Authority Variety Pack

June 13th, 2008 by

While shelving comics at our new place, I came across a stack of Authority comics in Marty’s ‘to read’ pile. I started reading and couldn’t stop with just one arc. I read Volume 2 issues #5-14 which contained the arcs ‘Behemoth’, ‘Godhead’, ‘Fractured Universe’, and a one-off called ‘Street Life.’ Then I found a miniseries called ‘Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority’ and devoured it, as well.

I have to admit that a past boyfriend introduced me to the Authority (my first Warren Ellis comic), and between him and later searches, I made it through all ~29 issues of volume 1. It looks like we’re still missing vol.2 issue 1-4, a bunch of miniseries, and vol. 3. They don’t make it easy to track down the entire series, but it has been worth it so far.

‘Godhead’ was an irreverent arc taking on the idea of religion as a drug/ virus. A new religion, led by a charismatic former movie star, takes hold of the nation and quickly spreads to a large percentage of the population, including world leaders. It bears some resemblance to Scientology, but this leader makes sure that his devoted disciples declare him ‘better than Tom Cruise’ while in the heat of the passion. The Authority doesn’t take notice until other religious sites and communities start coming under violent attack. They attack right back, until the Doctor becomes a convert and the others are captured or wounded enough to retreat. Midnighter is one of the captured, but manages to resist the attempts to brainwash away his love for Apollo. Very sweet, but very bloody. In the end, the rush of being a Godhead, and the mulititude of willing, unthinking followers, is acknowledged and somewhat coopted by the Authority.

The ‘Fractured World’ arc starts with the next issue, but it felt like I was being thrust into the middle of a story. I looked it up, and apparently it is connected to a larger crossover event within Wildstorm comics which includes an Authority miniseries called ‘Coup d’√Čtat.’ By the time this issue starts, the Authority has undertaken a coup and ousted the president of the United States. Jack Hawksmoor has taken on that role, swearing at press conferences and showing no patience for the bureaucracy that comes with the job. He explains that he will not bullshit the American people, but then refuses to comment on questions about the sudden emergence of Jenny Sparks’s alleged birth mother in China. I don’t want to spoil the outcome of that storyline, but I do find it interesting that the Authority just continues to expand the scope of its power to include head of state as well as leading a new religion, despite its original identity as ‘an anarchist cell.’ I wonder where it can possibly go next- empire-building in alternate dimensions or future centuries? Was this the original vision, or is their power expanding to find new stories as the years go on and new writers take on the characters? Is it a commentary on the difference between the political landscape of the 20th century vs. the 21st, the age of growing global conglomerates?

This miniseries visits Jenny Sparks throughout her 100 year lifespan. Apparently she has always been cute, hard-drinking, and of questionable taste in men. This expands on some of the storylines that have been touched on in the Authority title (her acquaintance with Hitler as a struggling young artist in Vienna, her marriage in Sliding Albion), and add some new twists (Einstein as a loving godfather/ time-traveling spy). It includes her deep friendship with Angie, her dalliance with an incredibly hot Shen, and her introduction to Jack as a boy tortured into his powers.

It also introduces the idea that perhaps Angie, the Engineer, is the true founder of the Authority. Her intelligence and force of will drove her to create her own powers. Did she also find a way to give direction and hope to Jenny and start the chain of events that led to the formation of a team that would provide her with home and family and an unprecedented combined power? I hope that later issues explore her ambition and her goals in more depth. There have been hints that her relationship with Jack is disappointing- in issue #14 ‘Street Life,’ Jack refers to a past lover as ‘the closest thing he’s ever had to a relationship,’ and confirms that he never wants kids of his own (partly because he has no idea what his manipulated body would produce). Will Angie settle for what she can get with him? Will she move on with someone new? Or will the drive that is hinted at in this miniseries reemerge to create the relationship she wants? Will her means be benevolent? I can’t wait to read more and find out.

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