Category Archives: Other Comics

Read This Too: Astro City

Today, a group of comics bloggers have gotten together to recommend lesser-known gems of the comics world. Comics are more than Brightest Day and Heroic Age, and you just might want to…read this too!

Astro City. Written by Kurt Busiek; art by Brent Anderson; covers by Alex Ross. Published by WildStorm Comics.

A big part of the appeal for many comics fans is the shared universe. Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four all share the same New York. Flash and Green Lantern can fight each other’s villains. There’s a sense that, beyond what you’ve read, there’s more…a bigger world, one where things matter beyond a single story.

Astro City takes that feeling and creates a whole shared super-hero universe in a single book. Instead of following one character or team, the anthology focuses on a different hero, villain, or civilian in each story. The stories are usually about the human element, focusing more on character than on super-villain beat-downs.

Many (but not all) of the heroes are based on classic characters or familiar archetypes. Samaritan is Superman down to the blue hair. The First Family is very much like the Fantastic Four. Others are original, or far enough removed from their sources that I can’t place them.

The first volume, Life in the Big City, features:

  • A day in the life of Samaritan, who is so busy rescuing people that he can’t slow down to enjoy flying.
  • A newspaper editor tells about his first published story as a cub reporter, when he witnessed a team of heroes turning back an interdimensional invasion in the caverns beneath the city.
  • A small-time crook accidentally discovers the hero Jack-in-the-Box’s identity, and tries to figure out what he can do with the knowledge.
  • A woman who grew up in a neighborhood fraught with supernatural dangers finds herself confronted with the very different, scientific dangers that threaten downtown.
  • A neighborhood recluse turns out to be an alien spy, scouting out Earth as a potential invasion target. His decision rests on the discovery that one of his neighbors is secretly a super-hero.
  • Heroes Samaritan and Winged Victory try to go on a date, but their professional lives keep getting in the way.

You don’t have to start there, though. With very few exceptions, Astro City stories can be read in any order. Most of the stories only take one or two issues, and are collected in Life in the Big City, Family Album, and Local Heroes. There have been a few longer ones: Confession and The Tarnished Angel each take up an entire volume, and the longest story, The Dark Age, will be collected in two volumes.

Some of my favorites include:

  • Confession re-imagines Batman and Robin with a supernatural twist.
  • In Family Album, Jack-in-the-Box meets his future son…or rather, three different possible versions of his future son, all traumatized by his death. The encounters force him to rethink the life he leads as he and his wife try to start a family.
  • Also in Family Album, A man is troubled by vivid dreams of a woman he’s never met, and eventually learns that she was his wife before the reality-altering Crisis event erased her from existence. This 16-page story from 1998 is still my favorite take on the genre created by Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • In Local Heroes, a lawyer gets in over his head when he successfully uses the doppelganger defense.
  • In the upcoming Shining Stars collection, sworn enemies Samaritan and Infidel meet once a year for a cordial dinner, while a living “Beautie” doll with super-powers seeks out her origins.

Astro City took a long break earlier this decade, and has been on a series-of-miniseries schedule for the last few years. With The Dark Age finished just a few months ago, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have been planning to relaunch the series as an ongoing monthly again, but the recently-announced shuttering of WildStorm may throw a bit of a wrench into those plans (or it may just launch with a DC logo on it instead).

Oh, one more thing: Flash fans might be interested in the Astro City: Silver Agent two-parter that wrapped this month (and will be included in Shining Stars). He’s not a speedster, but you’ll see what I mean. More about this in an upcoming post…

But That’s Not All!

Interested in reading more? Good! I’ve also reviewed The Unwritten at K-Squared Ramblings, and there are a lot of other bloggers participating in today’s event. Check out the lesser-known titles reviewed in these other blogs and read these, too!

Speed Reading: Scott Pilgrim, Comic-Con and Fantasy Books

Hilton Bayfront with Scott Pilgrim Banner.Some items I’ve written about elsewhere that might be of interest to this site’s readers.

First up: I’ve finally found the time to finish my San Diego Comic Con write-ups! Here’s Saturday and Sunday at Comic-Con International!

Review: I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It was a fun movie/comic/video game mash-up, and it’s a shame that so few people have gone to see it.

Speaking of reviews and things that are insanely late: I found some interesting reviews on Amazon this week while looking for long-delayed fantasy books, including Tokoypop’s Labyrinth and Dark Crystal series. I found it most amusing that George R.R. Martin’s fans are already reviewing A Dance With Dragons…even though the book isn’t finished yet. More precisely: they’re reviewing the wait for the book!

Thoughts on JMS’ New Wonder Woman Direction

Today, DC released some major Wonder Woman news: a new costume designed by Jim Lee and a new direction for the series as J. Michael Straczynski takes over.

To sum up: Persons unknown have altered Wonder Woman’s history so that Paradise Island was wiped out 20 years ago. Diana has no memory of the original timeline, doesn’t have her full powers yet, and needs to survive, help other refugee Amazons, find out who destroyed Paradise Island and find out whether the timeline can be restored.

All-New, All-Different!

I’m always apprehensive when a new writer picks up an established character and the first thing he does is to remove some key element of the character. Like the Flash’s speed (Geoff Johns’ first Flash story, “Wonderland”). Or Superman’s flight (JMS’ first Superman arc, “Grounded”). I understand it might help the writer get inside the character’s head: what is he or she like without the powers? But it always feels like shoehorning some other idea onto the character. Why did you want to write the Flash if you didn’t want to write about a guy who runs fast?

That said, for all that DC is pushing this as a “new direction,” to me this description reads more like a major story arc. I mean, there’s an end point right there in the description: find out who did it and see if it’s possible to change things back. Given the timing of the comics themselves and the time-travel elements to the story, I suspect this is going to be linked to Flashpoint. [Update: Comics Alliance asked JMS about this and he said it’s not related.]

Retcon Fever

It’s worth comparing to Flash: Rebirth, actually. In both cases, someone within the fictional universe has gone back in time and altered the main character’s history. With Diana, we know before the first issue is out. With Barry Allen, only long-term readers knew anything had been changed to begin with. It wasn’t clear that there was an in-story explanation for it until the miniseries was almost over. Even then, the prospect of undoing the changes was only floated long enough to be dismissed as impossible.

Most importantly: changing Diana’s history drastically alters who she is today. That’s a story. Once you get past the doom-and-gloom Barry of Flash: Rebirth #1-3, the changes to his history don’t seem to have made much difference in the present.

Quick News: Velocity, DC History, Green Lantern, World’s Fastest Man

A few brief news items:

Top Cow’s delayed Velocity #1 is shipping June 16. I’ve been looking forward to this since reading the Pilot Season book, though of course this is an entirely new creative team. On the plus side, it’s a miniseries, so there’s not a huge commitment to picking it up.

Cartoon Network will be producing a Green Lantern animated series. Green Lantern: First Flight was pretty good, but of course there’s no guarantee that any of the same people will be working on this.

DC will be teaming up with TASCHEN Books to produce 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Basically it’s a history of DC Comics. How soon can I pre-order this?

Hypergeek notes that the UK graphic novel Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? has been nominated for the 2009 Eagle Awards. From his review, it looks like it’s not about a speester so much as it’s about a man who can stop time, and reluctantly becomes a hero. I’m going to have to look for this one as well. [Edit: I should note that I stopped reading the review once I decided the book looked interesting, just in case there were spoilers.]

Team Turmoil and Dynamo 5

I was recently looking through old scans and ran into an image of Team Turmoil. Readers from the 1990s will recognize them as a group of generic villains who would show up anytime Mark Waid needed the Flash to have a short battle as part of a larger story about something else.

The funny thing is that their costumes reminded me of another team — a much more developed team with actual characters: Dynamo 5. Continue reading

Legacies and Who’s Who

At the Source, Dan Didio talks about Who’s Who and Legacies with a little more solid information than last month’s teases.

Who’s Who will start in May and take 18 issues (initial reports said 12, then 15), covering thousands of characters, and the DC Universe should be a little more settled (“no longer in flux”) after Blackest Night.

It turns out that the “new History of the DC Universe” hinted at last month is not a separate project, but rather the the concept behind Legacies. Instead of a literal history, they’re telling “a detailed and weaving story of two families whose lives have been impacted by five generations of super-heroes.”