Three decades after the inexplicable murder of their parents, two decades after the death of the Silver Agent, a decade after everything went horribly wrong, the Williams brothers continue their downward spiral.  You can ask Frank Castle, folks, being obsessed with revenge really ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Now that it’s morning in America, can Charles and Royal Williams find the man who made them orphans?  And what happens after?

AC1.jpgPreviously, on Astro City – The Dark Age: Lots of people acted weird during the 80’s.  Madonna.  Walter Mondale.  The guy from ‘A Flock of Seagulls.’   But few characters, public or private, had the kind of run that the brothers Williams managed to pull off.  Royal (fresh out of jail) and Charles (fresh out of the hospital) both managed to hook up with secret agencies, Royal with the underground cult called Pyramid, Charles as a minor agent of the government agency called EAGLE.  Both men want to find Aubrey Jason, who killed their parents years ago, and who is now an upper level adept of Pyramid.  After a disastrous raid on the training facility where Royal was undercover, Royal discovered that his bosses knew they had a mole,  his brother knew that they knew, and that nobody seemed to mind that he was putting HIS life in danger, and went off the grid, causing Charles to have to take matters into his own hands.  What no one seems to have figured out is what Pyramid wants with the super-team called the Apollo 11…

I have to start with a mark-out moment:  The Apollo 11 are very cool, reminiscent of the X-Men of the 70’s, with several brilliant character designs, as well as one member who looks remarkably like one of Jeff Smith’s ‘Stupid, Stupid, Rat Creatures.’  We see the 11 in their hidden base, an abandoned missile silo, as well as a bit of their history.  Apparently, the majority of the team is comprised of astronauts who encountered a strange force in space, along with an alien observer who seems to represent an alien overlord.  Of course, their entire interaction is witnessed by Pyramid, who have bugged the heroes’ citadel (the better to stalk them with.)  Apparently, Pyramid’s fascination seems to have something to do with The Incarnate, last seen in the Astro City years ago, around the time of the Silver Agent’s last appearance in 1977.  The cultist in charge starts yelling orders at his pawns, one of whom reveals himself to be Charles Williams, former agent of EAGLE.

Before Charles can fully figure out what goes on here, he is sent into the field to fight members of the 11, seeking out their teammates (whom Pyramid have trapped.)  A quick blast with a strange weapon causes the heroes to revert to human form for a moment, and Charles runs away from the battle only to find that his brother is ALSO undercover within the criminal organization.  With the Apollo 11 in chains, Charles is torn between helping the heroes and finally going after the man who killed his parents, but Royal blows up in his face, reminding him of why they’re even present.  At the same time, outside Astro City, The Silver Agent reappears on his way backwards in time, just in time to combat the menace he’s been sent to protect the world from.  Before the Williams brothers can kill Saqqaran Lord Aubrey Jason, though, Pyramid manages to free the essence of the Incarnate, who turns into a giant mechanical monstrosity and vows to destroy the entire Earth, allowing Jason to escape.  As we fade to black, it seems that all is lost…

It’s good to get Astro City on a monthly basis again, even if I know that next issue is the last one of this arc…  Kurt Busiek manages to tell stories that remind me of classics like the Kree-Skrull War or the Justice League’s battles in the Microverse, while being about more than the super-pants dancing around.  The story of Charles and Royal’s quest for justice has been going on for well over a dozen issues now, and while it’s frustrating to see a near-miss like this, it’s also impressive to note that the characters’ don’t feel like they’ve been spinning their wheels to get here.  The return of the Silver Agent (prophesied in his last appearance) was a thread I had almost forgotten about, but it effortlessly tied into events that have been set up throughout this volume.  Brent Anderson’s art is as quirky as ever, with character designs like Encephalon (a cross between a flying squid and the Metaluna mutant) sharing an unlikely sense of reality and tangibility.  It’s no secret that I’m an Astro City fanboy since day one, and this issue is another good one, unfolding with a sense of urgency and ending badly for everyone.  Astro City: The Dark Age Book III #3 earns an impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s another solid issue in a series of the same.  If you’re not an Astro City fan…  What’s wrong with you???



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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