3.04.2010

Astro City: The Dark Age Book 4 #2

Review by Jason Crowe
Contributing Writer


Astro City: The Dark Age Book 4 #2 (DC/Wildstorm): In “Storms of the Heart,” writer Kurt Busiek tells the story of Charles and Royal Williams, two men who have lived through an origin story that has lasted for 14 issues. While most origin stories focus on some cosmic interruption that deflects a character onto the path of their heroic life story, the young Williams brothers picked up the pieces of their lives after surviving a house fire that killed their parents. Since this is an Astro City story, the house fire was started in the aftermath of a battle between the Silver Agent and a Pyramid cult leader; the children watched, forgotten, as the villain escaped and the hero passed them by.

This tragic turn of events set the brothers on paths that intertwine their need for revenge and their desire for survival until they cannot separate the two. In pursuit of the escaped Pyramid leader, Charles and Royal run through a gauntlet of life choices in a super-powered world, from police officer to petty thief, from government agent to soldier in a techno-cult.

As the last book in the 16-part story builds to a climax, the brothers have become power-suited mercenary scavengers hot on the trail of the Pyramid cult leader, who has taken a desperate gamble to obtain enough power to defeat his pursuers. The Silver Agent, plucked from the time stream after his death, returns to 1984 from the distant future to stop a gathering cataclysm.

The two-person narration in the story’s captions suggests that Charles and Royal are looking back on their lives in 1984 and lamenting their descent into darkness. This darkness is also manifesting itself in the callous joy on the faces in the audience of a super-powered battle carnage video show and a tear in Astro City’s reality that bleeds corrupting black spirals.

Busiek has so many threads spinning through the story that I almost feel that it would have been more successful as a complete 16-chapter graphic novel than 16 individual issues. I do commend the book for taking a risk on such a long story, considering the infrequent nature of the book’s publication in the past.

With the scheduling issues resolved, this monthly book shows the benefits of two creators working together for an extended period; Busiek and artist Brent Anderson have been collaborating on Astro City for almost 15 years. Their ability to synthesize art and story into a seamless portrait of a consistent and detailed world is unique in today’s comic book environment.

I enjoyed this issue, but I’d suggest that the casual or new reader buy one of the standalone trade paperback collections to experience the full flavor and range of Astro City before reading the recent issues. This current storyline is more effective if you are familiar with the world that Charles and Royal live in. Grade B+.

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