The Unreal Stash: The Authority – The Lost Year

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Thanks to reader Ryan’s suggestion, I’ve changed the title of this column from “The Unreality Comic Bin” to “The Unreal Stash.”  I think it sounds a lot better.

I recently picked up The Authority: The Lost Year, written by – at first – Grant Morrison and – later on – Keith Giffen, two veterans of the comic book world.  Book One contains seven issues total, with Gene Ha providing gorgeous artwork for chapters one and two.  After that, the quality of the artwork decreases quite a bit, but not nearly as much as the story itself.  To put it lightly, things fall apart.  This could be because it’s been awhile since I’ve read any Authority or Stormwatch comics, but I also like to think I know a decent story when I read one.  There’s more to come than just these seven chapters, but so far, I’ve been disappointed.

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The beginning of the story focuses on a human named Ken, who’s called to investigate a terrorist attack on a submarine somewhere off the coast of South America.  Stranger than the downed sub, though, is the revelation of a massive structure in the area – one that’s never been noticed or accounted for in the past.  Ken and other investigators travel to the bottom of the ocean where the submarine was destroyed and, eerily reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s Sphere, discover that the giant mass that was just recently detected is in fact some sort of spacecraft.  Needless to say, Ken and his guys are pretty freaked out.

The craft, of course, is nothing other than The Carrier, the living, somewhat sentient ship belonging to the “superhero” team known as The Authority.  The members of The Authority don’t know where they are, but it’s apparent that The Carrier lacks the energy required to get them back home.  The Doctor – a member of The Authority – postulates that The Carrier somehow ended up in a different universe (our universe) and that the members of The Authority are weakened and may not be able to find the power to get home.  And what are the members of The Authority in this universe?  Why, comic book characters, of course, but their mere presence has destabilized something in the universe, causing a massive chain reaction of depression and anger.  Think The Happening, but not nearly as lame.

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Up to this point, I was totally on board with The Lost Year.  My only complaint – up to this point – I guess, was that we spend a lot of time getting to know Ken and becoming familiar with his rocky relationship with his wife.  It’s all kind of a waste, however, as Ken’s death is for the most part anti-climactic.  The Doctor looks into Ken’s head to try and find answers with regard to getting The Carrier up and running again and – secondarily – what’s going on with everyone on the planet Earth.

After the first two chapters, however, the story goes downhill, as does the artwork.  To be fair, Gene Ha sets the bar pretty high,but some of the artwork in later chapters doesn’t really fit for this type of a story.  I wrote in review of A God Somewhere that for a personal story that is primarily focused on characters, artwork without too much flash or style is usually appropriate.  But when we’re dealing with superheroes fighting inter-dimensional wars, the visuals need to be a bit more polished.  Anyway, that’s where the story starts to fall apart – when members of The Authority start running into versions of themselves from parallel universes.  Having two Midnighters squaring off or trying to out-macho each other would have made for great reading; instead, the wheels come off and the story deteriorates into nonsense.  Why do some versions of Authority members look identical while others could not look more different?  Beats me.  Anyway, that’s just a nitpicking gripe – the beginning of the The Lost Year is overall far more enjoyable than the rest of it.

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Maybe if I had been reading Stormwatch and/or The Authority over the past few years, The Lost Year would resonate deeper, but unfortunately, I was left somewhat disappointed.  That isn’t to say that this is a bad story; it’s disappointing mostly because it starts off so promising.  As The Doctor himself remarks, it’s a bunch of cool Lovecraft sh*t.