Even superhumans aren’t always immune to the ravages of age, but what would you be willing to sacrifice to keep your edge? Your Major Spoilers review of Astro City #19 awaits!
ASTRO CITY #19
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: John G. Roshell and Albert Deschesne of Comicraft
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Astro City: Crackerjack is one of the oldest heroes in Astro City (both in and out of universe, as he was part of the original Astro City universe back in 1995), and along with his ladyfriend Quarrel, has been working without powers or a net to capture the petty criminals of the A.C. for over 30 years. That has taken more than a little toll on their all-too-human bodies, leaving them searching for options to offset the ravages of time…
THE BEST PART OF ESCHEWING “COMIC TIME”
One of the lovely things about Astro City is that it takes place, more or less, in “real-time”, with Samaritan arriving in 1986, and having been with the Honor Guard for thirty years at this point. While there are some essentially immortal/unchanging characters, there are also a great many heroes who have passed on and stayed passed, and no one is immune from the ravages of time. In a standard comic-book universe, that would be a hook for the story, but this issue of Astro City is about much more than Quarrel feeling her age after 30 years as an unpowered super-duper. She relates that second chapter of her origin this issue, explaining how she came to the city, joined the Honor Guard, and how she met and became entwined in the life of the elusive Crackerjack. It’s a strong story, told in first person, and her narration is as unvarnished as you would expect from a woman who grew up in the backwoods, then moved to the city. Perhaps the best parts of the issue are her ruminations on her relationship, wondering whether others are right when they name her paramour a shallow jerk, or whether there’s something inside his star-spangled tights after all.
AN UNLIKELY COUPLE
Quarrel’s story also fills in bits of time that we hadn’t seen much of (for most of the last fifteen years, we’ve been experiencing the past of Astro City with the Dark Age miniseries and such), and Brent Anderson’s art is truly wonderful in showing Quarrel’s aging throughout the series. We even get to see a couple of familiar faces in this issue, and a subplot wherein Quarrel is working on getting additional cybernetic enhancements while CJ seemingly looks for a shortcut to youthfulness. (As with everything about Crackerjack, though, there seems to be more going on under the rough exterior, though, which leads me to think we’re missing an important bit of story.) As the issue ends, there’s a cliffhanger of an emotional nature rather than a highly action-oriented one, but I’m still very interested in finding out what happens next…
THE BOTTOM LINE: A UNIQUE ONE, EVEN FOR A.C.
When it comes down to it, there are literally hundreds of superhero titles available every month, but Astro City provides more than just the latest crossover schmageggi or fistfight (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those.) The story this issue gives us measured bits of progression, but most of the focus is on the woman inside the armored Quarrel suit, her life, her family, her loves and her drive, and it’s a hell of a good read. Astro City #19 shows what you can do when you realize there’s more to character than dead parents and a unique suit color, providing excellent story, excellent art and once again hitting the mark for 4.5 out of 5 stars overall