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Still working through a batch of comics I picked up at the library recently...

The Authority: Relentless

Back when I had a regular "pull" at the local comic shop (roughly three cities ago), The Authority frequently caught my eye. But I could never figure out exactly where to start. (As far as I could tell at the time, the collections were poorly labeled; though I now realize it's just a complicated answer.)

So: Relentless is the first volume of the collected Authority (though, the story, and some of the characters, starts elsewhere).

And it's good.

Not quite great, maybe, but certainly good. "The Authority" is a self-appointed global super-team. (There's a strong connection to the Stormwatch books, but this is a reasonably good starting point.)

In a lot of ways, this is as good a super-team book as I can imagine. With Justice League or even Fantastic Four, it always felt like the writers were tripping over themselves to create a menace worthy of the collected efforts of the team - when the individual members regularly mop up similar menaces on a weekly basis in their own series.

The art here is great - clear, bright, modern colors, and solid, strong lines - but there's a tendency to go overboard on "gratuitous" violence. If someone gets punched, they're likely to lose not just some teeth, but their whole jaw, say. Sure, sure, super-punches, I get it - still.

Fray

Last installment, I mentioned I was on a Whedon kick, but Astonishing X-Men disappointed. Well, not Fray.

Fray is a self-contained story, though it's set in a version of the "Buffyverse" with plenty of allusions to those shows. Joss describes the series in the intro as "girls, vampires and flying cars", and that's a pretty good summary, really. It's Buffy, flashed-forward a few hundred years, where the cities are clogged with vampires and mutant freaks alike.

Fray isn't great literature or anything, but it's got a good hero story, with enough twists and turns to be surprising, and those mutant freaks and flying cars are kinda fun, afterall. Good characters (poor Loo!), witty dialogue, the usual things you'd expect from Whedon - Astonishing X-Men notwithstanding.

Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories

Planetary just didn't work for me. I understood it so poorly, I'm not even sure I can summarize it well enough. There are three (or more? mostly we just see three, though others are referenced) people, with various super-ish "powersy things". They are gathered together. They go places. "Stuff" happens (though, usually, as one of the characters even points out, it's often substantially over before they get there, and they rarely do more than watch as it winds down).

That "stuff" typically involves super-powers, mysterious forces, and magical energies, frequently emanating from a crystaline "snowflake" that is purported to be some sort of multi-dimensional whooziwatsit.

Seriously, it's that scarcely explained. Yet, it's presented as though it's ominous or at least important. Maybe six issues just aren't enough for Ellis to get his point across, but I suspect this is just poorly written. (And the art isn't as good as The Authority - not that it's all that bad, but poor by comparison.)

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