In last month’s Astro City, the first part in a multi-issue story about the past and future of longtime Astro character Quarrel, Busiek and co. told the story of Quarrel’s early life and the events that set her on the road to heroism. It was, and still is, a fine origin story, but the issue felt mostly like set-up for something more rewarding to come, a story more focused on Quarrel’s present, as she and Crackerjack near what passes for retirement age for crimebusters. A good origin story, even as deftly executed as we saw last month, still feels like old ground for superhero comics, and the prospective of a comic focusing on an aging hero’s choice to finally hang up the tights seems like a much more interesting and less-travelled idea for a story.
Unfortunately, part 2 of the story continues to largely be an origin story for Quarrel, this time focusing on her early days as a hero, induction into Honor Guard, and relationship with Crackerjack. All of it is interesting and well, told, with plenty of great elements, particularly a sequence when a dire injury changes the dynamic of Quarrel and ‘Jack’s relationship. However, the prospect of what the story could be, a focus on the modern Quarrel we only see at the beginning and end of the issues in the storyline, looms over the proceedings. Look at classic Astro City yarns like The Tarnished Angel. Of course Steeljack’s origin and past was essential in fully appreciating his character and motivation throughout the storyline, but it felt more like set dressing, a quick background to get us up to speed, not the meat of the story itself. Quarrel’s origin, as good as it is, dominates the story, with the far more interesting story of her present situation still sitting on the bench waiting to get in to the game.
It could very well turn out that the extended look at Quarrel’s backstory will be essential for what comes later, that the story of Quarrel -now- cannot be told without a detailed look at Quarrel -then-. Be that as it may, this feels like a story that will be told better in collected editions. It still feels like we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for the main show to begin once the set-up is done. Again, it’s a good holding pattern, but the tantalizing glimpses of the much more interesting story waiting in the wings are making the meat of the issue seem dull by comparison.