Or – “To Our Eternal Shame…”

Any longtime Astro City fan probably remembers The Silver Agent as a Captain America archetype (at least that’s how I remember him) whose fate was implied to be horrible, and whose statue in Astro City bears the insignia “To Our Eternal Shame.”  The secret of what exactly happened to the Silver Agent has been one of the cornerstone unanswered questions in Astro City history, a question finally answered by the Dark Age miniseries over the last couple of years.  Pulled to the future by a group of aliens inspired by him, Alan Craig is travelling backwards in time to stop a great tragedy, but what happens when he makes that final leap home?

Astro City – Silver Agent #2
Written by KURT BUSIEK
Cover by ALEX ROSS


Previously, on Astro City – The Silver Agent: Years ago, a young man named Alan Craig discovered a strange silver creature in a cave outside of Astro City.  After his exposure to it’s strange energies, he became empowered as the Silver Agent, a two-fisted purveyor of justice to those who would threaten the American way.  The Silver Agent remained active as a superhero until the 1970’s, when he was framed for the murder of a villain known as the Mad Maharajah, and was sent to prison.  During this stay, though, Alan was teleported out of his cell by the Silver Centurions, a futuristic group of aliens who were inspired by his heroism, and served in their ranks for some time.  Eventually, though, Alan knew he had to return home to meet his fate, and began a journey backwards in time, bouncing from era to era of Astro City history on his way back to the 1973 and his date with the electric chair.  During his travels, the Silver Agent kept a journal of his life and times, which would paradoxically inspire those who came back to save him, allowing him to keep a journal of his life and times, which would then paradoxically inspire…  Y’know what?  I don’t have time for an Abbot and Costello routine here, kid, let’s just skip it and get on with the review…

We open with the Silver Agent in action, saving innocents from a disaster at Mount Kirby (the home of Astro City stalwarts The Honor Guard) and watching as a monstrous creature of Earth rips the ENTIRE MOUNTAIN up and threw it into orbit to eventually become the asteroid base of the Silver Centurions.  Continuning to bounce backward, he remembers his first days in the future, meeting the Centurions, and seeing his own memorial for the first time…  We learn the truth of his travels, discovering that his time-bouncing isn’t all about fights, and occasionally the Agent was allowed to rest on his journeys and wonder why HE of all people was the inspiration for all these various worlds and people.  His only real answer comes in the vague sense of “something silver” as he travels.  Not only that, but his journeys are imbuing him with a strange energy, giving him the more Superman-like powers that he showed in his first (chronologically last) appearance in The Dark Age. 

There’s even time for a little family bonding, as he unexpectedly meets his nephew at one of his stops, and gets to find out what becomes of his loved ones.  During their visit, Alan finds out that he doesn’t ever stop and tell his beloved sister the truth (something that he plans to be his last stop on the cross-time tour) and that his fate as legendary martyr has made his a household name.  Timesliding continues, we see him making all the various stops we’ve already seen in the past of the future of the past, and Alan ends up meeting his nephew again, discovering the truth about his sister, defeating the Incarnate, and returning to jail.  The Silver Agent returns to his prison cell and consents to go to his death for a crime that he didn’t commit.  At the moment that the electric chair is turned on, he releases all of his stored silver energy, releasing his powers into Astro City, forward and backward in time, and maybe even becoming part of the reason that so many heroes stay there.  As we fade to white, we find that Alan has somehow transformed himself in very “2001: A Space Odyssey” fashion, and possibly even see the origin of the creature that gave him his powers…  Possibly.  The final panel of the issue pans in to the base of his memorial, landing squarely on the word “Eternal.”

I really like this issue (and the previous one) for tying together so many overt and hidden references to comics’ Silver Age.  Alan’s origins remind me of Green Lantern, his secret identity of The Flash, his modus operandi of Captain America and Batman…  But more than that, his journey to the future evokes Tom Welling and his super-future friends, and his death after rocketing backwards in time is somewhat reminiscent of Barry Allen’s own fatal journey.  (The main difference, I think, is that in Astro City they appreciate a good ending.)  The Silver Age was more than just Stan and Jack and Julie and Kurt and all the rest of ’em creating the icons that guys like Bendis and Johns can’t get enough of, it was an age of wonder and science and doing the right thing because that’s what good people do, at least if you’re looking at the positive aspects of it all.  This issue reminds me of everything that I love about Astro City, telling a story that’s not just about a superhero or a big ol’ fighty-fighty, but a story about what superheroes represent, why they’re powerful, a story about comics creators and comics history and everything that we really like about this hobby of ours.  If you don’t like the Silver Agent, my friends, then you are nothing more than an alien transvestite robot, and I pity you.  Astro City – Silver Agent #2 is a homerun, and the worst parts of it are better than the majority of comics published this week, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall. 

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Can anybody else remember the precedent for Silver Agent’s time-imbued soopapowers?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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  1. Hafwit
    September 6, 2010 at 3:41 am — Reply

    I finished the story just this morning. Jeeze, this is why I read superhero comics. Absolutely outstanding.

  2. Aldo
    September 6, 2010 at 4:00 am — Reply

    Question for Matthew. I have been meaning to get into astro city for a while since you guys always give it praises. My comic store guy is not really familiar with the series. Which trade would you recommend to buy to get into the series?

    • September 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm — Reply

      Question for Matthew. I have been meaning to get into astro city for a while since you guys always give it praises. My comic store guy is not really familiar with the series. Which trade would you recommend to buy to get into the series?

      Start at the beginning… The original Astro City miniseries has been collected as “Life In The Big City,” I always suggest starting with that one… Due to the episodic nature of the series, pretty much any of the trades is self-contained, but the building blocks of all of it are in there.

  3. arcee
    September 6, 2010 at 5:33 am — Reply

    Outstanding! This is why we read comics. Also, good review.

  4. brainypirate
    September 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm — Reply

    wait, is “transvestite” supposed to be an insult????

    • September 11, 2010 at 8:19 pm — Reply

      wait, is “transvestite” supposed to be an insult????


  5. Aldo
    September 7, 2010 at 12:24 am — Reply

    Cool. thanks for the advice man

  6. Michael D.
    September 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    I agree with brainypirate. Using transvestite as derogatory term is hateful and revolting. So much for the value of “doing the right thing because that’s what good people do.”

    • September 11, 2010 at 8:18 pm — Reply

      I agree with brainypirate. Using transvestite as derogatory term is hateful and revolting. So much for the value of “doing the right thing because that’s what good people do.”

      No malice was meant to aliens, tranvestites or robots… It, like many of the things that I say, is merely a reference to something else, specifically a Bloom County strip from about 25 years ago.

      Two tips:
      First and foremost, I always recommend fully assessing and investigating the intent of a message before categorizing it, whether that category be hate speech, inspiration, or just plain fightin’ words. I appreciate how you could see this remark the way you obviously have, and that’s my fault, but jumping to conclusions isn’t going to make things any clearer. And let’s be honest here, for all you know *I* am a transvestite.

      Second, I am pretty close to immune to shaming, guilting, sarcasm, and various derogatory remarks. I have been married to an angry, angry woman for the better part of two decades, it comes with the territory.

      Apologies, if necessary, and thanks for your input.

      • Damascus
        October 4, 2010 at 6:46 am — Reply

        Another aspect to Matthew that I’ve gathered only from listening to 200+ podcasts is that he’s constantly referencing my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard, who is also a transvestite. I know that’s the same argument as, “It’s okay, I have a friend who’s (insert appropriate word).” But all the same, I’ve never heard any of the guys from this site ever say anything hateful toward anything other than some poor story element or shoddy artwork. And even then, they try to find something redeeming in that as well. I’d say to try not to dig so hard for insults, you’ll always be on the defensive that way. A lot of things read a lot of ways can come across the wrong way to different people. Best idea may just be to give the person the benefit of the doubt, and if you yourself have been offended I’m positive that Matthew, Rodrigo, Stephen or any other contributer would be happy to get an e-mail from you explaining why.

        I only comment, because I recently e-mailed a friend on my Facebook about a comment she posted sounding kind of racist toward black people and she did not take my opinion very well and my only intent was to let her know that some people may read it the same way I did. Apparently nobody else did, I just read it one way and misjudged the intent.

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