Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Gene Ha, Art Lyon (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
Kevin T. Brown
Okay, so what the hell was that? It’s certainly not an issue of The Authority, regardless of what the title on the book reads. I really don’t know what this issue is, and my rating reflects a lot of my extreme disappointment in not getting something I thought I was buying but didn’t get. I don’t know about anyone else, but I kind of expect a book entitled The Authority to actually have at least some of the team appearing!
After getting past my disappointment and in reading this issue as “not-the-Authority,” it was actually very well written and has me curious where the story is headed. However, despite how well written the story is, it’s not what is expected. No matter how good a story it is, so far it has nothing at all to do with the Authority. I’m sure it’ll all “come together” at some point, but Morrison is being too coy in his writing of this issue. If the second issue is like this, it’ll be my last issue. And it’ll also be one of the most disappointing series I’ll have ever read. This is decompressed story-telling at its worst.
One thing that was not disappointing was the art by Gene Ha. It’s absolutely gorgeous stuff. But give the man something to draw other than people standing around and talking, please. I wouldn’t say his effort was wasted, but it sure feels like it.
Yes, I realize this is a very short review, but so is the story I reviewed. It may be 22 pages of “story,” but you can breeze through it in a matter of a couple of minutes. If this is indicative of what’s to come, you can find something else to spend $2.99 on. As I said, decompressed story-telling at its worst. Hopefully, things pick up and quickly. As good as people think Morrison is, this effort is not his best.
Kelvin Green (Reluctantly)
And so Grant Morrison steps up to deliver his first Authority story (unless one believes the rumour about Morrison ghostwriting some of Mark Millar’s issues while the latter was ill); expectations are high, as Morrison has a good track record on large-scale superheroics, suggesting that he’s a perfect writer for this largest of large-scale superhero comics. Indeed, there’s a school of thought that says that Morrison’s JLA was something of a prototype for Warren Ellis’ approach to the concept. So it comes as a huge surprise that Morrison appears to fumble it so badly.
I feel that The Authority is perhaps too singularly attached to and wrapped up in its own concept of widescreen, action movie style superheroics, and I question the wisdom of straying too far from that. I don't think it’s impossible to do so, and Morrison is exactly the calibre of writer who could, in theory, pull it off, but The Authority as atmospheric undersea thriller? Um, no. It might be said that what this title did so uniquely in the past has been done elsewhere, and arguably better, in the intervening years since Warren Ellis’ first arc, but I’m not sure that the appropriate response to that is to lurch in a completely different direction.
Now, let’s be fair; I am interested in what’s happened to The Carrier and its crew, and I’m intrigued by the role played by the maritally-challenged deep-sea explorer who serves as the central character, but this title, fundamentally, is about superhuman bastards kicking nineteen shades of shit out of the bad guys (even when Millar added the political angle, the basics remained) , and what we’ve got is so far away from that, I wonder what the point of putting The Authority on the cover is. I’m willing to give Morrison the benefit of the doubt and see where he’s going with this, but if nothing inconceivably massive has blown up by the end of the first issue of an Authority arc, something’s gone very wrong.
Gene Ha’s sketchy, moody painted art is appropriately atmospheric, but again, artfully composed images of murky blurriness are a million miles away from what this book should be about. I dread to think how the book’s going to look when the main cast eventually turn up; from the lumpy grotesquery of the Engineer on the cover, I don’t have high hopes.
This is not a bad comic. It succeeds very well at what it sets out to do, but at this point, I’m not convinced that what it’s setting out to do is tell an Authority story. Taken on its own merits, I’d give it a solid , but as an issue of The Authority, I have to go with
(Oh, and where’s the “created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch” credit, WildStorm? Tsk, tsk.)
Though the first of the new, “Post Armageddon” The Authority, this issue could just as well be used in any number of other settings: right from a deep sea adventure to an alien on earth story to a James Bond style rock-‘em sock-‘em. The only place I did not expect it to be was…, well…, here. In no way do I consider myself an Authority guru, (not even an educated Authori-geek), but even I know enough to realize that this wasn’t like any opening that the Authority had ever before, and not necessarily in a good way.
Right off the mark, this series has a very different tone than the other big Wildstorm launch of the week (WildCATS), and I do not mean in the writing, which is also a surprise as both titles have Grant Morrison as their writer. The art is the one making the first, and in this issue’s case most potent, strike. A stark opposite to the flash and boldness of the ‘CATS (Lee, Williams, Sinclair), Gene Ha and colorist Art Lyon’s visuals are serious, subtle and realistic, something I usually expect more in a Vertigo title than a Wildstorm one. Then again, seeing as it (this arc at least) is based in the “real world,” it does seem rather fitting.
It is a good thing that the art is the way it is, because going by writing alone, three minutes was all it would have taken me to go from start to finish of this issue, and that long too with having read every single word. I know Morrison likes to build up his stories, gradually gathering steam (with a few “shocks” thrown in) until it reaches a point in the plot where it suddenly shoots up and out with a blast. I know that, and I like that most of the times, but even by Morrisonian standards, this was one slow, decompressed to the extent of standing still, read. The story here is more about a married-with-kids underwater salvage diver than about even just one of the Authority, forget about all of them. Responding to a submarine “accident” (shown in the first few pages), Kenny and his crew discover something BIG. Along the way we get to see glimpses of various aspects of Kenny’s life: his problems with his wife (Joan), the sports he prefers, that one of his colleagues has a slight gas problem, it’s all here, so much so that it might as well be called, “A Day in the Life of Kenny.”
I am a relative newbie to the Authority, only have gotten into them with the later half of Revolution and more with the Captain Atom: Armageddon mini-series, so my expectations might have been different from the veteran Authoritarian, but even I attest to one thing that this isn’t your Authority, let alone your Daddy’s. This is a whole new ball game.
Now, if only the players would get here so that it can actually begin.
Caryn A. Tate:
I’m not sure if I have ever read a comic (especially a first issue of a title) in which the title characters weren’t in it. At all.
I suppose you have probably deduced why I’ve brought up this point. Yes, it’s true, the Authority did not appear in their own first title.
Now this doesn’t mean that issue #1 was a poor comic. On the contrary, it is intelligently written, with a fairly compelling storyline and characters. But still, the fact remains that the title team didn’t make an appearance here.
The story begins with what appears to be some sort of terrorist attack, including an explosion, in a Norwegian submarine called the Uredd. We’re introduced to Ken, who is possibly military intelligence (I’m assuming British military, but that’s not specified). He is having issues in his relationship with his wife at the time that he and a small team are called in to investigate the remains of the Uredd, but he goes to work anyway because of the nature of his job. Going in, they are aware that the crew of the submarine reported an “anomalous geological feature” that they encountered, and—perhaps just as important—that the first military intervention failed because it was apparently lost. But this crew is still not prepared for what they encounter on the submarine when they get there.
The writing in this issue, as I mentioned above, is definitely above average. The issue is engaging, and I particularly enjoyed the dialogue. It’s natural in flow and feel, coming across like you really are just listening in on a conversation.
The problem, though, besides the fact that the title team wasn’t in the book, is that I have come to expect superb writing from Mr. Morrison, and this issue was an exception. It’s good—and honestly, still better than most of what is on the comics shelves out there—but it didn’t blow me away.
Let me clarify. While the execution of the storytelling was effective in throwing us into this situation and setting, I didn’t feel riveted to the book. I was mildly interested in what was happening, but each page didn’t scream out to me to turn it. And while the characters are somewhat engaging, after finishing the issue I didn’t necessarily feel that I have to know what happens to them.
For the first time in recent history, Mr. Morrison seems to have produced a piece of work that defies his usual, wonderful style of constructing each issue to be its own big piece of a puzzle, to be worth buying and reading on its own. For the first time in a long time, he seems to have bought into that awful fad of assuming that the readers are going to keep reading the title just because we bought issue #1. It’s disappointing.
Of course, I readily admit that I’m sure this title is going places, and in the next issue I’m sure we’ll see the Authority. But I can’t help feeling a little let down—drawing their appearance out like this, especially in a first issue, is unnecessary.
But all the negatives about the writing aside, it remains a good example of plunging the readers right into the fictional world of the characters and keeping us there. Throughout the issue, it often felt as though I was watching a very authentic action film—not one of those stereotypical Hollywood types, but a real, accurate depiction of a lifestyle or job that is foreign to me.
The pencils were typically effective in conveying the story and the emotions behind it. But—and I don’t know whose decision this was for this title—the panels often do not make use of the space on each page. There are several instances in this comic in which I felt the number of panels or the amount of action on each page could have been doubled. It’s always a bit of a shame to see wasted space in a comic book, considering it’s such a huge part of the medium.
The colors are a nice match for the pencils and the type of story that’s being told, but even so, now and then I wished there was a little more variation to them. Typically, the basic look of the colors is the same throughout the issue, and it got a little bit tedious. But there were a few occasions in which Mr. Lyon produced something that stood out, and I’d like to see more of that.
I’m willing to buy issue #2 to give it another go and see if the drawbacks that I noticed here were rectified. This could be a great title, especially with the talent that’s working on it, and I hope they begin to produce a comic that’s consistent with their (and the title’s) potential.
What did you think of this book?
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