Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Eric Anderson
Published by DC/Vertigo Comics
While the thing that sets Astro City apart from other superhero books is its focus on telling the stories of who would otherwise be minor or practically non-existent characters in other comics, once in a while the series indulges itself and shifts its focus for an issue or two. These dalliances are usually used to shed more light on the big, shiny superheroes that are more often used as background characters for the series, the vast majority of whom are still surprisingly mysterious given that the series has been running for over 70 issues.
Issue 7, which hit stands this week, stars Winged Victory, the unabashed Wonder Woman of the Astro City universe, though she looks more like Katherine Hepburn mugged Xena and Hawkwoman. The issue, the first in a four-part story, both deconstructs WV’s origin, and sees her slandered by her foes, implicating all her battles with them are staged, and offers an overall introduction to Winged Victory’s side of the the Astro City universe, which till now had only been referred to rather than shown.
The opening pages also confirm something that was set up all the way back in issue six of the original series: That Winged Victory and fellow Astro City heavy-hitter Samaritan are a couple, which we learn when the book opens on a scene of them flying around naked at night in what must be the superhero equivalent of skinny-dipping. The scene does have a nice visual resonance with the opening scene of the very first “Astro City” issue, but this isn’t the first time superheroes in love have flown around at night having what can only be called “strato-coitus”, but it remains honestly a very silly idea. Not that anything else in “Astro City” is normal, by any stretch.
The issue is primarily set-up, both introducing us to Winged Victory’s women’s shelter and the other seemingly magical characters who staff it, as well as finally giving her an origin, revealing her to be a battered woman who became the embodiment of all female empowerment by a council of the spirits of strong women. As origins go, it’s about as vague and ill-defined as the origins of many magically-empowered superheroes, and hopefully future issues will further flesh things out.
The actual story feels like something that’s been seen in the pages of Astro City before, another story based around the shaky trust between the normal citizens of the Astro City universe and the heroes. Apparently, Winged Victory’s vaguely cultish women’s shelters and female-empowerment goals still cause her to be one of the heroes regarded with more suspicion than others, though at this point it feels like that plot point seems less credible. One would think that after all the times WV has saved the Earth and stood beside Honor Guard and other well-regarded heroes would cause people to wait a little while before breaking out the picket signs and throwing rocks at her, and this story might have benefited from being set earlier in the timeline, when she was still a new hero and this massive, sudden shift in her public standing would have made more sense, but this is ultimately a minor quibble.
If the issue has any real problem it’s that, like many recent Astro City issues, it’s trying to spin too many plates, acting as both an info-dump for a character we’ve spent far too long knowing sweet bugger-all about and setting up a story. But things are handled here far better than in certain previous issues, that attempted both a complete story and a boatload of exposition in the span of a single issue, and with most of the “here’s what you need to know” seemingly out of the way, the next installment of this story will hopefully have more breathing room.