Review: Superman and the Authority #4
After an all-too brief four issues, Superman and the Authority #4 ends before the titular team can even blast off on their first mission together. However, that kind of seems to be the point as Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, and Jordie Bellaire drive home that this is a team that has much bigger fish to fry than Ultrahumanite, Brainiac (I eye-rolled when he was revealed as the “Big Bad”. Of course, he was.), and rejects from the original run of The Authority. Also, in a more metafictional way, Morrison is showing that they’re beyond such petty things as superhero fisticuffs and are giving the DC Universe one last gift of a kick-ass superhero team plus one final, beautiful Superman moment and a couple “stingers” that could fuel a whole damn event comic or two.
Superman and the Authority #4 continues the divide and conquer structure of the previous three issues with Grant Morrison and Janin showing Superman fighting the Ultrahumanite by his lonesome, then the Authority doing their Wildstorm political satire with a heavy dose of punching, and finally, a primal, elemental battle between light and dark aka Apollo and Eclipso for the soul of Lightray. Lightray is more potential than a character at this point, but she does bring in a nonbinary, queer OMAC fittingly named Mac into the story that almost steals the whole comic at the end and might even have Manchester Black and Midnighter beat in the snappy one-liner department.
Each portion of the story plays with tropes from different comics eras or eras of Morrison’s career. For example, the opening fight between Superman and the Ultrahumanite mentions the gangsters he fought in the Golden Age and the different kinds of kryptonite from the Silver Age while Morrison’s whip-smart characterization of Lois Lane is straight from All-Star Superman. And after these small stories come to a close, Superman and the Authority #4 wraps up in a clever way that rejects the final slugfest that most “event” type books turn into and instead act as a road map for future characters, and in universe, heroes.
But, just because Superman and the Authority #4 doesn’t conclude with an apocalyptic punch-up, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of action. Mikel Janin turns in layouts and choreography that updates early aughts widescreen superhero books for the era of TikTok and NFTs. He takes glee in showing Midnighter kick the shit out of a white supremacist baddie named Iron Cross, who is probably pissed that Donald Trump doesn’t have a Twitter account any more, in swooping panels.
On the other hand, Janin uses tighter grids in conjunction with Bellaire’s intense flat colors to show any time Authority members are stressed out or in real danger like when Natasha Irons has to switch armor while fighting alien refugee Siv, who is not so bad in the end. There’s real power behind the punches and kicks with Mikel Janin adding speed lines and energy bursts to his clean figure work. Kirby Krackle meets ligne claire and all is right with the world as he, Morrison, and Jordie Bellaire embrace the fun, bombastic side of superhero comics while also shifting the paradigm just a little bit.
The Authority’s “new way” of doing things that Superman alluded to in previous issues comes to play in the battle between Natasha Irons and Siv. After making the Authority’s first opponent a totally irredeemable Nazi, Grant Morrison shakes things up and makes Siv, an alien who fights to raise awareness for her species that is hated and feared after accidentally crash landing in California. By beating up some superheroes, she can help her people get resources and recognition. Natasha Irons is aware of this fact, but still ends up shorting Siv out in the heat of battle as she switches armor in mid-air.
Janin’s frenetic paneling and MTV style “edits” helps build suspense as he cuts from Irons free-falling to Manchester Black tussling with one of his old Elite buddies Coldcast, a Black superhero that is trying to repair his reputation … by teaming up with a white supremacist aka respectability politics with metahuman powers. However, after all the hullabaloo, there’s one great panel of Irons apologizing to Siv and doing everything in her power to help Siv’s people while Siv contemplates pacifism. This little mini arc shows that like a great rock song, Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin can nail the quiet moments as well as the loud ones like Midnighter aggressively fighting and flirting with a French queer badass named Fleur de Lis, who I hope makes an appearance elsewhere.
Superman and the Authority #4 features the memorable action and one-liners of its predecessors while having a true heart thanks to the sequences with Superman deciding to move on to deal with other threats and letting his amazing, bisexual son Jon Kent defend Earth as Superman in his stead. There’s a real Shakespeare/Prospero in The Tempest relationship between Morrison and Superman as they, Janin, and Bellaire put on one last spectacle, remark on how the old days weren’t so great (I love Black’s dialogue about JFK), and set up some threads for the next generation of DC Comics writers to play with. I personally think this won’t be Grant Morrison’s last DC story, but if it was, Superman and the Authority #4 is suitably entertaining and thought provoking and looks towards the future instead of being blinded by nostalgia, namely, bring on nb OMAC!
Story: Grant Morrison Art: Mikel Janin
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review