The Authority Book 1: Relentless (DC)

authority-relentless2

Rating: 4/5 – Improved Successor to Stormwatch.

We last left off with the “first” volume of the Stormwatch trade collections.  While I continued to read the rest of the series, it made sense to wait until the transition to the Authority to continue our coverage.  Stormwatch has been dissolved but some of the characters have continued into the Authority, most notably the characters created during the stretch when Warren Ellis was writing Stormwatch.  Warren Ellis is the credited as the writer, Bryan Hitch is the penciller and Paul Neary on inks.  Laura Depuy is the colorist but four others credited with color assists and three letterers.  The copyright date is 1999 so we are going back in time for this adventure.

The Authority team is led by Jenny Sparks, the spirit of the 20th Century with electrical powers and a current aversion to the traditional super hero outfits. We have the duo of Apollo and Midnighter who were the remaining living operatives from a secret Stormwatch team who had gone underground.  Apollo is a solar powered Superman type and Midnighter is an enhanced Batman type who doesn’t mind killing.  The Doctor is a legacy character representing the magic users of the world.  The current version is new to the role but can access his predecessors.  The Engineer is also a neophyte legacy character with nannite technology and obvious facility with tech.  Jack Hawksmoor, who was modified by various unwanted alien visits to become the ultimate representation and defender of cities.  Lastly we have Swift who is a sort of Hawkgirl type.  The home base of the Authority is this autonomous spaceship that exists between dimensions and exists all over the earth at the same times so they can portal to trouble instantly.

Hitch and Neary are a welcome change from our previous art teams.  A more studied eye may be able to detect influences from the extreme stylized excesses of the 90s but to my eyes they have been completely purged, no more impossibly long legged, goat hooved, tiny waisted, rubber skeleton women, nor men with three extra layers of muscles upon muscles.  The book has plenty of well paced action and the art team seems equally at home with talking heads, fight scenes and giant spreads of attacking super heroes or spaceships.  The battles are large in scope and the consequences put the entire earth in peril.  The character designs are kept from the original designs and they feature a muted color palette with no garish outfits for these folks.  There are a few tics that don’t suit my tastes but that is entirely a personal aesthetic.  More specifically, the blurring of panel art to represent tremors/vibrations.  This is the most trivial of complaints but where better to air my petty concerns than here so I just want to lodge it formally.  Hitch and team show restraint with it unlike in his recent stint during Age of Ultron when he decided to use it all over the place.  Now having been properly derailed, it is time to get back on track.

This book is two arcs, the first arc they deal with a super-powered dictator that is sending supers all over the globe to destroy and wreck mayhem, partially in revenge for a previous attack by Stormwatch and partly because he is a crazy bad guy.  Stormwatch is down to a small office at the United Nations and essentially defunded.  Sparks makes it clear that her group is not going to be seeking permission from the world government and that they are making a conscious shift to actively shape the world.  The scope of their remit has pushed beyond just fighting the bad guy of the week.  This seems a logical step to explore in a world of super powers.  By our current time, this trope has been actively worked and re-worked, with usually a darker tone of the super powered folks imposing their own order.  Ellis and the creative team use a lighter hand here and build up the tension.  The second arc involves a parallel world invading their world.  This is a parallel world that Sparks has some previous connection to but is treated in a very grim manner.  There is going to be death and lots of it in this book.  There is a little humor here (gallows and otherwise) but it is a not a world of friendship ponies.  Part of the ending of Stormwatch involved the team only minimally involving itself in a parallel dimension matter which generated conflict among the team.  Here the Authority decides to go to the alternate earth and radically alter it for the better, or at least what they perceive to the better.

I think the volume holds up great and would work today.  The elevation of scope and menace works well.  At this point some may feel these stories have a familiar ring to it but that is most likely due to stories told after but I enjoyed it.  I think the prior Stormwatch stories add another layer to my enjoyment but by no means are necessary.  Jump on into it or if you already read it, please let us know what you think.

Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford – andrew@comicspectrum.com
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