It’s a story thirty years in the making for a series only 20 years old. How does that work? Welcome to the world of Kurt Busiek’s mind… Your Major Spoilers review of Astro City #16 awaits!
ASTRO CITY #16
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Letterer: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Colorist: Wendy Broome & Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Astro City: Once known as Romeyn Falls, the town of Astro City is massive patchwork of people and cultures, as well as the home to the most powerful and majestic superheroes in existence. Of course, the first rule of Astro City is that the heroes aren’t necessarily the focal point of the story, as more often the most compelling tales take place in and around their galaxy-spanning adventures…
Just to give fair warning, I love this book even on off months, and this one? It’s not an off-month.
THE LEX LUTHOR ARCHETYPE…
We open with a mysterious new superhero in action, featuring a running radio conversation with someone back at headquarters. Our new hero is clearly trying to live up to the example set by another, whose picture is central to the piece, and seen on the cover. (Vertigo’s comics this month all start their stories on the front cover, essentially giving us another page of story for the same price. I don’t hate that at all.) Flashback time, as we are shown the tale of a young hero named Starbright, and his interactions with young super-villain Simon Says. Writer Kurt Busiek explains that the original impetus for the tale was a script he wrote for DC Comics, one of the earliest professional submissions he ever made, featuring Lex Luthor and Superboy, and readers can clearly find those parallels in the way this story is put together, as Simon agrees to help his nemesis in return for one simple favor. Simons Says turns his genius and underworld knowledge towards helping Starbright fight crime for an entire day, and in return…
…IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT
…Starbright will bring people to Simon’s sixteenth birthday party. It’s a clever Silver Agey twist to the story, but it’s not the last twist to be had in the issue. ‘Bright is a smart guy, and brings Simon all of his old friends, perhaps to remind him of how things used to be. The rest of the issue goes…
…nowhere near where I expected it to go, thanks to the brilliance of Busiek. Brent Anderson is especially on point this month, with every panel featuring Simon Says making him seem incredibly awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin, until the issue’s last reveal about who is under the mask of the new hero, and how she wants to honor the memory of Starbright, who gave his life in the line of duty. It’s a really nice done in one, and it ends with a return appearance by The Broken Man, hinting once again at an overarching arc for the loosely-linked Astro City stories we’ve seen in this volume. This issue ends beautifully, and reminds me of how good it is to have this book back after those dark Astro City-free days.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOTTA LOVE THE A.C.
I admit it, this issue might have had me a little misty a time or two, and the use of Busiek’s old script emphasizes the archetypical nature of the heroes of Astro City, where you can tell a tale that reminds you of Doctor Strange, or Superman, or even (as with last issue) your Grandma while still maintaining cohesive and compelling stories. Astro City #16 hits a dead-solid perfect drive and gives us an ending that’s both poignant, unexpected and lovely, earning another 5 out of 5 stars overall. I basically cannot recommend this book enough, Faithful Spoilerites, and it’s a shame that it’s not the #1 selling title month over month…