Friday, April 4, 2008

The Authority: Prime


I've gone on record saying I love The Authority: the mix of widescreen action, terrific ideas and dialogue, interesting characters and widescreen action makes me squeal with glee. So, after Grant Morrison's disastrous attempt to restart The Authority, Christos Gage and Darick Robertson take on the legendary superteam with The Authority: Prime. How did it go?

Stormwatch has discovered a secret bunker in the middle of the desert that Henry Bendix had hidden, so the new Weatherman (Bendix's son) sends the new Stormwatch Prime to unearth it, sort out the dangerous from the helpful, and keep what can be used. The Authority, who operates on their own rules, while Stormwatch is a UN thing, don't like this idea, and they show up, all of them, to stop Stormwatch from getting into that bunker. What follows is a three issue fight between the two teams, then a fight between the bunker's guards (reanimated corpses of the secret Stormwatch, Apollo and Midnighter's old team) and then finally, a clone of Bendix armed with all of Stormwatch's powers.

Here's the thing, for the first four issues, this was really a cover album of greatest hits, like a tribute band doing all of ABBA Gold. We were hitting all the requisite beats of an Authority comic, including Midnighter saying his "I've calculated this fight to a million moves" speech. It's not until Jackson King, the former Weatherman, gets his mental powers into the fray does it become interesting. When the Authority's godlike powers are diverted, leaving them close to human, the fight becomes fascinating.

Really, though, if Stormwatch and the Authority went at it, Stormwatch would last five minutes. It doesn't seem realistic that a team that killed God (literally) and the Avengers (or a facsimile of them) would be so easily defeated by Stormwatch, a team that a) hasn't killed God and b) isn't the Avengers.

The best bit in the entire mini-series is when Jackson turns off the mental implants in Midnighter's head and he takes on Hellstrike, an Irish sex maniac that's also a sentient cloud of green gas. Without any implants, Midnighter relies on simple battle tactics based on the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. Here's the full page:

Chris Sims would be happy with that face kick. And it's not the only one. In that single issue alone.

There's a couple great lines from Midnighter, and some decent character work for him, too. He hopes to figure out who he was before Bendix made him who he was. Gage does a good job showing the difference between Apollo and Midnighter, the latter knowing that he is who he makes himself to be.

As well, Jack Hawksmoor gets a great moment, but only one in the series, it seems. He shows up to fight the super-powered Bendix with a city from Arizona in humanoid shape. It's fairly badass.

But you see what I mean by "greatest hits"? A badass giant thing killing one guy? I saw it in the fourth issue of the first volume. Bendix coming back from the dead and messing with Midnighter's head? I saw it in the Revolution maxi-series. A reference to a sextape?

It's like Gage has the Authority checklist and is trying to hit all the major points. I mean, I liked it and was entertained, but the level of writing and art was so average that I almost just gave up and read the first volume instead.

Robertson's art on this series is so sketchy and dark and muddy and unclear that it's horrible. I like Robertson's art, especially on Transmetropolitan, where it's cartoony and clean and fun. This is murky, and I'm not sure if I should blame Robertson or the inker. Hmm... I just checked it, and I like Robertson inked it himself. Okay then, his art is just terrible on this. People's faces are all wonky and change features from panel to panel. Swift doesn't look anything like her previous appearances and Jenny Quantum seems to have lost her Asian descent (similar to Joe Mad's Ultimates Vol 3). It's just that if you're going to do The Authority, you need highly detailed, big widescreen art that's clear, and this art is none of that.

I was very disappointed in this mini-series. It said nothing new about The Authority, and it was like nothing had happened once we reached the end. I wasn't impressed. Recommended only for diehard fans of The Authority.

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