Or – “It’s Always Hard To Watch Your Little Girl Grow Up…”


The early issues of Astro City hold a very special place in my heart, containing as they do the first glimpses into the world of Astro City, the introductions of dozens of new characters, and an entirely new take on superheroes and comics history.  Among these early stories came the tale of Astra, youngest member of the First Family, and how she broke away from her protective parents and had her first solo adventure.  Now, Astra is ready to graduate college, and it’s astonishing how touching it is to see the character as a young adult…

AC2.jpgPreviously, on Astro City:  Up until World War II, Romeyn Falls was just another city.  Due to events still untold, the superhero known as the Astro-Naut gave his life to save the city, leading to it’s being renamed in his honor.  Slowly but surely (and other cliches) the town became home to many of the greatest superhumans extant:  The Honor Guard.  The First Family.  Samaritan.  Jack-In-The-Box.  The mysterious Confessor.  Winged Victory.  Most, if not all, of the greatest heroes of this world have at least a passing connection to Astro City, and we’ve been privy to the lives of many of them, as well as supporting characters like Looney Leo, the Crimson Cougar, and El Hombre.  The main focus of all this capeyness isn’t just the fighty-fighty, though, as we are also allowed to see the humanity at the core of even the least human of the heroes, such as living fashion doll Beautie.  Recently, Astro City’s issues have been set in the past, working our way forward in time as we finally explain the events that led to the loss of the Silver Agent, focusing on Charles and Royal Williams.  With this issue, we return to a contemporary setting, as well as to Astro City proper, as we turn our eye once again to Astra Furst, no longer a little girl, and no longer the youngest member of the First Family…

I love the cover of this issue, by the way, decked out like an issue of Cosmo or Vogue, loaded with copy as if you were perusing checkstand magazines while the old lady in front of you pays in pennies.  The first image of the actual story is a VERY grown up Astra dancing with her friends at a trendy nightclub, cavorting about and giving gawd and everyone a good look at her underwear.  Astra and her pals party it up until her boyfriend points out a floating camera (sent by a tabloid trying to get an exclusive.)  Astra blasts it with her powers and slips away with her boyfriend into the night.  They take a quiet walk (zapping another couple of cameras as they go) and she explains the plight of being a celebrity:  nobody knows or wants YOU, they just want your reputation, your name.  He tells her she’ll be wonderful at whatever she does (Awwww…) but before they can kiss, a dozen monsters burst up out of a creekbed at them!  Astra puts her hands on her hips, and scolds “You scared me half to death!”  Heh…  The creatures aren’t here to fight, but rather are envoys from her father’s undersea world, presenting her with a gift: a sceptre that proclaims her officially a Princess of Monstro City and the undersea realms, and places her in the line of succession to the throne.  Her retinue quickly disappears, and the mundane boyfriend tries to make a joke about whether she’s also ruler of Pluto.  “I’ll be made a member of the tribal hierarchy of the Beast-Men…  They’re long-lived, so the adulthood ceremony doesn’t hit til I’m forty-five.”  Double Heh.

They try to return to their quiet conversation, but are interrupted again by a group of young superheroes who want Astra to join their number.  She demurs, for now, while the ever-devoted Matt suddenly gets a huge complex about being “Mr. Normal.”  Astra takes a very sweet moment to remind him that she chose him BECAUSE he wasn’t part of her crazy life to begin with.  The couple runs out of time, and is forced to return to Mount Kirby and the First Family headquarters, where we get a glimpse of the newest members of the family (twins named Sasha and Karl) as well as everyone we already know (Astra’s monstrous draconic father, Rex; her mother, Natalie, with the giant powers;  Uncle Nick, whose energy powers are somewhat like Astra’s;  Grandpa Augustus ((who looks like The Professor)) and great-uncle Julie ((who looks remarkably like comic legend Julius Schwartz))) and Astra ominously tells her family that they’re headed into “The Knot.”  The family watches boyfriend Matt with careful scrutiny (and the scene is deliberately set up for them to enjoy his obvious discomfort, which seems a bit mean) as he and Astra teleport into a ridiculously complex and beautiful Kirby-esque skyscape filled with planets and dots and fooferaw.  “That’s the Gordian Knot,” Astra says, looking into the strange world with a smile.  “It’s where we’re headed tonight.” 

Brent Anderson is on his game this issue, giving Astra a grown-up version of the features established in her previous appearances, and making her seem credible as party-girl, superhero, while maintaining an air of innocence about her at the same time.  The story is fun, especially the contrast of Astra’s extraordinary life with her boyfriend’s increasing disbelief, and the moment where the monsters (led by a dragon who looks remarkably like Fin Fang Foom) burst out of a six-inch deep creek to crown her as their princess.  Kurt Busiek’s Astro City scripts are wonderful to behold, unfolding naturally, with amazing depth and character work throughout.  If I weren’t so in love with this series, I’d be jealous of how amazing the writing is…  It’s a difficult proposition, creating characters and situations that are so engaging that, a decade later, still feel like old friends.  Astro City: Astra Special #1 earns a wonderfully complex 4.5 out of 5 stars, losing points only for the conceit that Astra has become a “hard-partying bad girl,” something that isn’t really conveyed as strongly as I’d have liked in the opening scenes of the issue…  It’s a(nother) cliche, but, if you’re not reading Astro City, you should be.



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.


  1. I actually got the impression from the issue that Astra is NOT a hard partying bad girl, but the media portrays her as such.

  2. I agree with Bean. Perhaps Mr. Peterson wants more Paris Hilton and less Astra?

    Two small thoughts:

    Mr. Peterson is my father. :)

    And I don’t actually WANT more Paris, but I found that the implication was a bit more subtle than I would have liked that her behavior wasn’t what the tabloids made it out to be. Perhaps I’m a blockhead, but I didn’t find the conclusion obvious at the time of reading. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

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