particular how this handicaps each member of the team has potential; as do their quirky antagonists.
The art is fine but like the obligatory sewer level of any first person shooter detail amongst the murky wash of backgrounds is limited. Although it is certainly much better than the pressed for time blank backgrounds and makes the colourful outfits of the Authority a noticeable contrast.
The obligatory crossover with Stormwatch due to the “Worlds End” storyline is handled swiftly and painlessly. It does enough to make you want to keep reading.
The template has been established. There will be two big fights and one lot of heavy exposition per volume. Promising characters that were well established in the first book will be completely ignored or given a single page appearance.
The previous book was all action. This volume is mostly action but little things like characterisation, good dialogue, humour and plot are slowly being slotted in. There are a lot of talking heads but the dialogue feels natural. Although heavily recap laden it does give the characters a little more depth and likability.
We are also introduced to the big plot and it is big with a capital B with some universe spanning gravitas. We have left the personal, emotional journey of one man behind and are firmly in the epic space opera territory. This is undoubtedly a shame as the initial premise could have been a really mature tale. Having said that, it does execute action and spectacle very well. It is also an effortless and graceful read and will be over before you know it.
The art is just as attractive with lovely colours and pretty faces to look at but the high polish of the previous instalments has subsided. The digital tricks like motion blur are there but used sparingly and intelligently.
It is a very good natured book with humour to make you smile. There are lots of media references including X-files, Close Encounters and Jaws that you will also enjoy spotting. This isn’t the book it was, this isn’t the book it should have been, but it is still a great book and I am already looking forward to the next part. Thumbs Up.
Tomorrow: Crossed Volume 3: Psychopath – David Lapham
A change of writers could mean many things, most of them bad. But luckily this volume retains just enough of the original genius to keep the spirit alive. This book focuses on action and is basically two extended fight scenes back to back. The social message is gone, the emotional struggle is gone and most of the characters are quickly ditched to make way for explosions.
The nature of the beast has changed but this offering is still very good at what it does. There is a frenetic ride through a blockbuster special effects sequence that is both compelling and page turning. New characters are brought in to shake things up, more about Soldier Zero’s origin is revealed and there are some neat little ideas floating about.
This isn’t a trouble free work however. The graceful action hits a brick wall and eight pages of humungous exposition slow you to a crawl before it resumes the high speed mayhem. It is all spectacle and no depth. You literally have to turn your brain off and enjoy this story using only your eyes. The rich, well rounded characters you spent all that time getting emotionally invested in, including the hero in many respects, are gone or are reduced to single page cameos.
The art is stunning. The panels are large, often full page, making the book a rapid read. The poses are dynamic and fluid and really give a sense of motion. The colours are gorgeous and the different locations all have unique tones and casts. There is less opportunity for the lettering to shine but it remains consistent with the previous volume. There are some nice digital tricks with focus and showing off energy effects.
It is a far cry from the emotional launch. It feels like Ellis’ rebooting of Stormwatch and there is a very good recap at the beginning for those jumping on with this book. If it revisits its firm foundations then it will be a great work; if it continues to be all style and no substance then it will be a real let down. Thumbs Up… for now.
Tomorrow: Soldier Zero: Volume 3 – Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning