It wasn’t until I read the afterword that I truly respected and loved this issue. That’s because writer Kurt Busiek explains why he wrote this story, the inspirations, and also how it connects to a Krypto Superman story. This is a cat-centric done in one issue that’s pretty clever.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Rick Leonardi
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
A tale of murder, mystery…and a cat. Starring Nightingale, Sunhawk…and their cat. Did we mention the cat? The cat’s the lead character.
Why does this book matter?
Aside from it being one of the most unique, fully fleshed out universes, Astro City is also a must read if you love superheroes. Busiek has always made this a love letter to another era of hero and American culture, which makes it hearken to another time, but also feel unique in its own way.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Just a regular cat. Yep!
Cats do not listen, follow the rules, or even care what we think, which certainly creates a different type of hero if you throw a cape on a cat. That’s the root of what makes this issue so much fun and never does Busiek betray the nature of a cat. Opening with Sunshrike and Nightingale, Busiek introduces us to a heroic duo who just took in a cat. The cat is about as you’d expect from a curious kitty, but soon we learn where they found it and how it changed mysteriously. The flashback offers a fun fight sequence between them and Stove-Pipe Johnny (how can you not love these weird villains?) and an origin of our cat hero. Along the way the cat butts heads with a dog hero, has a bird-like villain pop in, and wraps up with the curious case that leaves our heroic duo scratching their head.
The art by Rick Leonardi (with inks by Ande Parks) works quite well with the issue, especially when there’s no dialogue. Leonardi makes the quiet scenes with the cat fun and interesting due to well designed layouts and solid cat expressions. The cat can’t talk by any means–it’s really just an average cat–but Leonardi puts life into the cat that adds a layer to the character development. However insane an idea of a rocket dog is, Leonardi sells that concept well too, with some cosmic like fire bursting from the dog’s back end. Sunshrike and Nightingale look sharp too with a character design that looks legit. Part of the allure of this series is how artists draw the characters in a realistic and believable way and Leonardi continues that trend.
A hero is born.
It can’t be perfect can it?
My only gripe is a scene where our cat hero and Rocket Dog make amends. What exactly is the cat giving the dog in this scene and where did it come from? A random moment in an otherwise great issue.
Is It Good?
Busiek does it again by offering a different kind of hero story with an improbable heroic animal. If you love cats, enjoy fun done in one issues, or just like endearing tales give this a look.