It is the 100th issue extravaganza issue of Astro City–just look in the back of a book for how we got here even though the cover says 41–and we finally learn why the city is named Astro City. Is it good?
Astro City #41 (Vertigo)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
It’s our 100th issue celebration! This 40-page extravaganza introduces Astro City’s most revered hero-the Astro-Naut! Learn his secrets! See him in action! And in the heat of World War II, see the stunning sacrifice that inspired a grateful populace to rename a city after its greatest hero. Also featuring the All-American, the Lamplighter, Zootsuit and the debut of the Gentleman, as our tour through Astro City’s history continues!
Why does this book matter?
Not only do we learn why it’s called Astro City, but Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson reveal an entire heroes story arc in one extra sized issue. They also weave in multiple heroes of from Astro City’s long history, making this a must buy for any fan of the series.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It’s also a must by for folks who just like good storytelling. The issue opens in 1936, the depression era of Astro City before it had that name. It’s called Romeyn Falls, times are tough and local politician Buller is letting the racist epithets fly. The narrator is a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington type (even looks like him in a few panels) named Joe Greenwald who just wants to see the city be as great as it deserves. After the racially charged meeting about mobsters is over Joe runs into a Mr. Virgil who’s a high flying Howard Hughes type minus the germaphobia. He’s literally high flying on a giant jet engine in fact and from there the story builds these two characters in interesting ways.
Busiek and Brent develop not only Virgil’s superhero career, but Joe’s rise in politics as well. There’s a nice symbiosis between the characters as they become more directly influential in Romeyn Falls. This includes some issues with trust when the Nazis are involved later on in the issue. There’s an interesting element about war, and how humanity really isn’t smart enough or morally sound enough when given incredible weapons. This of course links to our creation of the nuclear bomb, only in this story Virgil’s adventures allow him to learn about fantastic technologies. Now called the Astro-Naut, he adds to his abilities but becomes more reclusive. This ties well into his relationship with Joe who becomes less close with the hero. Like two friends who get older and lose contact, Busiek does well to show that emptiness of a past friendship. Ultimately the story wraps up well and the name of Astro City certainly has a meaningful backstory.
Anderson’s art is as measured and strong as always keeping the action interesting (there’s a fine double page layout later in the issue with city destruction slashing across the page) and the many character-filled panels understandable. I particularly liked how he rendered Astro-Naut’s space explorations which have a colorful Kirby feel.
It can’t be perfect can it?
While the pencils jam pack a lot of imagery, Joe’s face at times is too round in comparison to other panels. It’s like he gained 50 pounds in the middle of the scene and then he’s back to being skinny. Some pages feel too heavily inked as they almost drown the colors completely from a page. It’s certainly not a major issue, but it irked me in a few panels.
Tell me he doesn’t look like Mr. Smith from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!
Is It Good?
This is a fine 100th issue that stands to remind us why Astro City serves as a love letter to comics and America. The creators infuse its pages with culture and heroism you should not miss.