Astro City is a storied and amazing place filled with heroes of all types that are always original. It’s one of the only universes I can think of that still goes on after years of development. I take a look at the new issue that starts a new story arc. Is it good?
Astro City #37 (Vertigo Comics)
So what’s it about? To learn more about this comic check our official Vertigo synopsis and preview here.
Why does this book matter?
Kurt Busiek has fashioned a universe he can call his own and it’s wickedly deep. This issue is proof of that as it tells of heroes from the past that have yet to be revealed. If you’re all into myth, the hero’s journey, or just downright cool original heroes this is a book for you.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
That is one fine page!
This is the type of read that might just make you take up playing an instrument. The Broken Man tells two tales of music based heroes in an Astro City from long ago (before it was even a city!). Each story has a specific time and place (one set in the old west and another in 1905) and through music Busiek reveals what we all knew already: Music is magic.
The first five pages focus on the Broken Man as he introduces us to the set up and the story within a story mechanism. From there Busiek tells the tale of a silver string guitar that warded off evil (boy do I wish we’d explore this time and place more) for only three pages. The rest is devoted to 1905 where Busiek tells a tale during the ragtime era and then finally some jazz. If you dig history you’ll probably love what Busiek is doing with this story arc as we delve into Astro City’s black culture.
We’re introduced to the hero known as Mister Cakewalk who’s some kind of Robin Hood for the black people of Astro City. Along this journey we learn about the Knights of the Western Lily (a KKK type group) and the fact that white people stole and repurposed black music. A surprisingly fitting story considering the recent uproar about cultural appropriation that involved Justin Timberlake remarking on Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET awards.
The art by Brent Anderson opens with some downright mesmerizing pages. The Broken Man is fascinating to look at in his own right, but wow does the first page pack a wallop of musical notes and shredding on his galactic guitar. Any self respecting musician should want this first page framed on their wall — it’s just that good. From there we see the same character shredding with a rat, a spider and a sock monkey because why not. It reminds us how weird the character is and sets us up for the storytime to come. Again, history buffs will love this issue, as we see 1905 in quite a lot of detail. The costumes, environments, and barroom scenes (because that’s where music lived) look realistic. Mister Cakewalk has an interesting 1900s vibe that’s good too. There’s also a great montage of sorts of Mister Cakewalk enacting justice on oppressive white people splendidly.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The way this issue is organized, you’re going to want the next issue right away. With the Broken Man intro and the brief olden days flashback we don’t get enough of the 1905 time period. When the issue closes I’m not sure what to expect from the character and that may be in part due to never truly understanding what the character is made of. My best guess is we are witnessing the creation of heroes who are made by the music of the people. When whites steal the black people’s music they die? I’m not certain, and if this idea was made a bit stronger the overall narrative would be stronger too.
Is It Good?
This is a fun start to a new story arc that anyone can jump in on. If you’re a fan of music this is must buy reading. History buffs might just love this fictional past and the ideas running around too.