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Astro City #2 - Welcome to HumanoGlobal Review

4

Sometimes, it's the non-powered people who have really super lives. This month, we're meeting the team behind the Honor Guard.

The Good

I'm not gonna lie -- I love me some capes -- but sometimes, superheroes can get a little bit boring. Blah blah blah supervillain this, asteroid that, alien whatever, spandex something. What about the other guys? The ones doing stuff behind the scenes? Kurt Busiek gets me; this issue is all about the team on the ground that helps the supers be super.

The Emergency Contact Line shouldn't be that interesting -- after all, it's a call center -- but it's a call center for the Honor Guard, so by nature, it's more fascinating than the place that takes your desktop support calls. Busiek dreams up fantastic analysis and support scenarios for the kind of team that keeps things from going apocalyptic on a superhero organization, and Brent Eric Anderson brings them to glowy, futuristic life. It's neat to see superheroes as the background characters; when done well, this adds so much more depth to a world, and shows that life isn't always just about the capes.

There's also a heightened sense of tension among the team at the Emergency Contact Line; it's a little bit like "Boiler Room" in its competitive nature, even though the tasks are more in line with 9-1-1 or a team of intelligence analysts. Top that off with a corporate culture that emphasizes secrecy (and warns of past mistakes in that area), and you get a high-pressure situation that promises to turn explosive. No capes required for that kind of escalation!

The subtle details -- such as the switch in the ending graphic from Broken Man's highway sign to the Emergency Contact Line's "public works" logo -- are thoughtful and clever, and make the world of ASTRO CITY that much more engaging. The cast is friendly and relatable, and there are great moments that capture how human and normal these people are -- making up white lies to make friends more acceptable to family members, getting a little bit fan-giddy over meeting a famous hero, wanting a sweep of super-powered justice for a domestic violence situation. Watching Marella & co fight to get big wins is familiar (for anyone who's ever been in a hyper-competitive work environment) and disturbing (since those wins are predicated on disastrous situations), and Marella's accidental miss -- right when the team has let their guard down-- is a great way to end the issue.

The Bad

I think I'm going to have to go back and read the first 58 issues of ASTRO CITY (pre-Vertigo) to get a feel of how the world works. It's an interesting place, and I like what I'm seeing, but I can't tell yet if it's supposed to be modern with occasional futuristic touches courtesy of superheroes, futuristic with "retro" elements like cars and ironing boards, or something else. (Astro Citizens -- feel free to weigh in with comments about this!)

The Verdict

ASTRO CITY #1 was fun. This issue takes it to the next level. It's a little bit unexpected that an issue about a team of support analysts at a call center could be more exciting than one about the Honor Guard or the mysterious (crazy? not crazy?) Broken Man, but unexpected isn't always a bad thing. Forget the road signs telling me that I'm leaving; I'm sticking around in Astro City, with all of its supers and humans, to see where Busiek and Anderson are going to take me.

12 Comments
Posted by SavageDragon

I am so glad someone on Comicvine is reviewing this. @missj Astro City has been a favorite of mine for many years in all its previous series.Thanks @missj. Busiek's stories and Brent Anderson's art with Ross's covers as well as Sinclair's colors has always made for a classy read. Its so wild and imaginative but somehow all its many story arcs (With the the exception of maybe the Tarnished Angel book) Astro City has never lost the ability to insert vividly real everyday people into the staring roles of their universe. Not cookie cutter "joe smoes" but people that are surrounded by heroes that are interesting and have compelling stories.

This story was really good I thought, and then boom. Last page was a surprise to me and then I thought about it a little more and realized what she says at the end, wow. Pretty heavy stuff.

Posted by Cavemold

I really liked ths issue

Posted by turoksonofstone

Busiek's writing on this series is so good it is overpowering at times. I avoid this series at this point as it might taint my own creative energies.

Posted by Billy Batson

The previous issues are really worth reading. And the past part is that you can read them in any order, though maybe read the Dark Age in the right order.
BB

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

I haven't read loads of Astro City but I have read the first few issues of the original run and I'v read the fist of the current and I really like it

Posted by akbogert

Ahhhhh.

This book just feels good. After two issues, I agree with you "the bad" assessment: I don't have the money to go back and read, but they've succeeded in making me want to. Yet Astro City feels real, and in that way, like the real world, you don't have to know history to start living in it. You can go back and read the past to have a fuller understanding, but you can just as easily make do in the present.

I appreciated the decision to publish an old letter in the letters column, and one which addressed probably my biggest uncertainty/lingering concern with the series, which was how death (when it comes) is to be treated. And it's refreshing to know that this is a creative team that understands how to handle that sort of thing, and has consistently done so over many years.

Posted by broo1232

The definitive of Super hero book, can't wait to get it on Saturday.

Posted by Erik_M

Picked up the first two issues yesterday on a whim, and went into reading these without any prior knowledge of Astro City. The first issue left me feeling lost and a bit underwhelmed, but this one really won me over and has completely sold me on the series. I absolutely loved the story, and agree with everything said in the review. Fantastic comic, cannot wait for more.