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The Authority: Outer Dark (Wildstorm, 1999; #9-12)

In the earliest days of Panelology, Mike gave me a spare copy of The Authority.  I had never read any Wildstorm before; my only familiarity was with the handful of characters to show up in The New 52.  But I devoured the first two arcs in an afternoon, and now I have read “Outer Dark” so I can backlog it forward.

The difference between The Authority’s team and a Justice League is the difference between coworkers and friends. They’re not Doom Patrol-style oddballs, and they don’t bicker because of their lack of camaraderie.  They’re simply a coalition of people with the power and skills to save the world—be it from terrorists, aliens, or cosmic gods.  And they do so not with X-TREME ‘90s ACTION! but with cold, calculated brutality.

What makes a book centered around characters who don’t always seem to like each other very much work is its sense of history.  Warren Ellis nods to the Wildstorm universe’s history in early issues; while that makes for a steep learning curve, it raises the book’s stakes by making it seem like Jenny Sparks and company have been caught behind the eight-ball.  And if you feel a little lost as a reader, that reinforces the sense of scraping by that the team faces.

The other way I might describe The Authority is as the intersection of sci-fi summer blockbusters and super team comics.  Each arc feels like the climax of a big-budget action movie, and a large part of that is Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and company’s art.  As soon as scenes turn from conversation to action, the art's scope and scale explode.  And nobody pencils the active destruction of an entire city quite like Hitch.  I can’t imagine that this wasn’t an influence on The Battle of New York in The Avengers.

If you’re looking for a superhero team book that is grounded but not entirely bleak, you could do worse than The Authority.  It’s an easy read once you internalize its world’s history, and Ellis’s scripting feels contemporary even 18 years later.  I like it a lot, and I'll be reading more Wildstorm because of it.

Collected in

  • The Authority, Vol. 2: Under New Management (#9-16)
  • The Authority, Volume 1 (#1-12)
  • Absolute Authority, Vol. 1 (#1-12)


Writer: Warren Ellis | Penciller: Bryan Hitch | Inker: Paul Neary | Colorists: Laura Depuy, Chris Garcia, David Baron, Michael Garcia, Eric Guerrero | Letterers: Bill O’Neil, Ali Fuchs, Robbie Robbins, Ryan Cline

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