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Astro City # 2 is a Reassuring Return to Form

Astro City # 2 is a Reassuring Return to Form

Astro City2

Astro City # 2
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Eric Anderson
Published by DC/Vertigo Comics

The first issue of  the triumphant return of “Astro City” to comic store shelves, now under the umbrella of DC’s Vertigo imprint, felt like a step in a new direction for the series. “This is a new day” it seemed to say with it’s green 80s haired fourth-wall breaking hijinx “And things are gonna be a little different”.

The second issue, out this week, seems to be singing a different tune, along the lines of “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. If the first issue was meant to be indicative of a new style for “Astro City” now that it’s moved to Vertigo, issue two is a reassurance to the fans that even though things will be a little different, this is still “Astro City”, and everything you loved about the series is still here.

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While the last issue focused on a larger story with far-reaching implications with the superheroic and super powered characters taking the spotlight, issue two gets back to the series’ roots, telling a small, personal story about one of the “little people”, in this case Marella, a newly hired operator at Honor Guard’s emergency contact line. This is another thing that makes the issue feel very much like a return to form for “Astro City”: a look at an aspect of a superhero universe not normally seen, one clearly thought out pretty pragmatically. Of course a major superhero team would have a few hundred people working phones and correlating data to make sure the team is always in the right place at the right time. Once the whole thing is laid out, it makes perfect sense. Well, as much sense as anything can make in a world where a guy fights crime with silly string and spring-boots.

Despite clocking in at the usual 20-something pages, the issue feels like a more fully paced and fleshed out ASTRO2 interior

storyline than most single issues can achieve. Marella actually has a character arc, going from the nervous new girl to a hard worker always trying to catch a “big save”, seeing something most operators would miss and helping Honor Guard stop a major crime, and a few steps after that. “Astro City” has always been a very text-heavy series, focusing less on action and more on storytelling, but it’s still always impressive when Busiek and co manage to tell a story that feels “complete” in the span of one issue. Which isn’t to say the issue doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and promise another issue of Marella’s story, but it honestly could have ended a few pages short and cut out the cliffhanger all together, and still felt like a fantastic one-issue story.

While “Astro City” isn’t the best place to look for high-flying superhero action, the issue does still have some fun scenes of Honor Guard fighting evil in unapologetically anachronistic fashion. Any comic that has a character shouting “No more, Lord Volcanus! Your conquest of the surface world ends here!” without any hint of irony should be given it’s due. The series is still clearly reveling in the kind of larger-than-life superheroic antics and characters that most writers and readers would consider hokey or out of date.

The artwork, by and large, also feels like classic “Astro City”, with plenty of expressiveness and well layed-out compositions, although here and there you’ll get a panel that feels like it was skimped on a bit, and that heavy inking from last issue flares up every now and again.

Together with issue one, this issue feels like the second half of a beautiful one-two punch to the jaw to any shameless naysayers who doubted that “Astro City” had passed its prime. While the first issue brought the series into new territory, the second feels like a return to form, bringing back the old magic without missing a beat.

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