Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 06.04.2013 – Astro City #1

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

526
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 9.5%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Anderson
Cover by Alex Ross

Size: 40 pages
Price: 3.99

There’s a quote from Neil Gaiman on the cover of Astro City #1 that says

Astro City is art, and it is good art. It creates something—a place, perhaps, or a medium, or just a tone of voice—in which good stories are told.

He’s right, of course, which is no great surprise because he’s Neil Gaiman and he’s usually right about things related to stories.

There’s a wonderful magic to Astro City that has existed since it’s incredible first issue that was published by Image Comics in 1995. (This issue, also Astro City #1, is actually issue 60 if you add all the issues up.) Writer Kurt Busiek and artists Brent Anderson and Alex Ross seemed to have tapped into some kind of pure storytelling vein with this series, and it’s a vein that is deep and full of riches.

More than the fictional Marvel Universe, more than the fictional DC Universe, more than just about any fictional comic book world I can think of, the fictional Astro City—and by extension, the book itself—has a very specific feeling. It’s very difficult for me to quantify this feeling, and I apologize in advance if this review comes off like I am writing it while indulging in illegal substances, but reading Astro City has such a strong sense of identity that you could take almost any random panel from any random issue and immediately know where you were. It’s rare that a comic book has such a strong sense of identity, especially a superhero comic book, but that’s what you get when you have a comic book that has been guided by the same three people over the course of 18 years.

A couple of years ago I didn’t eat meat for two months after a member of my family, who really should have known better, declared I would never be able to give up meat even for a month. At the end of my self-imposed fast my family went to a fancy old-school steak house in Manhattan to celebrate my brother’s birthday. That first bite of steak was, frankly, amazing. Biting into that expertly prepared piece of meat evoked, at the same time, reactions both exciting and familiar. It had been long enough since I’d last eaten meat that the taste explosion in my mouth initially caught me off-guard with its wonderful and surprising potentency. But as soon as that initial surprise passed I found myself wrapped in a warm embrace caused by the familiarity of something that I loved.

That’s very similar to how I felt about Astro City #1.

After the two page introductory scene with The Broken Man, we are thrown into the midst of the an action sequence as American Chibi (who is an amazing character that I love for all the reasons I find her annoying) stops a bunch of heavily-armed and highly-teched thieves. As soon as the sequence ended I let out an audible sigh. I was back in Astro City and everything felt good again.

The selection of Astro City #1 as the Pick of the Week isn’t so much about the story, which is fine and good—a mysterious giant doorway appears floating over the river outside downtown Astro City bringing together characters both old and new to try to figure out just what the heck is going on—it’s about the world building and the character work and the indefinable Astro City-ness that makes this book so wonderful.

When I was younger I did not appreciate Brent Anderson’s art as much as I do now. He’s a gifted artist who doesn’t rely on flash and innovation to serve the story, rather he uses good old-fashioned storytelling. There had been some worry that after 15 years his skills had begun to diminish, and some concern that there had been some rough panels and pages in the previous Astro City miniseries. I’m happy to report that Anderson is on top of his game here. Astro City #1 is the best I’ve seen this series look in a while and I couldn’t be happier. Anderson has tons of range and it’s on full display in this issue. From the cartoonish little blonde American Chibi to the majestic Superman analog Samaritan to the Kirby-esquely adorned Telseth to the middle-aged and jowly but still handsome Ben Pullam, Anderson can draw it all and with conviction. Anderson is asked to do a lot in this issue and his stellar work shines and is as responsible as anything else for creating that indefinable Astro City feeling.

One of the strongest things about Astro City has always been the juxtaposition of the miraculous and the mundane. Astro City is a city with a lot of super powered beings living in it doing lots of super powered things, but it has also been a place for normal people trying to live their everyday lives in the midst of the alien invasions, cosmic battles, and giant mysterious floating doors. The stories about the regular people living their lives have been just as compelling as those of the superheroes and that fact that both groups have been focused on has really lead to the strong sense of identity in the fictional city and the real comic book. In this instance the focus is on regular guy Ben Pullam as much as it is on American Chibi.

Long time readers will remember Ben Pullam from another Astro City #1 many years ago who we met when he first moved to town. But new readers will come to know him just as well because Busiek does an expert job of catering to readers both new and old. Everything you need to know to enjoy this story told on these pages and you won’t be left thinking that you’re missing out because you haven’t been along for the ride since 1995. Astro City has been excellent in that regard for the entire run of the series. You can have read every issue and appreciate the depth of the history that has been put into the entire series, but at the same time just about every story arc has been constructed in such a way as to be extremely new reader friendly. Busiek has weaved a wonderful story tapestry over these last 60 issues but unlike most other superhero comic books, Astro City’s stories are not dependent on its history, they are merely (and wonderfully) enhanced buy it.

Conor Kilpatrick
Why am I suddenly really hungry?
conor@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. I’ve never read any Astro City but was thinking about picking this up. I hate being this person, but is this a “good jumping-on point?” I have no prior knoweledge of this series.

    • “Everything you need to know to enjoy this story told on these pages and you won’t be left thinking that you’re missing out because you haven’t been along for the ride since 1995. Astro City has been excellent in that regard for the entire run of the series. You can have read every issue and appreciate the depth of the history that has been put into the entire series, but at the same time just about every story arc has been constructed in such a way as to be extremely new reader friendly. “

    • Moral of the story kids, don’t skim the articles.

    • @mathiasriffman – As a first-time reader of Astro City myself, I can, without any qualms, recommend this to any comic book reader!

      This was a great comic book experience and a welcome change of pace!

  2. Man, I want a steak SO BAD right now.

  3. Man I really should have gotten this. I loved the first trade when I got it at NYCC last year and this sounded like a great jumping on point. Will have to considering putting this in my bin next week.

    My POTW was DIAL H #13. A clever concept by Mieville that was actually executed quite well by Ponticelli and Green.

  4. This was my favorite as well. feels like snuggling up in a warm bath robe of yours; familiar, comfortable, warm….just feels right.

  5. Excellent review Conor. I’m one of those people that has never read Astro City comics (see the comments section for this issue) and was hesitant to pick this up today – but I got it. I read it. I loved it.

    I’m in. =)

  6. I had some fantastic books in my pull this week. But really? There wasn’t any other option than Astro City.

  7. I’ve read some of the older stuff, all from the library. I wish there was an omnibus or series of nice hardcovers for it.

  8. I’m of the kind that is mental enough to need to read everything from the beginning. I too, wish for a future omnibus of some kind! This series look awesome and reading 60 issues ain’t that bad. Decisions, decisions…

  9. OK, Conor. You’ve convinced me to pick this up. 🙂

  10. I bet that first “after two months without steak” poop was not pleasant.

    Well, SOMEBODY had to say it!

    On the actual topic, I plan to read this tonight. It’s got some stiff competition for my POTW selection, due to excellent issues of “East Of West” and “Bedlam” which were both fantastic IMHO. But if any book has the potential to surpass those, it’s “Astro City.” We’ll see!

  11. I only comment occasionally on the site, but Astro City #1 has inspired me to actually log in. I’m one of those folks who read Astro CIty from the get go. This issue was brilliant. It maintained the feel of the original series and neither creator has missed a beat.

    This is one of the few books that could double or even triple ship each month and I would still want more. Is this my new favorite comic or did my old favorite comic wake up from a nap? Who cares. Welcome back. Welcome back. Welcome back.

  12. I’ve never read any Astro City before, but this was a great comic. My POTW was East of West #3 followed closely by Astro City #1 and Green Arrow #21.

  13. This issue was my first exposure to Astro City. The book was surprisingly user-friendly, and I dug the 4th wall breaking. The issue was a good set-up book, and I’m curious to see where this goes. Having no familiarity with this world or these characters, I have no clue what might be waiting around the corner, and it’s a good feeling. Some of the costume designs are going to take some getting used to, though.

  14. My first exposure to Astro City. Picked it up due to the recommendations on this site. Liked it, didn’t love it.