Authority: Harsh Realities
Ellis’s The Authority was one of the trade
collections that got me interested in buying those cardboard
wrapped bundles of three-color goodness, and which cemented
my love for Ellis as a creator above the rest of the majority
of the comic book industry.
a spectacular continuation of his work on Stormwatch,
a book he saved from going down in history as Image’s
craptacualr version of a Justice League, taking the characters
he had either created or revamped and giving them a world
to change. It was both a tongue-in-cheek look at the idea
of the “super-team” that examined the reasons
for its own existence, while managing to be a refreshingly
good action comic that never skimped on storyline or characterization.
Poignant and intellectually stimulating, it featured a cast
of characters that was diverse and creative in all respects
of comic book characterization. It is possibly one of the
greatest superhero comics ever written.
then Ellis left the title and it all went to hell.
I continued with the series after Ellis
left and Mark Millar stepped into writing duties and Bryan
Hitch was replaced (ever so briefly) by Frank Quitely, mostly
due to the funny spoof of superhero crossovers featured
in their arc “Nativity.” As the series went
on, and art duties changed hands rather quickly, Millar
lost the feel for the characters and simply lent himself
too far to the absurd and grotesque, making references to
habitual child rape and creating villains that shat nuclear
payloads, literally, while simultaneously removing the characters
Ellis created in favor of his “edgier” pseudo-Authority.
Some of the stories were interesting, but most were not
and it was like watching the Hindenburg slowly burn as it
fell to the ground. I was annoyed at the loss of the characters
this is the gamble we who read comics make every time we
decide to follow a title; we are at the mercy of serial
format. In comics, the story must go on, so when a title
changes writer or artist, a new artistic interpretation
is foisted upon the reader. This is sometimes a good thing
and sometimes a very bad one, for most comic fans are either
following a writer, artist, or fictional character from
title to title.
love a character so much the way he or she was originally
written, that we’ll follow the character even when
other artists take a crack at them. Judd Winick’s
Exiles is a good example where a well-written and
intricate team of superheroes was handed off to another
creator when Winick left the title. That creator was Chuck
Austen, or as I like to call him “The Anti-Writer.”
He who can suck the intelligence from a comic in a single
stroke of his keyboard and add cliché to any situation
so as to make even the most recognizable comic book (*cough*
Uncanny X-Men *cough*) into an unreadable mishmash
of dead end plots and hack storytelling. He killed all joy
in reading Exiles for me, and Tony Bedard's subsequent
run did not help matters.
in all this is to highlight my trepidation in picking up
Robbie Morrison and Dwayne Turner’s collection of
their run on The Authority, a re-launch of the
series with an issue #1. Was I setting myself up for more
disappointment after the debacle with Millar?
Yes I was.
at least attempted to keep the grandiose in mind when plotting
his less-than-great scripts: making the Authority’s
problems realistically global. Morrison and Turner’s
“Harsh Realities” set up a storyline that meanders
on its way to nowhere. The plotlines rarely seem to involve
the fate of the planet (which is what the Authority is meant
to be fighting for, “a better world,”) and almost
all the action for the book is confined to the Authority’s
homebase, the villain’s lair, or some other place
that is not Earth.
opening, wherein the Authority is attacked with no prior
reason given, is utterly awful and poorly written, not to
mention the idea of Viceworld, the world where everyone
gambles on everything, has been done before and the idea
that the Authority and who it fights is a topic of public
entertainment and betting has been done before in things
like “Mojoworld” from X-Men of latter years.
Also, this entrance story has little if anything to do with
the rest of the collection, creating no flow whatsoever.
It might as well be an anthology collection of Authority
stories for all the thought put into the arc. Also, Morrison
has a tendency to make sure every character spouts off catch
phrases and cliché one-liners as much as humanly
possible. I counted at least ten in the first reading and
did not have the strength to go back for a second.
what most annoys me is the complete lack of characterization.
Swift, the character that had always been a reluctant combatant,
showing her more peaceful side whenever she could, is shown
in the second page holding a human head and giggling. The
Engineer, who is supposed to be the intelligent and scientifically
minded member of the group, who can create anything out
of her liquid metal blood, solves problems by copying herself
and blowing things up. The Doctor, the Earth’s Shaman
and a character that hasn’t had decent handling since
Ellis, is a weakling and possibly an idiot under Morrison’s
pen, who does next to nothing with his global power level.
Apollo has become muscle and nothing more. While his husband
Midnighter is still able to run combat simulations through
his brain in microseconds, he fights with as much finesse
and menace as a girl scout.
the worst is Jack Hawksmoor: he is called the God of Cities
in other volumes, but we see him use his powers maybe three
times, not to mention that he gets as little attention as
possible from Morrison, despite his role as team leader
and strategist. One of the most creative characters I’ve
ever read about, and Morrison uses him mostly as a talking
head for filler conversation. *sigh*
The art by Dwayne Turner is nothing special.
He has little sense of pacing or action, usually throwing
far too many panels onto a page, hoping to cover up his
problems with anatomy and facial features that are blaringly
obvious at some points, which is if you can see the artwork
through the dense milieu of word balloons that crop up all
over the place. This is a side effect of Morrison’s
tendency to over-write. Also, the fill-in story illustrated
by Tan Eng Huat is hideous, as each character seems to be
suffering from a combination of old age and being punched
in the face too hard, as to make their facial features concave.
is awful and I’m sure there’s more than one
person reading this thinking that I’m being too harsh
in my constant comparisons between Ellis’s work and
everyone else who has touched (and destroyed) The Authority.
For those people, I have this to say: stop rewarding mediocrity
(or in this case, less-than-mediocrity). There is no reason
to not compare two comic book creators, especially when
they worked on the same book. We shouldn’t give Morrison
and Turner a pass because they had to try and live up to
a higher standard than most other creators, because the
standard should always be that high. If everyone out there
creating comics wrote as well as Ellis, or Moore, or Talbot,
or Winick; if everyone devoted as much work to their art
as Hitch, or Gibbons, or Miller, then what we consider to
be exceptional in the field of comics now would be the norm.
There is a fierce load of crap in the comic book industry,
and we continue to allow it to exist. We keep stubbornly
following characters that aren’t written well (half
the X-Men titles, Batman crossovers, etc.), or plots that
go nowhere out of some fanboy notion of continuity or character
adulation. I’m still frightened at the amount of people
frothing at the mouth for a return of Hal Jordan to Green
Lantern, and even more annoyed that DC Comics has decided
its time he dusted off the old green and black spandex in
a new series. Why do we do this? Are we here to read or
are we here to play favorites with a comic book company’s
more we give in and pay to read mediocre or ever bad stories,
just to follow a character or group of characters, the more
we allow comics to stay mediocre. Follow good writing. Follow
good art. And if the twain shall meet on a title with a
character you love, then so much the better. Don’t
shell out $14.95 on the vain hope that characters you love
are finally treated with the respect a good fictional character
The Authority : Harsh Realities - Volume 1