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Astro City # 3 Breaks the Series’ Stride with a Lapse in Quality

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Astro City # 3
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Eric Anderson
Published by DC/Vertigo Comics

Like a tumescent, throbbing perfect batting average, a good streak of comics is hard to keep up. Oh sure, it’s easy to put out one awesome comic, and probably to put out two, but to keep that level of quality going by three issues, you’d need some kind of pill, like the kind it takes to stretch out an erection joke long past the point that it’s witty or clever.

With that in mind, it’s not too hard to see why “Astro City” issue 3 is probably the weakest of the new series so far. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just less of a fire hose of awesome writing and art sprayed into your face and more of a garden hose of decent writing and art sprayed into your upper torso.

The story picks up seconds after the ending of the previous issue, with Honor Guard Call Center operator Marella reeling after she discovers that all the indications that a gang of pirates in skull-shaped flying machines was camped out in a mountain village in Ecuador. Probably harder to miss than it seems.

After using Honor Guard’s secret teleporter network to go to the village and help with the relief effort and search for a missing girl, Marella finds herself face to face with the remnants of the Skullcrushers on top of her growing doubts about the job she’s taken.

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While the last issue was a character driven tome of exposition and storytelling, the follow-up feels a tad more action heavy, and a bit less densely packed overall. Last time we got an entire character arc and tons of side information packed into 22 pages. Pages were heavy with text and it felt like entire scenes played out in one or two panels. This time around things linger a bit more, which could be a good thing, but it makes the two-issue story feel a tad lopsided.

And what writing there is feels more sophomoric than what we previously had. The ending in particular feels like something from the end of a GI Joe cartoon, with Cleopatra giving a spiel to Marella about how she’ll make mistakes and how that isn’t the end of the world, which wraps up her problems in a neat package wrapped with the scripts for old after school specials.

That weird art comes back in a big way too, with a lot of heavy lines, awkward angles and inconsistent character models. While some panels are good, other feel oddly blown-up and under-detailed.

Of course, it’s still a good comic, but it’s doubtlessly the weakest of the new series yet, and especially when you compare it to the chocolate covered gold of the last few, it seems pale in comparison, more of a bronze-covered almond paste. Which would be just as inconvenient to eat, if not more so.


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