Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: The Panzer Commander and the Milkmaid
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Carlos Ezquerra
Colored by: David Baron
Lettered by: Phil Ballsman
Editor: Ben Abernathy
There really isn’t anything exactly like The Authority. The comic breaks taboos so completely that most frames of reference don’t even apply to it. Where to begin… Overtly gay superhero lovers? An unrepentant junkie hero? The way most issues play a combination of the race, religion, or sex cards like a game of Texas Hold’Em? It boggles the mind, and not only is that deliberate, it’s part of the fun.
The only real risk in an Authority story involves the mocking demon self-parody. It’s one thing to have the team meet their extra-dimensional and counter-sex counterparts. It’s a whole other trip when an orgy ensues. The drive to push the limits of crassness, genre clichÃƒÂ©, and plot spectacle can make this book feel a bit too much like a running gag (or perhaps a gag with the runs). What prevents the joke from going too far then? The answer, in two words: Kevin Hawkins.
Y’see folks, Kevin Hawkins is the only real P.O.V. character in the series. A soldier by trade, and a trouble magnet by divine order, situations that are normally sordid but manageable become absolutely and bizarrely out-of-control when he is nearby. For example, it would be tawdry but believable for a soldier on diplomatic guard duty to suddenly need to find a hooker for his “dignified” charge. But when that situation happens to Kev Hawkins, not only is the politician into oddball fetishes, he’s secretly an alien criminal… who then gets devoured by a tiger. The key difference between Kev and everyone else in this series? When things like that happen, he’s as confused and appalled as any sane non-powered person would be. And frankly, the consequences of these events are more realistic (demotion, paperwork) and understandable (hatred of the Authority, revenge fantasies) too. Combine those simple and uncluttered contrasting traits with the normal wear and tear any active soldier faces and he’s not only a fascinating character, he’s got the only normal heart in this book.
So a mini-series that revolves around him as much as it does the aforementioned boundary busting meta-humans is a recipe for comedy and characterization gold. A lot happens in this issue. People shoot other people. Somebody shoots himself. Superhumans are hit by disabling custard pies thrown by an odd looking alien with a limited and filthy vocabulary. And Kevin Hawkins gets thrown back into it all by the end of the first issue. The book is absurd, sad, exciting, and odd all at once.
The art is a bit dodgy. The figures are neither too perfectly proportioned nor overly caricatured. They look like believable, if undramatic, people. The settings while slightly goofy in their details (no one would have a framed partially-clad Madonna framed in their bedroom) are specific and evocative of the characters inhabited there. I’ve never seen a dimly lit bar depicted this well, but the story is so engrossing at that point in the plot, it wasn’t even noticeable until a rereading. And sadly some of the injuries illustrated in this installment look like something out of Plastic Man. So while there are highs and lows, the art does the job without distracting the reader too much.