Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin (#1-5)

"Why does an anarchist superhero come looking for help from a bird at British Intelligence?" - Kev Hawkins

Better get my excuses done first, because this volume co-stars The Midnighter who is gay and a few homophobic slurs get thrown around.  If you find this "triggering" don't read on, this 2005 Garth Ennis penned miniseries is not for you.  I however found this to be fucking hilarious for reasons I'll elaborate upon in a moment.  Now I am a gay woman myself, always have been, always will be.  Never even kissed a bloke, I only sleep with women.  I have lesbian and gay friends, I've marched during Gay Pride, I shop in gay shops, used to go solely to gay nightclubs and pubs.  Basically I'm a big ol' 41 year old lesbian who is old enough to remember some pretty homophobic times.  But I also have a very crude sense of humour and this Ennis story is designed specifically to try and push every "offense button" going when it comes to homosexuals.  However, while it depicts homophobes, I don't believe it is homophobic.  The Midnighter is one of the few superheroes Ennis seems to actually like (and I covered the Ennis penned initial arc and one-shot as part of the Midnighter's first on-going solo book here), and he is never shown in a poor light.  Also I like the fact that the kind of people being homophobic are just who would be in real life, homophobia doesn't just disappear overnight.  Yes we can get married now and serve in the military and so on but old attitudes die hard and this book confronts them head on, amongst all the other wonderfully offensive stuff going on in it. I also think of all the comics I have read this one says "cunt" more than any other.  I won't quote every cunt that gets spoken, but I am going to institute a "cunt counter" to keep a running total of how many times it crops up.  Just for my own amusement really, you buncha cunts!
You have been warned!
The Authority was a group of superheros in the Wildstorm universe created by Warren Ellis. An offshoot of Stormwatch, they were to be proactive against threats to humanity and they live in a huge spaceship called "The Carrier" travelling through a dimension called "The Bleed".  But really only Midnighter has anything to do in this mini, he's an artificially created super-soldier with incredible strength and healing powers, who is the husband of the Superman analogue Apollo. This isn't the first time the titular Kevin and The Authority have crossed paths.  His wikipedia page summarises his career pre and post this adventure; but basically he's a S.A.S member who has tangled with them twice prior to this time. First killing them under orders, but then getting them resurrected to handle an alien invasion. After that he got mixed up in a plot concerning an alien fugitive and nearly blew them up with an atom bomb by mistake.  The Midnighter took a dim view of Kev's homophobic remarks and beat him up first time, then next time told Kev he'd been letting other people's homophobic views colour his own and he needs to start thinking for himself. 
Kev's sci-fi fantasy
Now, with all that done, it's time to begin.  No wait, quick word about the art.  It's by Carlos Ezquerra, co-creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, he's usually a pretty fantastic artist.  But his collaboration on one arc of The Boys with Ennis was very disappointing visually and I wondered if he was losing his edge.  I was wrong, his current run on Strontium Dog is brilliant and the art in this miniseries is great as well. Lots of detailed backgrounds and dynamic layouts this, artwise at least (for those of you feeling sniffy about the writing), this is Good Stuff.

The story begins with Kev having a sci-fi sexual fantasy, with himself as a super soldier.  As he fantasises he has a good wank.  Walking through the windows are the I.R.A (Irish Republican Army - Catholic) and the U.V.F (Ulster Volunteer Force - Protestant).  Both are there to kill Kev for the deaths he caused while undercover in Northern Ireland.  They each burst into his bedroom at the same time, but shoot each other instead while Kev finishes himself off.
The Troubles still not over for Kev.
Aboard the Carrier, the Midnighter and Apollo are arguing about becoming more overtly super-heroic.  Then a strange goblin like creature appears, says "I'm a vagina!!!" and hits Apollo in the face with a cream pie which stays stuck and disables him.  Down at Kev's house, his co-worker, an older man called Froggett is there coordinating the clean-up at Kev's house.

Kev: "I'll tell you what I'd like Frogett.  Ten minutes in a locked room.  Just you, me and a baseball bat with a big fucking spike in the end."

Froggett just smiles and says he wouldn't be a pushover and leaves Kev to answer the phone, and he's told a friend of his has committed suicide.

On the Carrier, one of the female members, a be-winged human called Swift is singing a song to herself about her position in the team:

Swift: "Now I have often heard it spoken... that on this team I'm just a token...The rest are white but that's OK, because not one but two are gay.  It sure can leave you poor... when you're the ethnicity du jour. When you're an Asian chick.  Asian chick!  The way I get used to it makes me sick, trapped here with this buncha dicks. Because I'm an Asian chick."

The song goes on longer but you get the gist.  Then the goblin appears and hits her in the face with a cream pie too, taking her out.
The phantom flan flinger attacks.
Back with Kev, he is with his S.A.S buddies down the pub talking about what might have put their friend Tiny over the edge.  Could have been Bosnia, Uganda, Iraq or all three.  Kev's retired friend says they want to get out of the job because it's hard to cope, there's no support and before you know it you've got "a nine milli in your mouth". His other friend also worries that one of these days he'll be asked to kill kids as part of a mission.  Kev admits that their friend from a previous adventure went A.W.O.L with Kev's help, and he looks somewhat despondent as he weighs his options.

On the Carrier all but the Engineer and the Midnighter have been incapacitated by the pies. They start trying to prise one off, but the goblin pops up and pies the Engineer.  It attacks the Midnighter who opens an airlock sucking them both outside into space.

Kev is called to his superior's office, a severe looking woman tells him The Authority are in trouble.

Kev: "Oh, not that shower of cunts again."

(Cunt Count: 4) He complains that the Midnighter can't take a joke and is the worst of the lot of them.  But his boss says The Midnighter has landed somewhere in the British Isles and says Kev is the only one he trusts.  He needs medical help so Kev will take him to the nearest Intelligence post.  When Kev protests, she says he'll do it or she'll have him strung by the balls from Waterloo Bridge.
Kev travels out to the coordinates he's been given, the Midnighter is hiding in a cave and creeps up behind him giving him a fright.  The Midnighter is badly wounded and as Kev helps him to the car he fills him in on what happened.  For some reason his wounds haven't healed which is why he phoned British Intelligence for help.

He asks Kev if he can guarantee his safety, Kev says he can until he drops him off.  Woozily The Midnighter asks Kev how he came to join the S.A.S.  Flashback time, we see Kev as an aimless youth in Luton.  He signs up to join the regular army, the recruiter assures him that it's 1986, "who on earth would the British army be at war with these days".  Then we cut to Kev's team caught in a riot in Belfast being pelted with rocks.

However, Kev admits to The Midnighter that he did enjoy being in the army, especially the camaraderie.  One day in a soldier's bar he sees two men the rest are treating with utmost respect, they are in the S.A.S.  Kev thinks no more about it, he's more concerned with the fact that women go wild for the uniform.  And one day he is caught sleeping with a woman by her irate husband.
Kev in big trouble.
Six months later, his regiment gets a new C.O. and it turns out to be the cuckolded husband.  And so kicks off the "worst six months of my life" as he is assigned all the menial and dangerous jobs.  He then decides to join the S.A.S to escape.  His C.O. yells that he'll never make it through the selection process and calls him a "cunt!" (Cunt Counter: 6). He does make it through though and we get a flashback to training where a fellow squad member called Mick is kicked out.  The Midnighter then says that Kev basically became a member of the S.A.S because he slept with someone's wife and Kev agrees.

Kev then says the are being followed.  He runs the pursuing car off the road and pulls a gun.  Suddenly his car is surrounded by more cars and helicopters, they are there for The Midnighter.  The Midnighter isn't angry or surprised at this turn of events, he simply tells Kev to look up an M.I.5 file called "Danny Boy".  Then he is taken away.  The man in charge turns out to be Mick who was "Kicked out" so he could keep an eye on the likes of Kev.  Kev leaves in disgust when Mick asks what he cares about "what happens to some turd burgler."
It's a trap!
We then get an interesting chapter based on a job Kev's S.A.S team was assigned to in Northern Ireland. I sometimes see on US forums people whining about why an Irish writer like Garth Ennis would demonise the IRA and their great crusade against the evil British occupiers etc etc?  Well for a start, (and not to keep beating a dead horse, but damn the horse is still asking for it so out comes my beating stick) he's a NORTHERN Irish writer, as in he comes from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not the entirely seperate country of Ireland.  Secondly coming from Northern Ireland and as a staunch atheist he has his own perspective on The Troubles which seems to match mine. That being, no one involved in the armed part of the struggle was innocent.  Catholic terrorists killed Protestants and placed bombs aimed at civilian targets both in NI and mainland Britain.  Protestants killed Catholics and also bombed civilians, though obviously didn't target the UK mainland.  And the British military (as depicted here) carried out secret executions and invented many of those fun "enhanced interrogation" techniques the US Army seems to like using on Muslims now.  There were no "good guys", only bad guys of varying degrees.  Hundreds upon hundreds were killed and the road to peace was a long and bloody one.  But compromise and forgiveness won out in the end and while things aren't perfect over there and there are still sectarian rivalries in play, at least people aren't dying in huge numbers anymore. *gets off soapbox*

Anyway, back to the comic.  It's 1994 and Kev's S.A.S team is being sent on a mission to take out four targets, two Republicans, two Loyalists, taking out those implacably opposed to peace.  Their involvement must never be discovered, and they formulate a plan to take out all four quickly in one night.
Taking out a target.
They split into two teams of two, Kev and Tiny take out the first target and stuff him in the boot of their car, the other two take out the next and stuff him in the boot of their car.  Unfortunately they run into a problem with the last two, a Republican and Loyalist.  They are both in the same room in a house full of I.R.A members.  They are tied up and being tortured.  Kev's team burst in and kill all the I.R.A including the target one. 

They then question the tied up Loyalist who admits that he and the I.R.A member were in business together selling hardcore pornography videos.  The I.R.A had found out and was trying to beat the location of their money out of them.  Then more I.R.A members converge on the house and Kev's squad head upstairs leaving the tied up Loyalist behind.  He is dragged outside and his head squished with a large rock.
A firey escape.
Kev's squad signal for back-up but nothing happens.  So they take the gas canister out of a gas fire and throw it downstairs and ignite it so the house catches fire.  They then escape the burning building via the rooftop skylight and the I.R.A are left none the wiser.  Back at base their commander congratulates them, and when asked says he ordered no response to their call for back-up in case it blew the whole operation.  The team share a drink and Kev says to Tiny:

Kev: "You never say much do you Tiny?"

Tiny: "Maybe you just don't listen, Kev."

We return to the present with Kev checking out the M.I.5 file he was told about by The Midnighter and his eyes widen in shock, "Jesus fuck."

Later Kev infiltrates a secret intelligence facility and finds a room full of retarded "superheroes".  He pulls a gun on one of the scientists and tells her to take him to The Midnighter now.  As they walk he gets her to tell him that they have been trying to create superhumans but the whole programme has been something of a failure so far.  He is then reunited with The Midnighter, who has been stripped and shackled to a table and jammed full of wires.
Crucified on the altar of science.
Kev tells the scientist to unhook him and get his clothes.  Once dressed The Midnighter says he wasn't sure Kev would come for him.

Kev: "Yeah well I read that file you told me about, didn't I?  I might be a cunt, but there's no way I  was sitting still for that sort of shit."

(Cunt Count: 13) The Midnighter is still injured and gets into a wheelchair.  He says they can't leave yet, there are kids that are also being experimented on.  The Midnighter wants them rescued too.  Then The Midnighter is shot through the hand by Mick who suddenly appears saying a poof shouldn't allowed near kids.  Kev asks how he can support what is going on and tells him what he found in the file.

Nine years ago Apollo and Midnighter heard of an "operation by a bloke called Bendix who was a right fucking cunt" (Cunt Count: 14).  Bendix was in the UK and experimenting on kids trying to turn them into superhumans.  M.I.5 also showed up the same night Apollo and Midnighter went to rescue the kids, although Bendix escaped.  They were led by Kev's female boss.  She promised Apollo and The Midnighter the kids would be looked after, but later institgated her own operation looking into creating superhumans and had a load of kids from a state run orphanage transferred into M.I.5 custody.
Apollo and The Midnighter rescuing the first lot of kids.
The Midnighter says he never trusted her, and thought she was a "sneaky little cunt" (Cunt Count: 16). She put a virus in the Carrier's computer system and triggered it a few days ago, disabling them and taking out his bio-implants too which is why he hasn't been able to heal.  They needed him because they want biological matter from a real superhuman.

Mick is unmoved by the story, not even by the exploitation of kids.  He sneers that Tiny was a "pathetic cunt" (Cunt Count: 18) who couldn't hack the job.  In a rage Kev attacks Mick and they fight which ends with Kev beating Mick to death while screaming "fucking, fucking cunt!" (Cunt Count: 20) at him.

Then his boss appears and tells him the place is surrounded and Kev can get himself out of trouble if he shoots the Midnighter dead as they can still gather the material they need from his corpse.  But The Midnighter is surrounded by the kids, who form a protective wall round him.  Kev's boss tells him to kill them too, and Kev, remembering the qualms his friend had spoken of before,  shoots her through the head.

Kev: "Christ all-bloody mighty.  What have I fucking done?"
Boss meet bullet.
The Midnighter and Kev start discussing how to get out of this mess.  Kev has an idea and lets out all the mentally challenged superhumans who go shambling out to face the soldiers outside.  They refuse orders to shoot them and Kev, The Midnighter and the kids manage to sneak into a van while the soldiers are distracted and escape.

Kev: "I hereby declare Operation Poof Rescue a success..."

Realising The Midnighter is gay, the kids freak out chanting "poofter, poofter" and saying he'll have their bums.  They accuse Kev of being gay as well. "Queerbash him, children.  Then I can die happy" says The Midnighter.  They then leave the kids in the van outside a childrens home.
Hee hee!
Now in a car, The Midnighter says that in seventy-two hours the Carrier's failsafe kicks in.  Trouble is he needs to be aboard to order the virus eliminated.  He also tells Kev he allowed himself to be captured because hiding in a cave for three days he would have died of blood loss.  They use a phone to teleport aboard the Carrier and the goblin immediately attacks, but The Midnighter yells "System Purge!"  And the goblin turns into a naked Froggett as the hostile program is dealt with.

Froggett admits he jumped at the chance to beat up a group of superheroes, he used the Carrier's technology to create an illusionary construct to neutralise The Auhority and/or flush them down to Earth.  Kev asks if they have a room and a baseball bat with a spike in it and takes Froggett off for a beating.  Then drags him to an airlock where he and The Midnighter press the eject button together and Froggett explodes in the vacuum.
A battle forged friendship.
Later the Midnighter asks what Kev is going to do now he's on the run.  Kev doesn't really know, and the Midnighter hands him a box with something in it to help him fly under the radar.  Kev leaves, and a recovered Apollo queries The Midnighter about why he let him go after Kev's previous homophobia had provoked him so much.  But The Midnighter says:

Midnighter: "There are billions down there and they'll take a long time to change their ways.  Most never will.  Something to think about next time we set out to change the world."

Back down on earth, Kev is drinking in a pub and decides to open the box The Midnighter gave him.  Inside is a comedy pair of glasses with a nose and mustache attached.  He laughs and puts it on, agreeing with a strangers comment that it makes him look like an "arsehole".  The end.
A cunning disguise.
This miniseries is a lot of fun.  It's barely an Authority comic, Ennis is much more interested in Kev's misadventures.  His journey from ignorant homophobe to a more enlightened person is quite sweet, especially when he confirms The Midnighter's belief in him by rescuing him despite the danger he places his own life in, and indeed sacrifices his career to do the right thing.  The chapter on The Troubles feels like a statement Ennis has been wanting to make about them for a while now and Kev proved to be the best person through who's eyes to see it. Ennis also proves his mastery of writing authentic and naturalistic dialogue and thumbs up for using the word "cunt" so many times.  Kev had one more adventure after this one, then the Wildstorm universe was merged with the main DC one for the launch of the New 52 and Kev hasn't been heard of since, though I like to think he still exists, happily retired, somewhere on the Prime Earth.  I may be returning to Kev at a later date when I can track down the volumes before and after this one, but for now I found this refreshingly irreverant and downright hilarious in places with the fantastic art by Carlos Ezquerra being the icing on the cake.


  1. ok wow, thats a lot of c-words! i really like the Authority, especially the Midnighter and i am reading his new dc series now. I didn't know about these kev stories though, i'll hvae to track them down now :)

  2. I've heard good things about the current Midnighter series, so I shall definitely pick up the first TPB when it comes out. Wish they hadn't split him and Apollo up though, someone at DC hates characters being in long term relationships.

  3. Apparently DC have a policy against married characters, hence Apollo/Midnighter, Lois/Clark, Batwoman/Maggie... total drag if you ask me. Load of bobbins.

    I've kissed more blokes than you have :-D

    I looked at that art and said, "That looks like Carlos Ezquerra," and then I checked the credits, and blow me down if it WASN'T Carlos! But it doesn't look like his 2000 AD stuff with the thick interrupted black outlines :-(

    For me, a lot of the time my prejudice is letting other people think for me because I think they must know better than me.

    "Then a strange goblin like creature appears, says "I'm a vagina!!!" and hits Apollo in the face with a cream pie which stays stuck and disables him." I'm sorry, did I just hallucinate reading this? Damn, that's some good wine.

    Why is Ennis' work always full of horrible, distressing things like suicide? I think it distresses the reader more than it distresses him. It doesn't feel right.

    ...yeah, that's nowhere near as good as Carlos Ezquerra's normal work.

    If you use the c-word that often it loses its meaning and just becomes a random boo-word.

    "not to keep beating a dead horse, but damn the horse is still asking for it so out comes my beating stick" I love you :-D

    I like the way the ceiling light over the target's head makes him look like he has a halo. Very ironic (or not ironic, as fanatics are doing 'God's work'). Well done, Carlos Ezquerra.

    I don't think that children are naturally homophobic.

    I say, this argument that goes "we can't rehabilitate the extremists" is the same argument that Donald Trump and George W. Bush use.

    I think I prefer Doctor Who and Strontium Dog.

  4. I don't think it's just DC with a policy against married characters, lets not forget Marvel had Peter Parker sell his marriage to the Devil as it's most infamous expression of relationship-phobia!

    Funny I thought this art did look very Ezquerra, mainly due to the faces which are a dead giveaway, but you're right he's gone for a finer-lined approach than is normal for him, but I like it.

    You know actually writing out the specifics of the plot made me realise just how silly it is, but I quite like Ennis when he's in lunatic mode, he does it well. I do think he likes to confront the darker aspects of life as well, and I think maybe growing up in Northern Ireland during the worst decade of the Troubles probably affected him in a way that leaks out into his work. That said weirdly he's written a childrens book which is very sweet and uplifting so he's not totally about the grim of life.

    I always have my beating stick to hand when it comes to Garth Ennis's nationality and Alan Moore's rape fetish :D

    My sister who works with troubled kids says that kids in general do tend to be more homophobic and prejudiced in general, but once they hit their mid-teens they tend to "grow out" of it once they have a proper understanding of what the issues are and are more able to resist peer-pressure.

    I think The Midnighter is being a realist at the end. At this point in The Authority's history they were trying to effect changes on Earth by toppling extremist governments and forcing change via might makes right. I think maybe Ennis is being critical of this approach and saying it's better to change people via positive influence than by violent means.