Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Why do super-people never go after the real bastards?"
Now that is a very good question.
In Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch's blistering series of pyrotechnic crescendos which was AUTHORITY VOL 1, Jenny Sparks declared that they would make this a better world whether we liked it or not. Having defended the Earth against alternate dimensions and the closest thing to God, The Authority now turns its attention to Earth's own dictators, reasoning that if they're going to risk their lives defending this planet, it ought to be one worth saving. Or at least one they like.
Unilaterally they decide to depose a tyrannical regime in Southeast Asia and, led by Jack Hawksmoor, they do so with military precision and a ruthless efficiency. They use that swift and effortless victory in Southeast Asia - along with the somewhat intimidating shadow of their 50-mile-high shiftship - to persuade the Russian army to back off from Chechnya and China to withdraw from Tibet.
When was the last time you saw an invasion force persuaded to retreat without a single shot being fired? You would have thought that a nation allegedly espousing democracy enough to oppose dictatorships and invade their sovereign states would welcome these moves, but the American government is far from happy.
"Just watch your step, Mister Hawksmoor."
"Frankly we could say the same to you. Mister President."
Brrrr. But we'll get to that in a bit.
It was a subtle game Mark Millar played for we rooted for the liberal-leftie, anti-establishment authoritarians without at first realising that paradox. Because as liberal-lefties ourselves we happened to agree with their stance. Also because we'd do it too, wouldn't we? Give me virtually limitless power and I would be the first to intervene geo-politically.
Millar also won our affections with extreme prescience, inventive lateral thinking and a seemingless limitless wit. Here Jack Hawksmoor asks the normally masked Midnighter what has become of his trademark leather uniform. Well, adopting a small child changes more than you can possibly anticipate:
"Baby Jenny vomited all over it and I had to order a new one."
"Couldn't you just have cleaned it?"
"Milk doesn't come out of leather no matter how hard you clean. Cow's revenge, I suppose."
As to the lateral thinking, The Authority are first assaulted by a decommissioned Cold War U.S. enterprise, 42 levels above Presidential Clearance, which has no intention of letting The Authority get in the way of its own plans for a unilaterally-imposed worldwide Utopia, cheers. It is the brainchild of Professor Krigstein, immediately identifiable by his small stature and burning cigar as seminal superhero artist Jack Kirby:
"The kind of man who could probably have created all your favourite comicbook characters if he hadn't been snapped up by Eisenhower at the end of the war."
Half the fun there is identifying the Marvel characters Jack 'King' Kirby did indeed create for Marvel, now perverted into a bunch of bigoted rapists etc. Start with the original Avengers and the rest may fall into place or, if you're struggling, ask me at the counter!
Which brings us to Frank Quitely. I wish this was all drawn by Frank Quitely. Hell, I wish this was all written by Mark Millar but, as promised, we will get to that in a bit.
Artists Chris Weston, Art Adams and Gary Erskine all delivered their ever-reliable goods, but Frank Quitely was on fire: those analogues were so witty. His forms were much more burly than we'd been used to from Bryan Hitch but that worked brilliantly: they weren't just super-human, they were meta-human. Michelangelo did the same thing, especially to his women. I loved his constantly puckered lips too - largely the guys'. With his analogue to Giant Man he achieved in scale what Hitch went on to in THE ULTIMATES and Luke Pearson did with HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT by bending the man down yet, even so, failing to fit the full figure into the panel. It's deliberate, trust me: that's how it works.
And so we come to the sadness of it all. I was very much hoping - with this material now being re-released as definitive, collated editions - that DC under a new editorial regime rather than the one which went so fearfully, so destructively and so despotically awry might have corrected its irrational errors and given us a book that we could be proud to sell rather than one which we must, in all good consciousness, be apologists for.
What you read, increasingly throughout this volume, was not written by Mark Millar even when his name was slapped on it. It was rewritten by editors. What was drawn was not what was first intended. Under the Page 45 reviews blog where this review was first published (December 2013 week four and now December 2014 week four ) you will find a meticulously researched if not exhaustive article on how much criminal damage was done to this work which DC could have been proud of, but which their own sexuality-related timidity turned into a travesty.
The worst offence is not catalogued there. DC's worst offence, as reported at the time by Rich Johnston, was excising this single sentence:
"You just pissed off the wrong faggot."
Did DC believe that the word "faggot" was beyond the pale? It did not. It happily printed it as sneered and espoused by a homophobic supervillain at the Midnighter's expense, and happily reprints it all here. But when, in a scene harking back to Wolverine during X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, The Midnighter comes to retake the English language in an act of self-empowerment (for he is gay and his beloved boyfriend has been brutally abused to breaking point), he no longer says
"You just pissed off the wrong faggot."
"You boys just pissed off the wrong bastard."
It really isn't the same.
Here is a couple of sentences from the final page of this book aimed not at the protagonists within but the people who publish it, from my original review of the final issue:
'"Do you think we made a difference in the end?"
"God yes, are you kidding? Even with all the crap they threw at us, we completely changed the landscape over the last twelve months."
It was inevitable: The Authority's radical stand was bad for the business of brainwashing. So it wasn't the world's governments who pooled together to take them down and replace them with a version they could control, it was the multi-national corporations who control them - who hire the world leaders to protect their tax breaks and overseas interests. Obviously enough the same can be said for comic itself, and for the very same reasons.
It had to be shut down and all under the excuse, the self-serving, printed (and, under the circumstances disgustingly offensive) lie that it had anything to do with the events of September 11th. We've been here before so I won't belabour the point except to remind you that the finale to this blistering series you've loyally patronised with your hard-earned money is, I'm afraid, very much tainted by editorial treacheries, and the hard lesson is the same as The Authority had to learn:
Never, ever trust a fucking corporation.