Current Reviews


Astro City: Local Heroes #1

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson

Publisher: Homage Comics

The book opens by introducing us to Mr. Donacek, the doorman of the Classic Hotel in Astro City, who we learn has been a resident of the city going on fifteen years, and as such he's become an expert of the city's collection of costumed heroes. We then learn that he's come to believe there are two types of people who visit his city. There are those who find the heroes make them feel small & insignificant, and there are those who are inspired by the heroes to discover the hero within themselves. To this end we see three guests pass by him on their way out to take in the sights of Astro City. One is a woman who is eager to make contact with the Samaritan, but her encounter doesn't go exactly as planned and she leaves the city in disgust. The second is a low level thug who has come to the city looking to make a deal with the criminal element of the city, but his run-in with a pair of the city's heroes has the man leaving the city with his tail between his legs. The third group is a family, who are on hand when the museum is attacked, and they are inspired by the heroic efforts of the city's heroes to perform their own act of heroism. We then see that fifteen years ago Mr. Donacek was also called upon to play the hero, and this moment played a large role in his remaining in the city.

I'm sure Kurt Busiek is breathing a sigh of relief as no longer will he have face the question of when is the next issue of Astro City coming out, and he can now move on to the equally persistent JLA/Avengers questions. It's been two years since the last issue of Astro City which on one hand does build up a tremendous sense of anticipation when it comes to this issue, but for fans of the series it's been a very long wait, and there were times when I just assumed there would never be another issue. Now that the first issue has arrived the question now becomes does the book still possess the magic that made the original issues so enjoyable. In a sense the answer would have to be yes, as there's no other title that manages to tell its story from an outsider looking in perspective, and this gives Astro City a refreshingly unique element. On the other hand this issue does feel a bit like a refresher course at times, that is largely designed to remind older readers of what they might've forgotten, but more importantly introduce newer readers to this world. In the end, this issue is an entertaining return, but at the same time it's far from being the best this title has been as part of its energies are devoted toward rebuilding the foundation.

The star of this issue is a longtime resident of Astro City who has come to embrace the more fantastic element that the heroes provide, and what's more we see this man has become a bit of an expert when it comes to helping others become exposed to this magic. Now there is a degree of implausibility to the idea that all three groups that he addressed in the opening pages would go out and have some fairly major encounters with the various heroes of the city, but since each of these encounters has itself a different angle I'm willing to let this one slide. It also didn't hurt that one woman was actively pursuing a hero, while another was involved in criminal activity with super-villains, both of which pretty much guarantee their respective encounters. The issue does a pretty nice job of conveying that there is a certain appeal to living in a city that is heavily populated by super-powered individuals, and it's doesn't shy away from showing us that there are some drawbacks as well. There's also a couple rather amusing moments to be found in this issue as Crackerjack continues to prove himself to be a woefully incompetent hero, but he hides this fact by maintaining a high profile sense of showmanship. The Samaritan encounter also has some fun robbing the rescue of its sense of grandeur.

While Brent Anderson looks to be inking his own work, pretty much everyone is back on board so the book is back where it was before it began its two year absence. We have the lovely Alex Ross cover who delivers a pretty impressive shot of Astro City's answer to Superman. We then get the interior work by Brent Anderson, whose art is as impressive as it ever was, as he brings pretty much everything one could ever want from a comic artist. His facial expressions are top notch, as the sequence where the people return home from their various super-hero encounters is a great display of his ability to deliver the various emotions, from outright disgust, to sheer delight. There's also the art's ability to deliver the big impact shots, as the one page shot of the Confessor does a wonderful job of conveying the character's ability to look both creepy & heroic. I also love the conflicting images of the scene where the Samaritan makes his bright & shiny rescue, and the rescued woman realizes how undignified she appears. There's also a nice rescue scene by Jack-in-the-Box, and the moment where our lead character performs his heroic act is a great bit of work, as while logic tells one that he has to survive to tell his story, the art still manages to make his emergence from the smoke seem like a surprise.

Final Word:
After a very long wait Astro City is back on the stands, and while this opening issue doesn't really knock it out of the park, it's a fairly enjoyable read, and I expect new readers will get more out of this issue, as a large part of it is devoted to explaining just what Astro City is, as well as offering up pretty much a guided tour of the city's more notable heroes. However, having the main character so far removed from most of the action does rob the material of some of its impact, as the most interesting sections of the issue would have to be the flashback material, where we learn why our lead decided to remain in Astro City. Still, the present day material is interesting in that it touches base with most of the book's main heroes, and it's message about people either loving or hating the city is a pretty solid idea. The final page revelation about why that teenage girl is so important to our main character is also a rather clever finish to the story.

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