The evolution of a virus. Excellent, unpredictable issue.
If there's a superhero comic at the moment that deserves the term 'criminally underrated', this is it. With little recognition, this Authority series by Abnett & Lanning has been doing something that doesn't happen often enough: taking a genuinely new approach to an iconic set of characters. Anyone who's heard of this run will know the key theme here is impotence, the humbling of a superstar team in a world it didn't save and can barely navigate. Are they still heroes without their godlike powers; still a team, still interesting? Through 11 issues DnA have answered these questions with a strong 'yes' that warrants a much bigger readership than, sadly, the book is getting. It's not the same Authority that dynamited comics in 1999; but it is Ellis' team down to the dark humour, the social conscience, the understated but humane team dynamics.
This issue's all about the latter, as Midnighter struggles with despair and we find out why Apollo's been a no-show for several issues. The opening sequence is beautifully drawn and unexpectedly soft-centred, with Midnighter watching in vain for Apollo from a high ledge of the Carrier. DnA have brought something from Ellis' and Millar's runs that other writers ignore, which is that when he isn't kicking peoples' heads off or withering them with sarcasm, Midnighter wears his heart on his scraggy leather sleeve and doesn't care who knows it. Dominated by moonlight, the scene's a reverse image of the start of issue #3; the hallmark sun/moon imagery for these characters has never worked so well. Then it's back to old-fashioned teamwork, as the four active team members battle weird monsters in the depths of the ship. Although their run is bleaker than most, DnA and Coleby can render an Authority fight scene with all the expected elements of snark and drama. Angie's semi-functioning nanites were a welcome sight (Coleby's version of the Engineer is refreshingly spiky), the gasoline bombs improvised from the previous scene's balloons were a nice touch, as was Jack's excellent scythe/crutch combination – though I hope we'll get more explanation of how he got back on his feet. There's an interesting development with the Carrier; like Angie's tech, the ship is flickering like a bad light-bulb, and it's clearly a setup for something later on.
But the core of the issue is the fiery voiceover that intersects the fight scene – who it is, and who it's talking to. Props to Coleby yet again for rendering an absolutely stunning and vivid sequence using just two or three shades of orange/yellow – he's done this a few times now, for scenes from Apollo's point of view, balancing a freakish sense of heat-distortion with crisp linework. It's a brilliantly structured revelation, and the last panel's a killer. The whole effect is to remind us that DnA never put anything in this book without a reason, and never indulge in hints or foreshadowing without delivering a payoff. Hurry up, issue #12.