23rd Jul2021

‘Superman and the Authority #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Grant Morrison | Art by Mikel Janin | Published by DC Comics

When a Superman book comes out it doesn’t take much persuasion for me to pick it up. When a brand new Superman title comes out, it’s an essential purchase. When it’s written by Grant Morrison, I’d be tempted to give it five stars before I’ve even read it. I’ve honestly never read anything from Morrison I didn’t like. He’s not for everyone, having a very particular style and focus, but when you ‘get’ him, he’s an incredibly rewarding writer. All that being said, when I saw this book on the schedules I wasn’t too sure about it. Superman and The Authority come from both extremes of the hero spectrum, the Big Blue Boy Scout at one end, the morally grey (at best) Manchester Black and pals at the other. It certainly looks an interesting contrast, and I guess those are the things that attract Morrison after all. Let’s dig in.

Funnily enough, the opening few pages do exactly what I wrote in my intro. Grant gives us a scene from 1963, when all-American alien Superman promises President Kennedy he will aspire to be the best man can be, and to help mankind rise high. We cut from that to Manchester Black, holed up in a present day squalid South London flat, littered with fags and booze and this particular morning surrounded by armed Police. Manchester’s not a particular popular chap it seems, and normally an entire squad of armed police would be enough take down anyone. Black, though, is a high level telepath and psi-talent, capable of messing with everyone’s minds. That alien invasion the soldiers all start shooting at, not really happening. The one thing, or person, that could get Manchester Black taken down? That would take a Superman.

So, just what the heck is going on here? How was Superman talking to Kennedy in 1963? How is he here taking Manchester Black to the Fortress of Solitude, older and supposedly wiser? Is it deliberate that he looks like the silver streaked haired Superman from Kingdome Come, even wearing a version of that costume? Colour me intrigued. From the conversation Superman has with Manchester, it seems his failing powers have made him have to reevaluate how he contributes to the world at large. He seems to be planning to be a super powered Oracle, overseeing a team that does the actual legwork. A Kryptonian Mission Impossible perhaps. Once Manchester Black has his spine fixed, he shows his gratitude by agreeing to have absolutely nothing to do with it. Heh.

The ‘negotiation’ between the two continues, Morrison having fun with the ultimate establishment authority figure squaring up to the ultimate ‘burn it all down’ anarchist, verbally speaking of course. Events take a Phantom Zone shaped turn, and Manchester Black decides to throw in, for now. He’s a wanted man after all, and Superman can keep him hidden and protected at the Fortress, along with the other recruits he plans to bring. For all his bluster, Black truly believes that his brand of idealism is the best one, and he sees a chance to promote that. That, and the fact Superman has King Arthur’s actual Round Table at which they can all sit at. Pretty cool job perk right there. The final panel, with Manchester Black throwing up on a globe, is hopefully not a premonition of things to come.

I loved this. Snarky, fun, interesting, affectionate, dismissive of superhero tropes yet embracing them, all peak Morrison. Even a sly dig at his old X-Men stuff. In terms of where this takes Superman for the future, I’m not entirely sure if I like it or not, but it’s an intriguing premise, and if anyone can pull it off it’s certainly Morrison. As always, the dialogue was the star, as well as Morrison’s grasp of the mythology of the character. The art, by Janin, was absolutely gorgeous. Some of the detail in the panels was incredible, and Superman looked every bit the older, distinguished hero he now is. The vivid colouring, from Jordie Bellaire, also helped created mood and effect throughout.

Very nearly a perfect ten. I just hesitated over the fact that, as much as I love Morrison writing dialogue for most of an issue, not everyone does, and this may have been too slow a start for some. Not me, though, could read it all day.

This book promises a lot, and I really hope it delivers. It certainly feels epic. If it does, it could be the best thing Morrison’s done for some time. High bar indeed.

****½  4.5/5

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