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Review: Superman and the Authority #4

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

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW


As mentioned in my other reviews (on several occasions, broken record that I am) of DC‘s “King 100” specials for this site, these comics have been up-and-down affairs on the whole, but I have to give credit where it’s due — between The Black Racer And Shilo Norman Special #1 and the subject under our metaphorical microscope here, Darkseid Special #1, they at least closed them out on a high note. Yes, we had to endure a couple of clunkers along the way, but these last two both give you plenty for your $4.99.

Mark Evanier was a natural choice to write at least one of these books, given his background as Jack Kirby‘s assistant and, later, biographer, and I can’t think of anybody more qualified to re-introduce the comics-reading public to the original (as opposed the bastardized, “re-imagined” version wreaking havoc in the so-called “DCU” today) version of perhaps the most powerful and iconic symbol of pure evil in the history of the medium than him.  That being said, it would be a lie to say that Darkseid himself is actually the “star” of this book that bears his name.

No, that honor would have to go to a tough-as-nails and decidedly determined young lady named Makayla who, along with a couple of fellow escapees from the orphanage/proving ground run by the dread Granny Goodness, is out to bring the lord of Apokolips down, permanently and by any means necessary. For those who find the societal and economic structure of New Genesis’ dark twin of particular interest, there are plenty of rapid-fire yet entirely effective re-introductions on offer here in addition to the aforementioned Granny : the streets (and sewers) of Armagetto, the Female Furies, Parademons, the Omega Beams, Desaad, Slaughter Mountain — they’re all present and accounted for, not to mention as compelling as ever. Makayla and her cohorts are never going to succeed in their mission, of course, but whether or not they live to fight another day is a fairly open question and offers a bit of “hey, I actually don’t know exactly what’s going to happen here” suspense/intrigue that’s largely been missing from this month’s other Kirby tribute specials. Bonus points to Evanier for titling his story “The Resistance!,” in a move that’s sure to raise the hackles of the increasingly desperate and easily-butt-hurt (talk about “snowflakes”) pro-Trump crowd.

On the artistic side of the ledger, Scott Kolins isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off with his illustrations here, but it’s at the very least competent (if uninspired) work and the splash pages, in particular, offer a fair enough approximation of Kirby-level majesty and impact in a pinch. Dave McCaig‘s dark-ambient colors offer a nice finishing touch and on the whole these are pleasing, if far from gob-smacking, pages to look at. If you want great art, well — this ain’t it. But it’s plenty good, and sometimes (this being one of them), that’s good enough.

Considerably better, though, is the reunion of the fan-favorite team of  Phil Hester and Ande Parks in the too-damn-short OMAC back-up strip written by former DC head honcho Paul Levitz. The story’s no great shakes — OMAC finally wises up to the fact that Brother Eye is bad news and goes on the run from the Global Peace Agency — but it offers a nice little “twist” ending that old-school Kirby aficionados will appreciate, and the illustrations are straight out of the Steve Rude style school (to the extent that Rude himself is even given a hat-tip in the credits). Pitch-perfect coloring from the always-reliable Dave Stewart adds the finishing touch to this decidedly fun yarn.

As always, the back of the book is handed over to The King himself, and with another “Young Gods Of Supertown” (this one from Forever People #5) strip, and a very interesting story from Tales Of The Unexpected entitled “The All-Seeing Eye” that offers some none-too-subtle visual precursors to Brother Eye, you really can’t go wrong — so if you’re looking for a “total package,” I’m pleased to say that Darkseid Special #1 provides exactly that. Oh, and just for the record, Evanier confirms it in his backmatter essay : it’s pronounced “dark-side.”

Story : Mark Evanier and Paul Levitz  Art : Scott Kolins, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks

Story : 8  Art : 7  Overall : 7.5 Recommendation : Buy

Top Five Recently Canceled Series I Wish Were Still Being Published

Sorry haven’t posted in a while, but life has been getting in the way, but I should be back in the regular mix here at Graphic Policy from now on. My first post back is pretty straightforward, I’m going to take a look at five series that have ended recently that I wish were still going on. Not limited series, but ongoing series that have been canceled.

Honorable Mention: The Order, all of Marvel’s cosmic titles

OMAC 5. OMAC (8 issues, last in April 2012): OMAC wasn’t brilliant and it was, of course, little more than a tribute to Jack Kirby that hadn’t really been developed into anything of its own yet, but it had a lot of potential. Keith Giffen gave us art that was as true to Kirby as if Jack had done it himself. Dan DiDio was starting to establish an original character in Kevin Kho (the only Cambodian-American character in comics I know of) and there were a lot of Brother Eye stories to be told. Many crappier titles survived into the Second Wave of the New 52, hopefully we’ll see more from Kho, OMAC and Brother Eye again soon.

Heroes for Hire 4. Heroes for Hire (12 issues, last in November 2011): Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning showed us with this series that there are no small characters, just small stories and small writers. Misty Knight and Paladin were turned into compelling and entertaining characters in a way they rarely have been in the past. The first issue of this series, with its shout-out to The Warriors, remains one of the best first issues of any series I’ve ever read. Luckily we got to see the story continued in Spider Island and Villains for Hire, but with the team having no current home, I worry that we won’t be seeing them as much.

28 Days Later 3. 28 Days Later (24 issues, last in June 2011): In the days when zombie comics are rightfully dominated by The Walking Dead and wrongfully imitated by dozens of inferior titles, 28 Days Later was one of the few non-Robert Kirkman series that actually added something to the genre. Every issue started with a brilliant cover (most of the recent ones by Sean Phillips), continued with solid interior art by Alejandro Aragon and top-notch storytelling by Michael Alan Nelson. Following in the footsteps of the first movie, the series was always compelling and gave us a look at the aftermath of the British zombie outbreak that broke new ground in a well-worn genre. The comic did the same.

SWORD 2. SWORD (5 issues, last in March 2010): SWORD is exactly what I’m looking for when I pick up comics. It was one of the smartest comics on the shelf, fast-paced, funny, filled with references and jokes that you don’t need to know, but if you do they add layers to the story, action-packed, and consistently awesome. It featured a strong female lead who could’ve developed into one of Marvel’s better characters and introduced us to one of the more intriguing characters to come along in years in the Unit. Luckily, we’re still seeing flashes of these characters and SWORD in X-Men comics, but it’s sad, that from what I understand, the comic was never really given a chance. Keiron Gillen gets most of the credit for how great this comic was.

Secret Warriors 1. Secret Warriors (28 issues, last in September 2011): Secret Warriors beats out SWORD, to me, because, while SWORD is exactly what I come to comics to find, Secret Warriors consistently surprised me. It was way better than I expected and it brought to my attention things I wouldn’t have otherwise read or thought about. It also had better art than SWORD. Another series with consistently brilliant covers and superior art by the likes of Allesandro Viti and Stefano Caselli (among others), the comic clearly had its own visual style and it was better than most of what was on the market. On top of that, the writing was even better. Originally a Brian Michael Bendis project and later taken over by Jonathan Hickman, the comic delved into the espionage side of the Marvel Universe, particularly the ongoing tale of Nick Fury, better than it has been done in decades. I’m not even that big a fan of Fury and the espionage stuff. Well, I wasn’t until this series. The only thing that still touches on this stuff in a good way are the ongoing Captain America and Secret Avengers titles, but neither of them is as consistently good (and shocking) as Secret Warriors was.

DC Announces “The Edge” #1s

Official Press Release

Welcome To The Edge
Stormwatch is a dangerous super human strike force whose existence is kept secret from the world. Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo. And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds. Featuring a surprising new roster, STORMWATCH #1 will be written by the critically-acclaimed Paul Cornell (Superman: The Black Ring, “Dr. Who”) and illustrated by Miguel Sepulveda.
Warfare: Past and Present
Blackhawk is an elite group of mercenaries made up of brave men from around the world equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles. Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us. A set of contemporary tales that battle the world’s gravest threats, BLACKHAWKS #1 will be written by Mike Costa and illustrated by Ken Lashley.
The grandson of the original Sgt. Rock assumes the command of Easy Company, a team of crack ex-military men financed by a covert military contractor, as they brave the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DC Universe’s super-villains. SGT. ROCK AND THE MEN OF WAR #1 is contemporary military story fighting under modern conditions, and will be written by Ivan Brandon and illustrated by Tom Derenick.
Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Featuring back-up stories starring DC’s other western heroes, ALL-STAR WESTERN #1 will be written by the fan-favorite Jonah Hex team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Moritat.
The DC Universe’s Loose Cannons
A metahuman mercenary who made a living taking out the toughest targets, Deathstroke will reclaim his fearsome legacy by any means necessary in DEATHSTROKE #1, a new series from rising star Kyle Higgins (Batman: Gates of Gotham) and artists Joe Bennett and Art Thibert.
Ex-black ops agent Cole Cash is a charming grifter that few can resist. And yet he’s about to be branded a serial killer when he begins hunting and exterminating inhuman creatures hidden in human form – creatures only he can see. Can the biggest sweet talker of all time talk his way out of this one when even his brother thinks he’s gone over the edge? Find out in GRIFTER #1, written by Nathan Edmondson with art by CAFU and BIT (the team behind T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS).
 A man loses control of his life as the omnipresent Brother Eye transforms him against his will into a powerful killing machine OMAC #1, written by DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and co-written and illustrated by Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish.

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DC’s post-Flashpoint news is still coming fast and furious.  We’ll continue to keep our special section going as long as the news continues to flow.  Maybe DC needs to teach it’s employees how to keep secrets while it restructures?

Around the Blogs:

Kotaku – Week in Comics: Dr. Strange Underwater, Dave McKean’s Return, Sonic’s Road to ‘Genesis’ and Other Welcome SurprisesKotaku highlights their picks for the week.

The Beat – Meanwhile: Dark Horse announces retailer exclusives for digitalLost in all of the DC news, Dark Horse has announced a decent digital plan that is inclusive of brick and mortar stores.

Post Flashpoint:

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: Detective Comics #1 and Batman #1

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: Grifter #1

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: My Greatest Adventure #1

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: OMAC #1 Additional

Geekweek – Plans For DC Number Ones Revealed

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: DC Women To Wear Trousers

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: Batgirl #1 and Nightwing #1 UPDATE

Bleeding Cool – Flashpost: The Morning After The Night Before (UPDATE)

The Beat – DC’s new line: What we know, what we’re saying

IGN – More DCU Reboot Details

Bleeding Cool – Jim Lee: “I won’t f*#k this up”, Plus Your Handy DC Comics Reboot

IGN – 8 Questions About the DCU Reboot

Around the Tubes Reviews:

ICv2 – Ai Ore! Vol. 1

Comic Book Resources – Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1

Seattle Pi – Dr. Horrible And Other Horrible Stories

Good Comic Books – Fathom #0

IGN – Fear Itself #3

IGN – Flashpoint #2

IGN – Intrepids #4

Lore Lush Book Reviews – Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1

Thorn’s A.D.D. Culture – Neverwhere

IGN – Shinku #1

Complex – Can “Flashpoint” Top “Fear Itself” For Event Superiority?

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The news is coming and coming fast.  After a few weeks of speculation, the news broke of the post Flashpoint DC universe.  Below is the normal news, but also a special “Post Flashpoint” section.

Around the Blogs:

ICv2 – T-pop Says Manga Rights RevertingWill someone step up and grab the gems for US distribution?

Investor’s Business Daily – Stan Lee Creates ‘Heroes With Hang-Ups’A nice profile of the legend.

Geekweek – Matthew Modine Reportedly Playing A “Politician And A Key Villain” In BATMAN 3Completely fascinated by this one.

Bleeding Cool – Another Round Of Questions With Rob GranitoBleeding Cool brings the hard questions for the notorious scammer.

After Flashpoint:

The ComicChron – Restarts and reboots: DC’s plan and some historic precursors

Bleeding Cool – Full JLA Art including Flash & Batman Designs, Hawkman #1 With Robinson & Tan, Birds Of Prey #1 Without Gail Simone?

Bleeding Cool – The Hooking Up Of Superman And Wonder Woman

Comic Book Resources – Details Emerge On DC’s Relaunch

The Beat – Creators and retailers respond to the huge DC news

Bleeding Cool – OMAC #1

Bleeding Cool – Legion Lost #1

Bleeding Cool – Brian Clevinger Dropped From Firestorm Before You Even Knew He Was On It

Bleeding Cool – A New Multi-Colour Lantern Team Book

Bleeding Cool – The New Superman #1

Bleeding Cool – Bob Wayne Talks To Retailers About Day-And-Date Digital

Bleeding Cool – Deadman To Star In Adventure Comics #1

Bleeding Cool – Edge

Bleeding Cool – Geoff Johns And Jim Lee’s Justice League #1

Bleeding Cool – The Issue One Renumbering Of The DC Universe

Around the Tubes Reviews:

SeanPAune – Cowboys & Aliens