Thousand Faced: The Authority-Rule Britannia

The Authority: Rule Britannia
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artists: Simon Coleby, Brandon Badeaux, Drew Johnson and Mike S. Miller
Published by: DC/Wildstorm

“The world has ended…but the struggle goes on.” There it is right on the label. The Wildstorm people decided to tear up the universe where The Authority resides in a most colorful and blood-splashy kind of way. Well I’m always up for some of that.

The Authority is one of the best super team books out there and has been for years ever since their inception by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. Think of this group as a Justice League that got real tired of being handed a bunch of crap by corrupt governments and police agencies out of control. One day they decided they could be their own force of reform by using their powers to make it happen. These are not your Grampy’s heroes. They do brutal and savage things and enjoy it immensely and at the end of the day hope they made things a little better while handing out “horrible ass beatings.”  The stories have been consistently well written and very nicely illustrated. By now I have a half dozen of their books and have read most of single issues. Something awful is always happening in these stories. Once a hillbilly with hundreds of powers working for the government damn near killed the whole team. By the end of it his relatives were morphed into pigs and he had to eat them. Now how can you not love that?

The team consists of: Angie, The Engineer, weaponeer supreme made of malleable liquid nannites; Jack Hawksmoor, the living spirit of all the planet’s cities; Chen, bird-winged and talon-footed and faster than just about anything in the air; The Doctor, different incarnations of the world’s mystically chosen sorcerer; and my two favorites Apollo and The Midniter. The Superman/Batman analogues of this world who are a seriously committed gay couple. Yeah, I always used this as a way to denote the twisted sense of humor used throughout the series when describing it to people. It always gets snickers or even gasps of outright horror and the occasional, “Well now comics are going just a little bit too far” or a more succinct “Eewwwww.” Never fails to get a reaction of some kind though.

“World’s End” came about when thousands of super powered beings decided to go on a planet-wide rampage like suddenly they were in Marvel or something but with much more likely possibilities coming about like apocalypse ripping everything apart. All the Wildstorm titles in this universe get overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the endless horror that sweeps over the world. The Carrier, The Authorities multi-dimensional ship crashes into London fusing itself with about fifty some miles of the city. Then a disease comes along which accelerates people’s systems to monster-like appearance and strength until they explode their selves all over you and the disease infects you, turning you into a misshapen creature of mindless destruction. People are scrabbling in the ruins for survival and all the heroes can do is rescue small pockets of survivors and try to house and protect what is left of humanity.

The mass destruction has raised so much dust and smoke that Apollo, who like Supes draws power from the sun, cannot stay below it for longer than a minute or two or he’ll grow weak and vulnerable. His lover, The Midniter fights more than Wolverine at a Ninja rock fest and must risk freezing to death to go high enough in the atmosphere to even be able to spend a minute alone with his love. No really, for a guy who still thinks Brokeback Mountain is a scream, this came as enlightening. I felt the loss, bleakness and separation anxiety these two exceptional men have to endure. Yes, and since I regard them as old friends and genuinely like the characters it’s easy to get caught up in their personal tragedy the backdrop of incalculable loss and sadness.

Rule Britannia is the conclusion of this particular line of stories. The writing is powerful and full of the dark humor which makes for a rueful snicker on every page. I’ll be looking forward to more stuff from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. The art varied because of the use of different artists but remained very engaging. Wildstorm doesn’t screw with a good title very often. That said, I didn’t like Gen13, Majestic or Wildcats much. I think those titles try too hard to capture the Cartoon Network market with all the loss of quality that seems to entail. Even at Wildstorm, the dismissal of the young requiring good or exceptional work in that which they consume comes out every now and then. I don’t think writers or artists make those decisions but they can’t be completely executive-free over there. You can’t get rid of them even with spraying and setting traps. Special props on The Green Knight illustrations, those were gorgeous and incorporated some Arthurian mythos into a Britain-based tale. Tasty.

You come to find out there is “The Establishment” which is the British governments secret super beings stash. The most powerful being a group of children straight out of “The Midwich Cuckoos” who can turn on and off people’s powers. A time manipulator in their employ has a psychotic break with the deaths of his family, neighbors and town so he makes a fake pocket reality to hide from the reality which has destroyed all he knew and loved. Think Beaver’s dad crossed with a Timelord. It’s messy but well worth watching The Midniter kicking a Brit Tommy with a bulldog face in the yarbles. Apollo gets the mutation virus and tries to kill everybody. On top of that, the villain from the first book returns to feed on the corpse of mankind to make his city the new kingdom sitting gloriously atop ashes and skulls. Kaizen Gamorra and his legions of flying heat-visioned clone warriors attack what is now known as “Unlondon.” Lots of lovely fighting and dying happens all over the place. Super beings get dropped like sacks of spandexed meat. It’s great fun. By the end of it the dust cloud abates somewhat and Apollo and The Midniter are joined together again and about time. The Midniter has a golden apple of Avalon as a gift from Gaia, an avatar of nature. Now life gets “normal” again. Apollo and The Midniter are also parents raising the spirit of the century, Quantum Jenny and it’s nice when a bestial man who caves in skulls with his staff worries about how to get baby vomit out of his black leather outfit. It’s just so darn cute.

by Bill Hilburn

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