“This is what I wanted to show you” – Astro City #1 brings us back to the most important city in comics

astro3I never thought I would get to read new Astro City.

Let’s go back to 2009. I hadn’t kept up with any comics outside of mainstream books in a long time, mostly sticking with Batman and the major DC and Marvel events. I was also at one of the lowest points of my life. I was incredibly depressed, drinking to the point of oblivion most days of the week  and helpless to try to find happiness.

I never wanted to make this blog about me or about my life because my experiences aren’t unique and the narrative is less important than who we are and what we take away from the things we experience. It just so happens that Astro City helped to let me take an important, critical look at the things I cared about.

astrocitypanoramaI discovered Astro City in trade at the university library and I devoured the first volume before going onto the rest of the series and collecting as many issues and trades as I could get a hold of before I had the whole series. I went back and explored writer Kurt Busiek’s other works and it got me back into independent, artistic, challenging comic books.

I celebrated the news that Astro City was coming back and holding the first new issue in years in my hands, I felt a wave of excitement, nostalgia and care that comics rarely give me. And of course, opening tbe book brought all of those feelings back. Busiek is simultaneously as challenging, welcoming and whip smart as usual and penciller Brent Anderson leaps back into the sharp, retro design style he nailed in the series first outing.

AstroCity01_zpsd605d2f7Putting new characters such as the paranoid, insane watchdog, The Broken Man, alongside the optimistic powerhouse, American Chibi front and center highlights the inventive spirit the new volume and the return of well loved members of the Honor Guard  and independent characters such as the Confessor makes this world feel as fully realized as ever.

The focus of Astro City has always been on the city’s civilian residents and the way they’re drawn into the super-heroics of the city. Ben Pullman is our guy this time, a seemingly satisfied but ultimately bored programmer who volunteers to be a representative of a whole new world. It’s something of a throwback to the very first issue of the series, where the heroes have to deal with forces beyond their power but that’s not by any means a problem. History is one of the most important parts of a series that succeeds by swimming in the passage of time.

10Busiek is quick to remind us what this series is about, the history of the medium and the way our lives can change and be reflected in the culture we consume. A wonderfully inventive, bleak and cutting final two pages remind readers that much like the heroes, our world can seem irresistibly small when we’re confronted with change. The wonderful thing is that we’re allowed to independently pick up the book, volunteer and choose to be satisfied.

Stray Observations

3083946-gl21Lots of really good books this week. Let’s check out some of the more interesting ones.

  • Jonathan Hickman had two great books this week, East of West #3 and Avengers #13. Both show off his mastery of character specific dialogue. Mao’s honorable but fruitless bluster in the face of Death’s coming attack is a great moment fitting a character we just met and Hyperion’s revelations in Avengers feels like the kind of character moment a lesser author would have handled with less subtlety. Hickman makes both feel masterful.
  • James Robinson’s Earth 2 has weirdly been something of a minor hit for DC and it always surprised me. Earth 2 has felt like a bit of a disservice to the company’s Golden Age characters but the way he played with the Green Lantern mythos is this week’s #13 is really promising.
  • Kierron Gillen’s new issue of Iron Man really showed how to do a retcon well. The revelation about Tony Stark’s past is organic to the character, doesn’t undo his past actions and offers a wealth of storytelling opportunities.
  • Age of Ultron #9 finally had the characters realize what every reader thought of 8 issues ago. I’m curious to see how and if Brian Michael Bendis is going to make all this build up pay off.
  • Bendis is, however, nailing All New X-Men. The way he’s turned Jean Grey into a wild card was such an initially unexpected but perfectly realized characterization and I love seeing how the character deals with recent events like Decimation.
  • Robert Venditti really did a great job on Green Lantern #21, his first issue since Geoff Johns’ departure. I’m not crazy about how young and soft Billy Tan is making Hal Jordan look but I’m super ready to see what these guys can do.
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