Review: Astro City #22
“Astro City #22 is the example for all comic book companies who struggle to bring in new readers due to the packed history of its characters. Busiek and Merino have shown that it’s possible to create a tale that is both friendly to new readers and adds to the enjoyment of fans who have been with a book since its first issue.”
Astro City #22
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Jesus Merino
Release Date: Wed, April 8, 2015
It hit me the other day that writer Kurt Busiek’s Astro City has been around in some form or fashion for 20 years this year. What once started as love letter to the comic books and the storytelling tropes from their four-colored world has evolved into a fully-fleshed out world with characters with rich histories and years of growth. As such, for a reader like myself, jumping back into the Astro City universe can be somewhat daunting after having not kept up with the franchise closely. However, Mr. Busiek is skilled at crafting tales that make even the most casual reader feel at ease and enjoy a story for what it is, without having to know decades worth of narrative history. Case in point: DC Comics/Vertigo‘s Astro City #22.
Duncan Keller, the hero formerly known as Starfighter, has long since retired from derring-do, choosing a life of writing and speaking to fans during book signings. The mystical, otherworldly Lorus from which he derives his powers has long since speaking to him to direct his attention to threats to the cosmos, letting his split his time between Earth and with his alien wife and children on the world of Jarranatha. Duncan feels as though the Lorus is pulling him back into his former life, however, but the wheres and whys are vague. While he ruminates as to whether to leave saving to the universe to a younger set of do-gooders, he reflects on the origins of his powers and the steps during his career as a cosmic protector that led him to his current station.
Prior to reading the issue, I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with Starfighter, who has apparently appeared in other Astro City tales. However, Busiek’s an expert at making a story accessible without having to know anything about a character or even Astro City. Really, taken alone, Astro City #22 could be a vignette apart and separate from the mythos Busiek created, and could be appreciated as a tale of a retired hero and his place in the universe. For those who are intimately familiar with the worlds and heroes of Astro City, though, the story adds a bit to their understanding of Busiek’s creations and hints at stories to come. It’s a testament to Busiek’s ability that he’s made such a story that helps to make any reader enjoy his work.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention to Busiek’s clear nod to cosmic characters of the past, giving a wink to Marvel Comics’ characters Captain Marvel, the Hulk, and Adam Warlock that experienced their heyday in the 1970s and, hopefully, will experience a renaissance due to the boost of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Anyone familiar with Captain Marvel’s cosmic power will see parallels between that and Starfighter’s Lorus. And speaking of Starfighter, I have to say it’s nice to see a retired superhero who’s not embittered by giving up that life. I feel like that trope has been run into the ground in other comic books and I’m glad that Busiek decided to steer away from that low-hanging fruit.
The book spends an equal amount of time on Earth and on Jarranatha, and it’s a testament to Jesus Merino’s art that he’s able to sell both locales as fully-realized entities of and unto themselves. The mix of love and reflection that crawls across Duncan’s face throughout the issue makes the reader believe that he’s a man who’s lived a full life and carries the weight of that life gladly.
Astro City #22 is the example for all comic book companies who struggle to bring in new readers due to the packed history of its characters. Busiek and Merino have shown that it’s possible to create a tale that is both friendly to new readers and adds to the enjoyment of fans who have been with a book since its first issue.