Friday, March 26, 2010

Warren Ellis' Authority

My all time favorite superhero book is Warren Ellis' The Authority, which included the beautifully drawn art of Bryan Hitch. The Authority centers around a group of the world's most powerful super beings who have decided to act outside of the boundaries of international lines and protect the earth on a global scale. The team is headed by Jenny Sparks, a nearly one hundred year old British woman, who stopped aging around the age of eighteen and one who commands the force of electricity. She is also the Spirit of the Twentieth Century.

Other members include:
Jack Hawksmoor - "the King of the Cities" who's powers rely upon the size of the city he inhabits, giving him enhanced strength, enhanced agility, the ability to phase and various other powers that his teammates classify as "weird." Throughout Jack's childhood, he was repeatedly abducted by aliens who systematically removed his human internal organs replacing them with organs of an alien nature so that he would one day be able to defend earth from a future threat.
Swift - A Tibetan woman with the wings of a bird sprouting from her back, razor sharp talons, and she is the pilot of The Carrier, The Authorities monstrous shiftship and base of operations.
The Engineer - A woman who replaced nine pints of her blood for nanotechnological liquid machinery. She is given the title of "The Maker" due to the ability to create anything from the microscopic machines, that contain every recorded book, and let her cover her body in a silver armor that she can bend to her will.
The Doctor - A Dutch ex-heroin addict with the counsel and powers of the hundred shamans before him, can do anything he wishes. To The Doctor, magic is change and one of belief in his own abilities.
Apollo - "The Sun God." From the Superman archetype is solar powered with the abilities of extraordinary strength, laser vision, flight and more. One of the most powerful beings on the planet and his only weakness is his reliance upon the sun to charge his body, else he depletes his stored energy. He joined the Authority with his gay lover...
Midnighter - "Night's Bringer of War." Whereas Apollo is a spin on Superman, Midnighter is a spin on Batman. He has the ability to play out a situation instantaneously in his mind from a million different angles, essentially winning a fight before he has thrown the first punch. If Apollo is the most powerful of the group, Midnighter is the most feared.
Ellis' run on the series, ran for three story arcs that pitted the Authority against a maniacal terrorist with an army of superpowered clones, an alternate earth called Sliding Albion that had been taken over by blue-skinned aliens, and the original owner of the earth an alien lifeform so large that it could only be described as God.
The Authority's greatest strength was in the relationships that it setup between the characters and the varying dynamics involved as they began to know, like and trust one another. Equally impressive was the individual voice that Ellis brought to each character and how he would leave the reader caring deeply for their well being and cheering them along at every turn. I especially loved how in impossibly stressful situations, each hero was given their moment to shine, leaving their equally powerful comrades speechless and impressed.
When Ellis' run ended, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely took the helm, and it too was very good, but nothing could equal what Warren Ellis had started. After jotting these notes down, I very much want to start the series again for tenth or eleventh time. Sometime soon I will talk about Planetary, another book written by Warren Ellis and started roughly around the same time as The Authority.


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