illustration (c) José Villarrubia 2000 digital
illustration (c) José Villarrubia 2000
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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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The ‘blockbuster movie’ of comics reaches a denouement.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Colorist: Laura Depuy
Letterer: Ryan Cline
Four issue story arc
Published by DC Wildstorm 1999-2000
$2.50 each

Reviewed by Brandon Blatcher

"God" is not pleased. But can you blame him/her/it/whatever? It creates the solar system, takes the third planet as its home, then goes off on a scenic tour of the rest of the universe, and returns to find its home overrun with six billion humans. Naturally, the first thing it wants to do is wipe out that pesky infection before settling back in.

But said infection is protected, by a small group of super infections that don't take any crap from anyone. Not even god.

Welcome to 'Outer Dark', a four issue story arc of THE AUTHORITY marking the final run of Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura Depuy on the book. THE AUTHORITY is a loose continuation of the defunct series STORMWATCH, an eponymous team of multinational superheros. You need not have read the former to appreciate the latter, though it wouldn't hurt.

For various reasons, Stormwatch was shut down by the United Nations. Jenny Sparks, a member, felt a global super team was still needed - so she gathered several superheroes (some previously in Stormwatch) into a new team called The Authority. The team is composed of seven members, with Jenny as their leader, and their mandate is to deal with global problems.
"The series has been called the comics equivalent of a big budget motion picture."

Seven people looking after all of Earth? No big deal. They have plenty of superpower, a thirty-five by fifty mile spaceship fueled by a baby universe as their base of operations, and plenty of attitude. And if this is all starting to sound far fetched, then good. Ellis deliberately sets up a larger than life premise, then proceeds to have a hell of a good time with it.

'Outer Dark' isn't anything new. It's the same old earth-threatened-by-overwhelming-force-and-only-a-small-band-of-superheros-can -save-it scenario. So why read it? Because of the way it's done. The series has been called the comics equivalent of a big budget motion picture, and with good reason. Everything is on a huge scale. Hitch and Neary create large, wide panels that capture the enormity of the battles, and Depuy's colors lend emotional impact.

One of the great things about the story is the way the entire creative team complement each other. It's hard to imagine Ellis's stripped down, fun script without the art of Hitch, Neary and Depuy. Each part shines, but doesn't overpower the other pieces, resulting in one of the better superhero stories I've ever read. The Outer Dark isn't perfect, but it is great simply because it doesn't try to be anything other than the fantastic adventure it is.
"The characters are aware of the fantastic nature of their adventure, and revel in it."

Another great touch is that the characters are aware of the fantastic nature of their adventure, and revel in it. As one female member blasts off from Earth to join another member on the moon, she laughs and mentions how much she loves that she can do things like this. Later, she takes a moment to walk on the moon and marvel at the fact that she can do so under her own power. It's great stuff and ads a sense of wonder to the story, while breaking up a tense moment and adding a touch of humanity to the characters.

Since this is a four issue arc of a larger, ongoing series, I was left with some questions about exactly who the characters were and what powers did they have. Most of it was self evident, and regular readers won't be in the dark, but new readers may be slightly confused. It's not a major roadblock, but it should be noted.

The actual ending however, which is never really in doubt, feels rushed and is a let down. The final page is a cliche, and brings home just how much of the story is as well. The lack of much characterization and the action-oriented nature of the story makes for quick reading, so if you're expecting a long, thoughtful work, look elsewhere.

These problems don't really matter though. 'The Outer Dark' is still a good story and well worth the money.


Brandon Blatcher is a regular contributor to PopImage.

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