Astro City #1 (by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson) It’s not easy creating a living, breathing universe of superheroes outside of the big two, but that’s just what Kurt Busiek did with Astro City. When it debuted in 1995, some people heralded it as the cure for what was currently being published at Marvel and DC. Astro City was free to go places and do things other books couldn’t, yet retain the feel of a universe that’s been spinning since the golden age. It’s only been about three years since we’ve had an Astro City book, but if feels much, much longer. The question is: How does Astro City fare today, at this very moment in the comic landscape? The answer is: Quite well.
Immediately Busiek is throwing something different and interesting at us. From the first page, a purple-ish, punk-ish character who refers to himself as The Broken Man is breaking the fourth wall. He’s talking directly to us, and inviting us to be complicit as he probes through the world of Astro City, looking for someone in particular, someone who’s not so loud, someone quiet and contemplating. He balks at a new, Anime style hero named American Chibi, he even glosses over many of our favorite Astro City stalwarts. It turns out there is a giant, cosmic door (or gate) hovering over the city, and most of the superheroes are trying to open it via brute force. The Broken Man knows it will take someone different, someone he’s been looking for, to unlock the door. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to a common man, Ben Pullam, the kind of man quiet and careful enough to deal with what’s on the other side of that giant, hovering door.
It’s refreshing to read a first issue that doesn’t just shuffle the tried and true set-up. Sure there are a few moments of superheroes being superheroes, but the thrust of the issue is that something new and curious has arrived on our doorstep. Is it friend or foe? It’s clearly of an advanced state of being, but what exactly does it want other than to pique it’s own curiosity? Instead of deconstructing the superhero genre as so many books do nowadays, Busiek brings the cosmic wonder of the gold and silver age, but with a modern edge. It’s also gutsy to have the camera pan past his well loved cast of characters, and settle on some new and interesting people. There’s also an undercurrent that the heroes we know and love have been tainted in some way, or are at least not the correct people for the task at hand. The issue ends leaving the reader wanting more on multiple fronts, and I for one couldn’t be happier to have Astro City back.
Age of Ultron #9 (of 10) (by Brian Michael Bendis, Carlos Pacheco and Brandon Peterson) I would almost be completely satisfied if this was the last issue with a little extra on the back end. Bendis has really brought the core idea of his story around to create a superhero time travel yarn that really dissects just what messing with time can do.
Full on spoilers from here on out!
Full on spoilers from here on out!
So, the conceit here is no matter what you do to try and stop a future from happening by altering the past, something equally as bad will end up happening anyway. The alternate present (Age of Morgana) Tony Stark posits that time is an organism- the more you mess with it, the more it is Injured and breaks down. Things get really interesting when “our” Wolverine goes back in time from the Age of Morgana to stop his past self from killing Hank Pym. Confused? Lets try and suss this out- In the future (The Age of Ultron), the world has been conquered by Ultron. Long story short- Wolverine goes back in time to kill Hank Pym before he can even create the Ultron A.I., thus preventing the Age of Ultron. Once that’s done, he and Sue Storm (who snuck on the time platform when Wolvie went back) return to the present, but everything is different. Things are not necessarily bad, but it’s not the world they once knew, and it rapidly turns into an equally bad situation, with Morgana Le Fay attacking New York and generally doing what Ultron did, only now there’s Doombots patrolling the skies. So, Wolverine goes back to the past yet again, only this time he has to stop himself from killing Hank Pym, and find an alternate solution. The Wolverines, Sue Storm and Hank Pym conclude that Hank has to create Ultron as he normally would, and all the encounters with Ultron throughout he years have to happen without interference. However, Pym will encode the A.I. with a failsafe that will shut Ultron down once it begins the events that lead to The Age of Ultron, therefore keeping everything and everyone they know and love intact (or “correct”), but without the Ultron endgame. Make sense? I won’t spoil the rest, but Wolverine does something at the end of the issue that is just plain creepy and cool. One issue left, and I have a feeling it’s gonna be a doozy.
Sabertooth Swordsman #1 (of 6) (by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley) I literally just got done reading this and wanted to throw out the recommendation. I hope to go more in-depth with Sabertooth Swordsman in the future, but for now I highly recommend you check this book out, it will be the most uniquely told story you will read in some time. After a simple farmer finds his village enslaved by the Mastodon Mathematician, he must find his inner warrior, the Sabertooth Swordsman, with the help of the cloud god from Sasquatch Mountain. Yes, it’s as cool as all of that sounds. It feels like a much more adult Adventure Time, with it’s off the wall ideas and art. It pulls from interesting mythology not seen often in comics, and the art has a tinge of Sergio Aragones’ Groo, which is absolutely a good thing. It’s digital only from Dark Horse (a hardcover collected slated for October), and its only 99 cents!
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.