Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Authority volume one: Restless

Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch The Authority volume one: Restless (1999)

What can I say in my defence? I'd already read volume two and concluded that the work of Warren Ellis was probably mostly wank smuggled in under the comics radar on the grounds of him holding a British passport, but it was cheap and Bryan Hitch's art is beautiful throughout. Give the fucker a second chance, I thought to myself.

The Authority is the first great superhero team book of the twenty-first century. Beside it, everything else seems pale and stale and repetitive. Be honest.

That would be Grant Morrison's introduction. Quite aside from wondering which Alan Moore title he was probably referring to in the veiled terms of everything else, I really don't get how The Authority constituted a major departure from a million other examples of late twentieth-century caped landfill. It's set in a world where super-powered humans actually do big scale stuff like saving the starving millions, and threats tend to be threats to the entire planet illustrated by splash page after spectacular splash page of four million epic occurrences all exploding at once, but I wasn't aware of any of that being particularly revolutionary even back in 1999. If anything, it just reads like a template for modern Doctor Who - everything being the biggest everything that has ever been scored to the four billion loudest Philharmonic orchestras ever to drown out the big bang itself punctuated by the usual generically cinematic dialogue just to remind you there's a story buried under there somewhere - this ends here, you don't have to do this, and the usual crap that passes for wit in whatever action-packed blockbuster Matt Damon landed this week. I'm not saying it's terrible, just that if you like a side order of narrative content whilst having your eyes burned out by page after page of prog rock album cover artwork as big as the sky itself, you might be disappointed. The second half of the collection gets a little better as Ellis daringly recycles one of Alan Moore's old Captain Britain stories, garnishing his versions of alternative England with the inevitable Dan Dare pastiche, although at times it's difficult to tell what's supposed to be happening over the noise of amplified awesome.

That said, the art really is fantastic; or don't know about your brain but you look all right, as Graham Bonnet so charmingly sang on Rainbow's* 1980 hit single 'All Night Long'. In other words The Authority is fine providing you don't expect too much in the way of conversation.

*: Obviously here I'm referring to the version of Rainbow formed by Deep Purple trombonist Richie Blackmore as opposed to the popular children's television show which brought George, Bungle and the somewhat futuristic Zippy to the forefront of the nation's consciousness.

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