After last month’s great 100th issue, Astro City is back, but it’s not taking place in the city. No, instead we’re being whisked away to a tropical island, which is a tad odd, but we digress…is it good?

Astro City #42 (Vertigo)

So what’s it about?

This one focuses on Mister Manta and what happened to him after going toe to toe with an Astro City hero. He’s a lot older now, stranded on a deserted island, and attempting to rebuild so that he may one day be the famed villain again!

Why does this book matter?

Writer Kurt Busiek teams up with artist Matthew Clark with a tale that’s done in one. If you’re a fan of character-driven storytelling this series is for you, but if you want a taste of what Busiek can do with characterization and are new to the whole scene this is a good issue to pick up.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Seems like a vacation.

Busiek writes a solid issue anyone can pick up and enjoy. The story starts out simple enough with captions of Mister Manta talking to himself; he’s clearly a clever builder, an inventor even, but with nobody around or nothing to steal he’s devoted all his energy to finding the best combinations to make his glider glide again. Cutting from this to Mister Manta’s exploits as a villain–complete with souped up super costume–shows his villainy was all about fame. The premise of this book is clever, as Busiek postulates on what would happen to a pompous villain type when stranded all alone.

The conclusion of the issue is rather poetic and a fine example of how Busiek is incredibly honest with his storytelling. Ultimately the message could be a few different things, though maybe the best is that we never know what we really want until we have it.

I rather like Clark’s pencils here which suit the water theme of the villain and the locals. It’s somewhat similar to Michael Turner’s Fathom as it’s detailed and a bit elegant. The sinewy body of the now old Mister Manta certainly gives a Castaway vibe, but a lot of detail goes into his self built hut and later some cool tech. There’s also a fantastic double page layout of Manta attempting to rebuild and escape the island. Bubbles are used to break up the panels with fun elements thrown in between like a pipe, coins and a net to name a few elements.

Boss costume.

It can’t be perfect can it?

Near the end of the book there’s a bit of a fight as Manta goes up against some pirates. The art is good, the writing good, but the actual fighting part is strangely off page. You get the sense of the villains and what Manta is up against, but it’s unclear how he even confronts the pirate. It makes the climax a bit of a let down. Given this is more of a character piece than an action one it does not inhibit the story too much.

Is It Good?

Astro City puts you inside the characters’ heads so well you’ll be right there with them throughout the story. This issue is no different. What makes it so unique is how it brings you to conclusions based on the events and thoughts of the character.

Astro City #42 Review
The art is detailed and suits the storyIncredible captions put you inside the protagonists headA few fun montages play up the past and present
A key climactic moment takes place off page leaving you a bit confused and wanting more
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