Spectacular art and strong Wildstorm backstory - excellent.
Wow, the artwork in this issue. This is one of the most beautiful single comics I've ever seen; Brandon Badeaux could be an Eisner Award-level artist. Every panel is alive with detail, finely and lavishly drawn, with a textured intensity to the pencils that shines through the light inking and the gorgeous, jewel-like colours. The settings are lush and elaborate, and every character looks stunning, from Jenny Q. swaggering in hipster combats to the glorious fascist-chic alternate version of Midnighter and the ornate samurai-with-thorns look of Rose Tattoo. And we get extra Wildstorm candy in this issue, with cameos from Grunge, Voodoo, Grifter, Zealot, not to mention Jeroen, the first Authority Doctor - still crazy after all these years, tourniquet and all - and some inspired 'redrawing' of a couple of Frank Quitely's old panels. I appreciate the fact that (unlike some artists who draw elegant, idealised figures) Badeaux has a gift for body language and facial subtlety that humanises everyone's classical/supermodel looks. And it's not that Badeaux' style is too decorative to carry energy or movement, either; the Rose/Midnighter fight scene is a terrific, explosive dance of death.
Okay, I think I've got the art out of my system for now. Keith Giffen's revival of Grant Morrison's abandoned run has been an uneven affair, throwing together a patchwork of alternate universes as the team careers through the Bleed meeting version after warped version of themselves. It's rather a one-joke concept, hammered flat in issues #8 and #9 as Giffen teamed up with J.M. DeMatteis to write an anvilicious Authority-as-JLI story; large ham, anyone? In #10 the mood thankfully darkens, as the team find an Earth where the Authority have evolved (logically, some might say) into world-ruling megalomaniacs. The real Authority (rather oddly) surrender, get a recap of this world's history from fellow inmates at the huge detection centre they're in, until the real Midnighter reasons that his double would have left a sneaky failsafe in the prison's security. There's the wonderful Rose/Midnighter duel, then a lot of Giffen-trademark bickering as the team debate how they could turn out this way (nobody ever accused the Authority of being super-self-aware). Much of the angst comes from Midnighter, often the team's most vocal moral critic, though I wish Giffen would stretch himself and stop building him up at his husband's expense; too many writers seem unable to develop Midnighter without underwriting Apollo, and it's both tedious and lazy. Lastly Jeroen confronts Habib and, after some gloating and injecting, makes a surprising request.
It's clearly mostly setup for #11, but as setup goes it's strongly entertaining, and this is by far the best installment in the series. The presence of so much Wildstorm continuity gives the story some much-needed gravitas, and as rendered by Brandon Badeaux, it's a treat for old and new fans of the book. Recommended.