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Astro City: Local Heroes #5

Posted: Monday, January 5, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent E. Anderson

Publisher: Wildstorm Comics

Plot:
As Vince Oleck continues to create a buzz with the defense he's chosen to adopt in a seemingly unwinnable case, we see that he's not exactly pleased by the idea that it looks like he's actually winning the jury over, as he knows his client is guilty. However, his guilt doesn't catch up with him until after he's won the case, and when his ungrateful client sends a couple of his boys after our hero, we see his life is saved by the Blue Knight, a ruthless vigilante.

Comments:
Normally Kurt Busiek manages to impress me with how well he manages to play with the conventions of the super-hero genre, as this book has made its mark on the industry by giving us a look behind the curtain so to speak. However this time out I found myself unconvinced by the show he's presented, as while it's fun to see how comic book plot conventions would muddy the justice system by adding ideas like evil clones, doppelgangers from Dimension X, and the ever popular return from the dead, the simple fact that I was unconvinced by the case that Kurt Busiek makes. Now perhaps it's due to the simple fact that we have known right from the outset that the person our hero was defending was guilty as sin, as such we know that this is simply a legal strategy, rather than a real study of a case that was directly impacted by comic book plot devices. Now Kurt Busiek attempts to evoke a level of sympathy for out hero by backing him into a corner so that his life and that of his family is threatened should he lose the case, but the simple fact that he's willing to defy the villains after he's won their case for them doesn't exactly endear the character to the readers. The issue also manages to wander a bit off the beaten path by giving the character a telepathic link to a particularly ruthless vigilante, but this link is never really explained so I'm not sure what purpose this plot thread served besides providing an easy out for dealing with the killers that had been sent after out hero.

As for the art, Brent Anderson remains an ever reliable presence on the art side of this book, as I do believe he's been the artist of every issue of Astro City we've received, and as such he's responsible for the visual look of this series. Now I'm not sure how involved Alex Ross is when it comes to the character designs, but I have to say that who ever is responsible for the look of the Blue Knight deserves a pat of the back, as I loved the flaming skull behind the riot gear mask. There's also some visually interesting moments like the double page spread that is used to reflect the darkness that has surrounded our hero. I also rather enjoy the fact that the art has made an active effort to reflect the idea that this story is set in the 1970s as the characters clothing & hairstyles instantly tell readers the era this story is set. The art also does a pretty fair job of capturing the sense of dread during the scene where the killers are closing in on the cabin where our hero and his family are hiding.

Final Word:
One hears of cases all the time where a jury makes a decision that makes one truly question what the heck were they thinking, so it's entirely possible that twelve people would be convinced by case our hero makes. There's also the fact that the element that swings the jury in his direction is the death of the Silver Agent, which is a plot element that has yet to be revealed to the readers, so perhaps when the story of his death is laid out I'll be more inclined to see what the jury saw in our heroes' case. However, the story makes it clear from the outset that the client our hero is defending is guilty, and as such watching him pull this legal trickery to free an unrepentant killer didn't exactly endear me to the character, even if it was to save the lives of his family, especially since he's perfectly willing to endanger their lives after he's won the case. In any event I found it difficult to really identify with our heroes plight, and instead of fleshing out the character Kurt Busiek seemed content to simply tack on a rather ambiguous plot device involving a telepathic link with a Punisher-like vigilante.



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