Published by WildStorm/DC Comics
This book broke my brain in ways that I hope can never be repaired. It was 2002, I was on a plane to Australia, and Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch ruined superhero comics for me forever. None since have been able to live up.
Taking everything that is great about superhero books: the larger than life characters, the amazing powers and outrageous situations and adding a dose of hyper reality they changed the way I thought about comics. That they could be fun yet challenging, have interesting things to say about power and it’s uses and that they could be about characters you had never seen before but that instantly left an impression. I had recently started reading comics again and thought they must all be this good. I wish.
Created from the shreds of a previous super team called StormWatch, the Authority is Ellis’s attempt to answer the question. Why don’t superheroes actually save the world? Instead of just rescuing the planet from the threat of the week, why not take down the dictators, feed the starving, cure the sick? This book sets up that world and introduces us and them to the idea of being a more proactive hero.
Following an attack by unknown super-beings that leaves Moscow decimated. The UN are scrambling for information when a petite blonde with a cigarette and an English accent appears out of nowhere. This is Jenny Sparks and she promises that it won’t happen again. Jenny is nearly 100 years old, made of electricity and swears like a sailor. The rest of her team are: Apollo, an indestructible, solar-powered juggernaut, Jack Hawksmoor ‘the God of the cities’, the Midnighter, who sees your moves before you make them, the Doctor ‘Earth’s Shaman’, Swift, the Winged Huntress and the Engineer, whose blood is nine pints of liquid machinery. The dialogue is cutting and hilarious and the characters larger than life but grounded in reality. As they tear through buildings and cross dimensions, they curse, smoke, drink and get scared.
Ellis and Bryan Hitch created something they called ‘wide-screen comics’ where they aim for a cinematic feel by using broad panels that stretch across the page. The wide shots give a sense of the scope and the smaller inset panels are close-ups of the action.
The art is almost photo realist, Hitch draws great clean, realistic characters and excels at set action pieces. The whole thing is like a bombastic Jerry Bruckheimer movie done right and with better swearing.
Should I buy it? Yes. Buy it, and the next volume where Ellis hands off to Mark Millar. And then buy many more comics by Warren Ellis, and books. Read his blog, follow him on Twitter. Commence to stalk the man. Be warned however, you may be ruined for generic repetitious super heroes forever.
Next week: To celebrate my tenth post I am finally going to write about Batman. But maybe not the Batman you are used to. Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla go epic in Batman: The Black Mirror.