The action begins at the retirement party of The Black Rapier, a familiar face in Astro City who’s decided to hang up his sword. With boyfriend and fellow crimefighter Crackerjack in tow, Quarrel then has a tussle with The Chessmen before recounting her origin as a country girl who finds out her father is in reality the supervillain Quarrel. Quarrel’s (that is, the second Quarrel) origin story takes up around half of the issue, the other half being the requisite action scene and some basic set-up for Quarrel and Crackerjack. While it is a perfectly serviceable origin story, at the end of the day there’s nothing really remarkable or new about the storytelling. It’s just another origin story, one that hits all the beats we expect, and feels like it’s only being told as set-up for what’s to come.
None of which is to say that Astro City # 19 is a bad comic, far from it. But it feels as though we’re only being prepped for the much more interesting comic coming next month, that this is just the entree for a more substantive course that’s on the way, one that isn’t saddled with a workable but only somewhat engaging origin yarn. The look at Quarrel and Crackerjack’s personal lives, their reactions to the changing world of superheroics, all that is interesting stuff, but feels spread too thinly over the issue’s 22 pages. Perhaps if Busiek had condensed the origin half of the book down more, and given more attention to Quarrel’s story in the present, which seems far more interesting, the issue would have fared better. As it is, it’s still a fine comic, but doesn’t satisfy as much as it should.