'Superman and the Authority' Amends Our Hellish Planet
We review Grant Morrison's latest foray into Superman psychology and discover - surprise (not) - genius.
Having settled down after the "Hey! What now?" response received upon Superman and the Authority's initial announcement, it's time to get into the business of understanding what Grant Morrison and Mikel Janín are doing when they smash these two opposing superhero worldviews together. Superman, when handled well, is a great uniter. He represents our potential, the person we could be if we shed our selfishness and fought for the person next to us, and the person next to them. The Authority is a violent farce always on the attack, presenting grand combat splashes and a DGAF attitude forever destined to attract adolescent angst. Slapping an ampersand between the two brands elicits mental chaos. If not for Morrison's involvement, we'd probably roll our eyes and move on.
Morrison delivered what many (including moi) consider the definitive Kal-El statement, All-Star Superman. It's not the first Superman comic we'd plop in a curious reader's hands (that honor would probably go to Superman: Birthright or the entire Tomasi/Gleason run if their appetite seems particularly ravenous), but after they've developed a relationship with Supes, I'd encourage the deeper, heartier All-Star dive. It's a comic I mentally return to over and over again, as I so desperately want to join Superman in the sun.
Our planet, this wretched rock, is a disappointment. We can't get our act together. We don't seem to understand that we share the same roof. Superman, if he existed, would not allow our base instincts to reign supreme. He'd knock some sense into us, or at the very least, inspire some sense into us.
That's bollocks, though. We would turn our back on Supes the way we do so many real-life heroes. We'd transform his name into a hashtag and move on with our day. Periodically, we'd Tweet a quote of his so we could sleep at night and continue gnashing McDonald's Egg McMuffins in the morning.
Superman would lose his damn mind fostering our possibilities. Only, he wouldn't. And that's what Morrison and Janín are getting at with Superman and the Authority #1. They're showing how a Kal-El who once shook John F. Kennedy's hand and promised to help the doomed President usher in "a finer world." Superman's inability to be there for Kennedy in Dallas was the first shock to the hero's system. He can't save everyone. In fact, he can be there for so few.
When the comic jumps to the present day, with Manchester Black smashing against a British swat team, the vibe falls into the abrasive charm you'd expect from The Authority. Black is a bastard, but in a world ruled by bastards, at least he understands his nature. Watching him tear through government goon squads is infinitely entertaining.
Then, Superman drops into his arena. Janín paints the titan in shadow, his eyes offering the only color, a terrifying red. Kal-El doesn't like Black, and that's precisely why he needs him. Superman and his Justice League have failed JFK and the Earth he once envisioned. Black is bubbling contempt, and Superman needs him by his side to keep him honest and on mission.
Superman and the Authority #1 is a helluva tease. It's two tastes swirled into one confusing concoction. Old Man Super is looking to recapture the hope he once embodied, and he's siding with the hopeless to get it done. Janín's art captures the dueling personalities of Superman and the Authority, and Jordie Bellaire's colors pop when they need to and constantly push the emotion of the lines to the forefront. It's a pretty comic, folks, with a lot of Morrison meat on it.
We've got three issues left. Morrison, once again, is making sense of a Superman, not for all seasons, but for our time. This is not the character he explored in All-Star Superman or in the New 52's Action Comics. This is a different guy. This is our guy, 2021's guy. We need him, but we got to pay attention to Manchester Black as well. That dude we know, and we can't afford to ignore his fury. If Superman's paying attention to Black, so should we.
Superman and the Authority #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Mikel Janín
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
On Sale: 7/20/21
Synopsis: Sometimes even Superman finds a task almost impossible. Sometimes even the Last Son of Krypton needs to enlist help. Some tasks require methods and heroes that don’t scream “Justice League.” So Clark Kent, the Metropolis Marvel, seeks out Manchester Black, the most dastardly of rogues, to form an all-new Authority tasked with taking care of some business on the sly. Not only will Black know the right candidates for the team, but if Superman can make him behave himself and act in service of the greater good, then he’ll prove literally anyone can be a hero! They’ll have to move quickly, however, as the Ultra-Humanite forms his own team to take out the Man of Steel.
This new limited series helps launch an all-new Superman status quo, setting up story elements that reverberate across both Action Comics and Superman: Son of Kal-El in the months to come. And not only is Superman putting together a superstar team, but it takes superstars to tell the tale: Grant Morrison (The Green Lantern, All-Star Superman) and Mikel Janín (Batman, Future State: Superman: Worlds of War)!