Monday, 8 July 2013

The Authority volume three: Earth Inferno

Mark Millar, Frank Quitely & Chris Weston
The Authority volume three: Earth Inferno (2001)

Just for the sake of a recap, The Authority, created by Warren Ellis - the most talented writer ever to sit down in front of a computer with a nice cup of tea, a packet of biscuits, and a freshly ironed thinking cap - is the most violently innovative comic ever published, effectively inventing the superhero genre, for there were no superhero comics prior to The Authority.

No there weren't.

Sarcasm aside, The Authority is frequently cited as the first big-screen superhero book, or at least it's cited as such in the three places I've looked, one of these being the back cover of an earlier volume. This amounts to admittedly beautifully drawn pages of costumed types throwing planets at each other, or something similarly reliant on scale, combined with a dearth of the requisite captions, subtitles, or thought bubbles by which our living God might lament how Ellie-Sue never seems to notice him in class on account of only having eyes for that big bully, Brad Bradford. It's the sort of thing that I would impertinently suggest is a piece of piss if you've got a decent artist on board, just as it's a piece of piss making spooky music if you have a good microphone, a ton of reverb and a stack of shitty teenage poems about skulls and skeletons and stuff; so I'm saying that I don't really buy The Authority as anything particularly startling, or at least as anything that hasn't already been done by Jean Giraud thirty years ago; or even Jack Kirby, I suppose it could be argued.

That said, as is often the case with that which appears wrought by simple means, it takes genuine skill to get it right, and Mark Millar continues to impress in this respect, even when teamed up with Frank Quitely, the natural shoe-in for that long awaited Jimmy Hill and Lionel Richie crossover graphic novel. Whilst much of Earth Inferno superficially resembles the biggest Hollywood action blockbuster ever to be shoved up the Andromeda galaxy's back passage with a fist made out of purest anti-time - it works in ways far beyond the means of all those noisy, soulless Bruce Willis vehicles, achieving scale with great art and conveying tone through the magic of genuine wit and knowing when to shut up; as opposed to ramping up the orchestra into an endless cycle of empty emotional crescendos punctuated by jokes about not losing face as someone has their face sliced off with a penisary quantum laser.

I know I'm about a decade late to this party, but Mark Millar really does seem to make the work of so many other comic book writers read like fanzine level tailored-to-order hack work, as unfortunately indicated by shorter back up strips from Joe Casey, Paul Jenkins, and Warren Ellis included in this collection, none of which are terrible, but none of which I can actually recall in any detail despite only having read them yesterday evening.

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