Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Eric Anderson
Published by DC/Vertigo Comics
The previous issue of Astro City, as you’ll recall, was something of a misstep, a wavering of attention that came dangerously close to crashing the current storyline into a tree like a cyclist distracted by an attractive jogger. Winged Victory, ostensibly the main character of the current storyline, was seemingly sidelined by a surprise fight between Samaritan and The Confessor, temporarily becoming a background character in her own story.
But thankfully, issue 9 manages to recover from this near-fatal accident, narrowly avoiding the tree and circling back to ask the attractive jogger if they’d like to take in a concert from a trendy local band and a coffee at an intimate bistro afterward. Which…means it’s a good comic, in case you’re wondering.
After easily trouncing the Iron Legion, in as token an action scene as one can imagine, Winged Victory is advised to lay low in her human form by Samaritan and Confessor, but promptly ignores this advice, opting instead to seek out the mysterious voice that’s been calling to her in previous issues. Discovering the source of the voice is a member of the Council of Nike, the secret group of powerful women who gave Vic her powers (and not the ruling body of expensive sneaker production it sounds like) she spends much of the issue hearing the life story of the woman, who spent part of her early life in a Japanese internment camp in WW2 before becoming a socially active business woman and joining the council. Meanwhile, the young man who appeared at Samothrace’s doorstep in previous installments finds himself accidentally teleported to the Iron Legion’s base, no doubt to discover the details of the plot leveled against Vic in the final issue.
It would be very easy to call this issue a dalliance or distraction, similar to the previous one. Not entirely essential to the story, but just a bit of padding to bring it to four issues. While this claim may not be entirely false, it feels more like an organic part of Winged Victory’s storyline than the last issue, mostly by the virtue of actually putting more of its focus on events which directly affect Vic as a character, and not sidelining her so Astro City can have a Batman vs. Superman moment.
Like the last issue, this one also places the mystical power of the text boxes in the hands of character other than Vic herself, actually splitting it between Samaritan and the young man who arrived at Samothrace. It works much better than last time, offering at least a speculation into state of mind, from the perspective of someone close to her rather than a relative stranger. It would still be nice to have more actual insight into Vic’s thoughts, and it does seem questionable that in a story focusing on a strong, empowered feminist character, only one out of four narrator characters is even female. The final issue will most likely return things to Vic’s viewpoint, so at least this story dealing heavily with feminine empowerment will have an actual woman’s perspective (well, a male writing a woman’s perspective) around half the time.
Overall, Astro City issue 9 is a step up from the last installment, putting more focus where it needs to be. The storyline advances enough to keep things interesting, and spaces out important developments with quiet character moments to keep it from feeling rushed. The next issue will wrap up the story, and will probably quicken the pace a considerable amount, and this issue will probably wind up being a pleasant breath in between important events when this storyline is viewed as a whole.