Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Astro City: The Tarnished Angel

Astro City is set in a comics universe where different versions of familiar faces live. Here, writer Kurt Busiek can do riffs on folks like the Fantastic Four, the Justice League, Spider-Man, etc., but he does a fair bit of his own world-building as well. The Tarnished Angel is about an original character, Steeljack, a down-on-his-luck supervillain who was busted and served 20 years in prison. Covered completely by steel, he has incredible strength and invulnerability. He also weighs about 800 pounds.

Older and weary, Steeljack comes home to Kiefer Square, a run down part of Astro City, and tries to keep his nose clean. However, he finds that someone is killing many of his past associates and he takes the job to find out who is behind this plot. Part superhero story, part pulp detective novel, the narrative allows lots of room for Busiek to do the evocative character work he is known for with this series.

In many ways, Astro City is a labor of love for everyone involved in its creation. Busiek is a busy writer who has won multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards. He has written many comics for all the big companies, including The Avengers, Spider-Man, Superman, Conan the Barbarian, and Aquaman. Brent Anderson is an award-winning artist active since the 1970s as an underground cartoonist and creator of a number of notable works, including the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills. Alex Ross, who paints the covers and has a hand in designing characters, also has considerable input.

Astro City overall is a well-loved and praised series, and this volume is one of the most beloved. Sci-fi and comics reviewer Mervi called it "a very human and moving story." FRAGAR liked how this series takes familiar archetypes and twists them a bit. Regarding this volume, he found the mystery a bit telegraphed but still enjoyable. The reviews at Goodreads are also very positive.

The Astro City homepage is designed like a newspaper and does not feature any previews, but it does give a flavor of what the series is like.

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