Author | Title | Rating | Latest
A book review by Steven Wu
January 18, 2002
|Rating: 7 (of 10)|
In the first half of the book, entitled "The Circle," the Authority must repel thousands of genetically modified superhuman clones as Moscow, London, and other cities are completely destroyed. In the second half of the book, "Shiftships," the Authority again must contend with the forces of an alternate universe who wish to invade Earth for its childbearing women.
Part of the fun of this book, the first in a series, is how wacky Ellis gets with his over-the-top storytelling. There's always a city being destroyed, a madman bent on doing something obscenely terrible, etc. etc. The conclusion to "The Circle" (which I won't spoil here) is a perfect encapsulation of the overblown adventuring that this series represents.
I'm not familiar with the Stormwatch universe on which this book is based, but I found the characters here to be instantly likeable--and awe-inspiring. There's Apollo, the Sun King (an obvious Superman imitation); the Midnighter, "Night's Bringer of War" (ditto for Batman); the Engineer, a woman whose blood is filled with nanobots who can morph her body into any machine; the Doctor, a shaman who controls the very shape of reality; Jack Hawksmoor, "the god of cities" (whose powers are still incomprehensible to me); Swift, an angel-like woman with a killer instinct; and Jenny Sparks, "the spirit of the 20th century," a century-old woman who looks 23 and controls electricity.
As far as superheroes go, these character kick ass. They don't merely have superpowers: they have earth-shattering, dimension-ripping, heart-stopping powers (except for the Midnighter and Swift, who get along anyway). And a great deal of this series is spent watching them exert these powers against a host of nameless enemies. It's a testament to the artwork and Ellis's writing that each battle is as exciting as the one before it.
Ellis's writing is, as usual, pretty sharp. The Midnighter, the ultimate badass, has some great lines. For instance: at one point he confronts a minion who happens to be holding a child hostage. "Let me make this situation clear for you," the Midnighter says.
"I know what special powers you have. I can see the enhancements. I can detect the increased
electrical activity in your brain. I know what moves you're preparing to make. I've fought our fight
already, in my head, in a million different ways. I can hit you without you even seeing me. I'm what
soldiers dream of growing into. I'm what children see when they first imagine what death is like. I'm the
Midnighter. Put the child down."
To top things off, he then proceeds to make good on his threats.
Unfortunately, while this series is a great deal of fun, it isn't a great series. For one thing, as I've hinted before, the Authority is far too powerful; few of their battles have any real hint of a threat. Partly for that reason, the enemies blur into one another; all we know about them is that they're big, threatening, and deserve to be destroyed (which the Authority promptly does). Finally, the series just lacks that special quality that puts some graphic novels above the rest: it's neither as clever as Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (although it's almost as fun), nor is it as deep as Moore's The Watchmen (though few things are).
In the end, The Authority: Relentless is nothing more than mind-candy, overblown superhero comics for those who love the genre and are looking for something new.
Steven Wu's Book Reviews