The Authority vol. 4 (#1 – 2) – Grant Morrison

2 out of 5

We know that Grant Morrison tends to plot at a macro level; he tosses big and wild ideas out there that initially make very little sense, but he does it with a panache that keeps us hooked, and then by series’ end, it somehow comes together, making rereads – assuming you’re a Morrison fan – more and more fun.  Part of the key to this has always been that Grant gives us some goods up front: his first issues launch forward with something massive and awesome and intriguing, and then along the way he makes it weird.

And in the late 00s, Grant was ruling the world.  He’d climbed to the top of the DC mountain, rewriting everything, and then he started looking outward, and we started to hear his name attached to several other projects.  One of the more exciting ones: Grant redoes Wildstorm via The Authority and Wildcats.  Of course, he’s been billed as rewrite guy at this point, which comes with its own expectations along with the expectations of being a big name writer, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one flipping feverishly through that first issue of Authority volume 4.

Note: Grant left after issue 2.  He left Wildcats after issue 1.  It wasn’t so surprising, given how busy he was, but when you structure things as described above, it means we’d get all the hype with none of the payoff.  But that’s not way the rating for this goes down.

Grant actually tried something new with his first issue of The Authority, and it doesn’t work.  A huge chunk of that falls on Gene Ha’s art, but some of that direction might’ve come from the script.  The something new is a delaying tactic: issue #1 only really makes sense once you’ve read issue 2.  Not in a confusing way, just in that it doesn’t seem like anything really happens – we just get snippets of a government agent’s failed marriage, and his taking a submarine ride to check out some anomaly beneath the surface.  The anomaly turns out to be The Carrier, but even that reveal – this is where the art affects things – has minimal impact without issue 2’s knowledge of why the sighting matters.

The pitch for the book is that The Authority have switched universes: they’re now on our Earth.  It’s bringing superheroes into the real world.  Yes, it’s a Watchmen spin, and that’s gotta be where the 9-panel grid used in the first issue – which doesn’t feature any of The Authority team – comes from.  But whether it was to make it look “realer” or something, Ha implies this blurry filter to all of the panels, and every one of them is a closeup on something that shouldn’t be the focus.  It’s all very offhand.  It’s not pretty to look at, and I would goes as far as to say that the art is crappy.  Ha’s figurework aside, it’s just bland and gross colorwise, layoutwise, and due to the blur effect.  Issue 2 opens up and moves all the digital stuff to the background, as we switch to The Authority trying to figure out what’s what, and that’s when the book starts to take shape and become interesting.  But because we only have these two snippets, it’s not clear if what we saw in issue one would have been a repeated narrative device, or was just an ill-advised way into the story.

Overall, I still don’t know if Ha, and colorist Art Lyon, were the best choice for this, just in general.  The covers are strange – again with the sort of unmotivated closeups, and doneup in boring blacks and blues; the interiors – focusing on issue 2 – work, but they’re not very interesting; the blending of line art for the characters and computer-touched backgrounds just doesn’t sit well.  Storywise, the idea of bringing the brash Wildstorm characters into our boring ol’ universe is promising, but the intro into that kills a lot of momentum.  And unfortunately, we’ll never know if it would’ve recovered along the way.