Review: The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless

The Authority Vol. 1: RelentlessThe Authority Vol. 1: Relentless by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was, frankly, a disappointment. The premise is excellent: a bunch of individuals with superhuman powers led by an English lunatic acquire an orbital fortress and inform the world that they are now in charge, and they will prevent bad things from happening. What they decide are bad things anyway . . .

You can see the promise. The whole idea of a small group taking it on themselves to legislate for everyone else what is good and bad without being answerable to anyone is the stuff of nightmare and dystopia. Plato envisaged it in The Republic, Orwell wrote about it in 1984, Clarke almost did it in Childhood’s End, but wimped out and made the aliens nice, Alan Moore did in unforgettably in Watchmen, and here Warren Ellis had the opportunity to go one stage further and show just how horrifying the rule of a philosopher king might be.

So, I was hoping that Jenny Sparks would go even more bonkers and start (oh, I don’t know) sterilising entire nations because someone somewhere said something she didn’t like. But, after a terribly impressive set-up (the gang are cool, their orbital fortress very much more so, and the ideas around the structure of the multiverse are neat) we run into a huge, fundamental problem. All the people that ‘The Authority’ take on are indubitably bad. You know, crime lords who wipe out cities for fun, invading alien monsters from another dimension, that sort of thing. So, apart from the odd snarky comment from Jenny, ‘The Authority’ come out looking, well, actually as if they’re the solution, whereas in fact they’re as much part of the problem as the people they battle. But then, it’s easy to support fascist overlords in times of threat; Ellis should have shown us ‘The Authority’ dispensing peace and justice.

Aside from that, the graphics are good, indeed excellent. There are some neat jokes (like one based on the iconic shot from ‘Independence Day’ which you’ll know when you see it). As simple stories of superhero derring do, they’re not bad, except: the good guys win just too easily. They seem, between them, to be more or less omnipotent and indestructible. So there’s not much in the way of tension (this gets even worse in the sequel The Authority Vol. 2: Under New Management).

So, in summary, it’s not a bad book, but I had expected much more.

View all my reviews

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