This isn’t my average every day type GCOAT post. This one’s a doozy.
If you don’t know, the story of The Authority started with Stormwatch and WildC.A.T.S. These were prototypical 1990s books: Big heavy muscles, big heavy storylines, action and noise. Some of the greatest creators of the times passed through it, including Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, Brandon Choi, Ron Marz, Alan Moore, Joe Casey, and Grant Morrison.
But I was never a big fan of either title—until Warren Ellis arrived and completely dismantled Stormwatch, the U.N. team that oversaw super-powered threats both of Earthly and alien origin, leaving in its wake: The Authority. The team started out being pretty similar to Stormwatch: Fighting aliens and super-terrorists, but it gradually morphed into a bigger idea: Superheroes who tried to make-over the world in their own image, ostenstibly to make it a place of world peace and safety for humanity. (Of course, that backfired.) It also started as a sort of “DC Ultimates” line—portraying more realistic, and more interesting, members of the Justice League in more challenging, decompressed settings. And they changed—and kept changing. Most standard supers have to reset at the end of every arc (that’s how come they can keep pumping stories out for decades), but that wasn’t the idea behind Stormwatch or The Authority. What was the idea?
Hit the break to find out.
Most will cite Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s run (the first 12 issues of volume one) as the only Authority books worth reading. They would be mistaken. There are several strong arcs (but admittedly none as groundbreaking) that followed…
Here’s the Top Eight Authority Arcs… There are some spoilers here, but they won’t ruin the books for you. Still, if you want all the suspense and surprises possible, just start reading all the Ellis/Hitch stuff.
8. The Authority Volume 1: Brave New World (#22, 27-29). Mark Millar has a blast in this one, pitting The Authority against…The Avengers. Kinda. This one is just balls-out fun. It’s also bloody and excessively violent. But that’s part of the fun!
7. Stormwatch Volume 2 (#1-7). In which Warren Ellis introduces the characters who would later form The Authority. In my view, this is the best Stormwatch ever got.
6. The Authority Volume 4: World’s End. As the title suggests, the world ends and The Authority try to pick up the pieces. Written by the team of Abnett and Lanning, this run was most interesting in how it tied together all that came before it, and still managed to add something to the characteristics and power sets of the primary characters. But be warned, it is dystopian and dark. Even for The Authority, this is a dark, dark run.
5. The Authority Volume 1: Earth Inferno (#17-20). The second arc of the Millar/Quietly team up, wherein the entire population of the Earth has to evacuate to an alternate reality. High concept, and darkly violent, this arc came out during the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and was seen by many as having parallels to that conflict.
4. The Authority: Revolution. This 12-issue series is highly underrated. No, it’s not Ed Brubaker’s best writing—he saves that for Criminal—but it’s damn sharp. In it, The Authority have remade America in their own image…And America revolts. It examines the American ideals of freedom, and whether that is, in fact, what Americans truly want. Solid art by Dustin Nguyen.
3. The Authority Volume 1: Shiftships (#5-8). I’ll just eliminate the drum roll and cut right to the chase: The top 3 Authority arcs are the three written by Warren Ellis. This one, the middle one, is the one that fleshes out more of the idea behind Jenny Sparks, “The Spirit of the 20th Century.” It’s deep and awesome, and it’s placement at third place is less about the lack of quality in this story than the amazing innovation you’ll find in the other two. Also, this is the story that reveals that Midnighter and Apollo are a gay couple (although astute readers already figured out back in the Stormwatch arc that introduced them). Think about it: Superman and Batman, gay for each other. Love it!
2. The Authority Volume 1: The Outer Dark (#9-12). Wherein Warren Ellis begins experimenting with the whole superheroes-as-Gods thing. The Doctor (a shaman who is similar both to Dr. Strange and Dr. Fate) learns that there has always been a “doctor”—he is simply the most recent iteration—and that human life was created by aliens who are now returning—with sinister objectives. The idea that there is a “god” and that it is an alien seems paranoid or fanciful, but in Ellis’ hands it proves extremely thought provoking.
1. The Authority Volume 1: The Circle (#1-4) by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. Because you really should start at the beginning.