Astro City # 8 Goes a Tad Off-Topic, to its Detriment

Astro_City_Vol_3_8_TextlessAstro City # 8

Written by Kurt Busiek

Art by Brent Eric Anderson

Published by DC/Vertigo Comics

Since relaunching last year, the now Vertigo-published Astro City has largely been cruising along on a series of single-issue stories, often to its detriment. But Busiek and company have finally decided the time has some to tell a larger story, one that finally gives some attention to critically under-exposed Astro City heavy hitter Winged Victory in the process, and issue two of the story recently hit the shelves.

Picking up immediately after the first part, the second installment primarily concerns itself with the sudden involvement of The Confessor, one of the series’ several recurring Batman analogues, who infiltrates Winged Victory’s base to snoop around and try and uncover the mastermind behind her recent troubles because….he was bored, apparently. Confessor’s reasons for getting involved are never really given, and there isn’t much of any hint given that he’s here for reasons beyond that Busiek just thought it would be fun to have him in another story, and bear in mind that that’s not a complaint, just an observation.

What makes Confessor’s involvement interesting is, that for this chapter, he is allowed to take the controls of the patented Astro City Textbox Machine, meaning we have a direct line to his thoughts and reactions this time around, as opposed to Victory’s. This is both an interesting move and a hindrance, though.

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In the “good” category, this is a good way to shake up the storyline and keep it from getting stuck in a rut by bouncing around from issue to issue to see different characters’ perspectives.

But honestly, it creates more problems, chiefly the fact that once the pre-requisite Samaritan vs Confessor fight is over and everyone is playing nice, the story suddenly remembers that it’s about Winged Victory on a fundamental level and she’s forced to just speak her every thought aloud, because it’s an unwritten rule that only one character may control the mystic force of the Text Boxes per issue. And while hearing someone else’ perspective in Victory’s -own- story is an interesting narrative device, it feels needlessly limiting. Winged Victory is a character who’s had a criminal lack of exposure, especially considering she’s seemingly one of the most important heroes in the Astro City universe, and to have the perspective reigns suddenly torn away just so Busiek can play with Samaritan for half an issue feels like the spotlight’s being stolen.

Even the cover reflects this, with the shackled Winged Victory in the background while Samaritan and Confessor have their little punch-up, which incidentally is completely arbitrary and serves no real purpose in the story besides setting up a couple of possible plot threads for Confessor and providing the kind of action beat that would be necessary in any superhero book -besides- Astro City.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a bad issue, but it feels like Busiek let his attention wander, and what should have been another issue devoted to lending some attention to Winged Victory got somewhat preempted.

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