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

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Changing the world, one summer blockbuster at a time.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Colorist: Laura DePuy
Letters: Bill O'Neil, Ali Fuchs, Robbie Robbins
Trade Paperback
Published by DC Comics/Wildstorm, 2000

Reviewed by Matt Singer

I'm a colleague of Warren Ellis'. It's true; well half-true. All right, so it's at least one-eighth true. You see, for a brief while we were colleagues; we both worked on the short lived REACTOR Magazine. Then he quit about 3 weeks into it. But for those three weeks life was good. Anyone I met anywhere, I shouted at them "WARREN ELLIS AND I ARE COLLEAGUES!" Most didn't know who he was -- hell, most didn't know who I was, but no matter. It was cool.

Oh, right, THE AUTHORITY; well, all that has to be said is that books like this that make me very proud to be associated with Mr. Ellis, even in the most tenuous of connections. Sadly, Ellis has already left the book, and has made it quite plain that he will, in the near future, retire from super-hero comics indefinitely. It's a damn shame if you ask me, few people do it better, and this book stands out as one of his finest pieces of cinematic, bang-zoom comics.

"The Authority is a team that doesn't listen to governments, it speaks to them and expects respect. "

'Relentless' collects the first two four-issue arcs (out of Ellis' total three) of THE AUTHORITY, a team created by and for Ellis from the ashes of the old STORMWATCH book. While one book had its genesis in the other, it's pretty interesting that they are so different. StormWatch was heroes-in-the-real-world; dealing with governments, black ops, and international politics. The Authority is a team that doesn't listen to governments, it speaks to them and expects respect. They operate on an even bigger level than StormWatch, and it's not uncommon to hear the book referred to as a summer-action-movie-turned-comic. Comprised of seven of the most powerful metahumans on the planet, The Authority are a force to be reckoned with. This reviewer's favorite character has always been The Doctor, a magician of immense power and high chemical dependency. Leave it to Ellis.

Collected in 'Relentless' are 'The Circle' and 'Shiftships,' eight issues of pure, head-crunching fun. In the first, a terrorist who owns his own country and army of super-powered killers tries to carve up the earth, just for fun. In the second, The Authority have to stop an invasion from a parallel earth. Each is complete with Ellis' trademarks: high action, massive destruction (often of the United States…odd) smart characters, and fun dialogue. Example:

Engineer: "Got a cigarette Jenny?"
Jenny: "I've only got one"
Engineer: "I only want one."
Jenny: "Bitch."

"Ellis definitely wrote these stories with serialization in mind; most issues repeat important facts for new readers."

Ellis is matched on this book by Bryan Hitch, perhaps my favorite artist right now. He is remniscient of Alan Davis' style, but on heroin. Most issues feature at least one, if not two splash pages of walls of enemies, dozens of ships deep. Deadlines be damned! From inks to colors, the production is slick, and everything looks fantastic. A lack of fill-in artists (A problem I always have with the STORMWATCH stories) help keep the overall look very tight.

I can't give the book a blanket recommedation, even though I really dig it. For one thing, Ellis definitely wrote these stories with serialization in mind; most issues repeat important facts for new readers. As individual issues, this was probably a big plus, but as a graphic novel it sticks out as repetitive and unnecessary. Also, there's the frequent complaint that Ellis has very little in terms of depth of character in these stories; and it's absolutely true. Most of the members of The Authority are little more than their powers and their witty rejoinders (Everyone except Jenny Sparks I'd say, especially in the early issues).

Still, how much characterization do you need in your popcorn comics? These things are intentionally light and fun. THE AUTHORITY isn't groundbreaking, but it is silly superheroics at their best. I bought this book when it first came out, and I still read it every couple of weeks just for fun. Ellis' insanity is always good for an escapist laugh. And just remember; we've worked together. Well not directly, but very indirectly. And not for very long. In fact, he might have left because of me. Those death threats could be from him. Oh just go read 'Relentless' already!


Matt Singer is a regular contributor to PopImage.

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