Review by Karl Verhoven
Volume 2 is a considerably larger book than volume 1, but balanced against that is the entire first book being the creative vision of a single writer and a single artist, whereas quite the cast contribute here.
Responsible for most of the writing is Mark Millar, who hits almost the correct note from the start, then dips a little, before pulling everything together before the end. While keeping true to the widescreen scenarios on which Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch founded the title, most of his run is concerned with how the Authority would behave in the real world and reaction to that. Would they, for instance, permit dictators to continue committing atrocities? There’s a simple answer to that question, and an equally predictable response from vested interests.
“He reckons killing him is a pointless act of barbarity when he’s just a figurehead for a coalition of interests” is a variation on a theme repeated more than once in Millar’s contributions. On this occasion just prior to one general having a long delayed meet and greet among his people without his security forces in attendance.
The corporate response to the Authority’s interference in global politics is to supplant them, first sending in a monstrous genetically modified hillbilly to deal with them, and then supplying a replacement team of callous analogues. These replacements occupy a considerable amount of pages, as the spotlight switches to them and their morally void attitudes. It’s a section written by Tom Peyer, who contributes some interesting ideas, but characterises this team in such broad strokes that it overplays their welcome. He’s not helped by the cartooning of Dustin Nguyen who delivers the equivalent of the cast mugging to the camera, such is his lack of emotional subtlety.
The art is otherwise all of a decent standard. Chris Weston’s figurework and perspective sometimes let him down, but he certainly supplies spectacular and detailed action, and is the first to draw the Midnighter out of costume, resembling a more adult Tintin of all things. Art Adams also verges on cartooning, but there’s a greater emotional empathy to his delicate work, and his love of detail never impinges on his storytelling. That once also held back Gary Erskine, but he’s a revelation here, his always strong panel viewpoints and compositions free of clutter and gelling into the artist he’d become.
It’s another Scottish artist, though, Frank Quitely, who’s the most impressive on what’s his debut work for the USA. He was a tremendous find, providing emotional delicacy even at this early stage, and never afraid to pull out for a panel even it requires more illustration. While modifying the designs of the cast, specifically bulking-up Apollo, he understands the cinematic importance of the feature and delivers the shock and awe of superheroes. As others have discovered since, though, this level of quality isn’t possible to a monthly schedule, hence the assortment of artists.
There’s an element of Millar having his cake and eating it when presenting reprehensible characters espousing unpalatable views. His opening and final stories are excellent action thrillers, with his middle contribution not poor, just not as accomplished. Even so, what’s collected here is a better rendition of the Authority than anything other than volume one.
If you’d prefer you can find the collected content very cheaply indeed in the original paperback volumes Under New Management, Earth Inferno and other stories, and Transfer of Power.