Astro City # 1 Feels both Familiar and Fresh

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Astro City # 1 coverAstro City # 1

Written by Kurt Busiek

Art by Brent Eric Anderson

Published by DC/Vertigo Comics

For the past few years, the absence of Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City”, easily one of the best new superhero properties of the 20th century, has been sorely felt by fans. Since the shutdown of former “Astro City” publisher, Wildstorm, and Busiek taking a break from writing to undergo surgery, loyal readers of the series have been re-reading old volumes till the spines crumble and hoping against hope things could get back on track.

Well, hope no longer ye desperate nerds, because “Astro City” is back, sheltered safely in the loving arms of DC’s Veritgo imprint with Busiek and penciller Brent Eric Anderson returning for a new ongoing series, the first issue of which hit stands last week.

Right from the get-go, things feel distinctly “Vertigo”, with a purple-skinned guy with a bright green 80s haircut breaking the fourth wall to address the reader on the first page. And really, is there anything that says “Vertigo” more than 80s hair and fourth wall-breaking?

As our narrator, who refers to himself as “The Broken Man” re-introduces us to Astro City and its denizens, things start to feel a tad more familiar, with old faces like Samaritan, Winged Victory and The Confessor all making appearances. But we also quickly learn things haven’t stopped advancing in the years we’ve been away. There’s a new heroine called “The American Chibi” (who does feel like a slightly cynical attempt to “get with the kids and their Annie-May”) is on the streets, and smartphones and other modernisms are on full display.

The story proper concerns your basic big imposing door appearing over the city, out of which steps your basic booming-voiced celestial god-entity, who wants to see what humanity’s all about and selects Ben Pullam, your basic minor “average citizen” character who showed up for one issue yonks ago to show him around. All the while, The Broken Man chatters on in purple text boxes about something called “The Ouboir”, which could be anything from a mind-controlling space fungus to a tastefully furnished reading room for all we know. Either way it seems to be a big deal and knowing this series we probably won’t find out about it for a few years. Remember how long it took to find out what happened to the damned Silver Agent? Just sayin, could be a while.

The greater sense of climactic or atleast important events is what makes this new “Astro City” feel, well….new. Up until now, the seriesBroken Man has always preferred to tell small stories in a big world, even when the main characters are people who can bench-press tectonic plates. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Readers hoping to step back into “Astro City” like a well-worn pair of shoes may find themselves chafing a bit, and even missing the old days of introspective narration and thoughtful character studies.

That isn’t to say the issue is bad, far from it. What it is is different. But just different enough to feel like a new page in the story of “Astro City” is being turned and not so different as to alienate old fans. There’s still plenty of the familiar to make the issue a delight for longtime readers, particularly the art by Anderson, which remains unchanged from the old days, although the inking feels a tad heavy here and there.

If you’re already a fan of “Astro City”, odds are you’ve already picked this one up, and probably enjoyed it. While the tone feels slightly different from the Wildstorm/Homage/Image comics days, it’s still ultimately the same series we all loved back in the day, all two years-ish ago, but with the feel of a new angle, and fresh spring in its step, and a purple guy with Bowie hair telling you what to do.






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