Ian Clark, who is sort of my comic book Yoda (“Comics. Read you will.”), lent me Astro City ages ago and I just hadn’t got around to reading the two volumes. Hey, I’m a newbie; I have a lot of catching up to do and my paying job gets in the way of everything else for a good part of the week. But in good conscience, I can’t keep the two books much longer, so Astro City is a natural for my comic book discovery of the week beginning with “A”. So I guess it’s not really random at all, but at least I can finally get the books back to Ian.
Hey, I made up the rules; I can bend them. Deal with it.
* * *
There are eight million stories in the Naked City.
I mean, there’s a whole city here and it’s not just a city in name; it’s the kind of city you’d make up if you were a kid and you had lots of time and imagination. It’s got its own map, its own skyline and its own neighborhoods. The city and its inhabitants have a funky but familiar retro feel, that’s oddly comforting. It’s like our own world – just different.
Astro City has a whole roster of superheroes who live among the humans. It’s not like one of those comic book cities that have ONE measly superhero — there is a whole community of them — Samaritan, Silver Agent, Jack-in-the-Box, Winged Victory and more. Superheroes flock to this place like wedding guests to an open bar.
Of course, there are villains, too – The Enelsians, for instance, and my personal favorite, Shirak the Devourer with his legion of shark men who could have looked really silly, but instead pull off that whole half man/half shark thing with absolute perfection via the pen of Brent Anderson.
“Life in the Big City” starts with an introduction to Samaritan — just an average (yet ripped) 9-5 guy who saves the world in between assignments at his magazine fact-checking job. The volume also ends with Samaritan — in an unlikely romance. In between there are several episodes with their own story arcs, including one with a reporter who stumbles on a great story that may or may not make it to the press. Hey, as a journalist myself, I know the feeling: Find a bunch of shark men from another world, see them being fought by superheroes saying fun things like “these oversized sardines need to be put back in the can” and write a killer story – only to have to hand it in to some dumb-ass editor who nitpicks everything looking for a few so-called “facts” that can be verified. Apparently newspapers are the same in every world.
Ian told me Astro City was among his absolute favorites and I can see why. Kurt Busiek’s writing is smart and engrossing, the images are beautiful and the coloring delicious: I could hardly put “Confession” down. Within 24 hours after finishing it I had stopped by my local comic store and bought The third TPB in the series, “Family Album.”
So now I’ll be looking for something that starts with “B.” Any suggestions?