Astro City: Dark Age #2

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Criminal Prosecution

Written by: Kurt Busiek
Art by: Brent E. Anderson
Colored by: Alex Sinclair
Lettered by: John Roshell of Comicraft
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: Wildstorm

If Kurt Busiek decided to never do another project except Astro City for as long as he lived, I’d be okay with that. I love much of his work, but there is something about the universe that he has built in Astro City that brings out the absolute best in his work. So, with Dark Age having finally arrived, I am just tickled pink.

Thankfully, thus far, I have proven rightly thrilled. Eschewing the more “traditional” tone of previous Astro City projects, that mixture of wonder and man on the street perspective, for a dirtier, less hopeful outlook has not caused Astro City to lose a step. This is what Busiek has spent years telling us was the worst time for Astro City and you can feel that. There is that sense of nonspecific building dread, of the claustrophobia of a society that is, quicker and quicker, eliminating the place you once occupied within it.

Often times, these types of stories focus on “good” guys, regular people on the right side of the law. Busiek, however, wisely plays both sides of the line by showing how Royal is just as lost and left behind during these times as his police officer brother Charles is. In fact, following the incident with the Blue Knight, Royal is even more affected by the events of the day. Charles is not as distrusting of others as Royal is, but he also seems less inclined to hope for anything. Royal has faith in one thing: his own intelligence. So when that fails him, it breaks him. It is easily the strongest moment of the issue as the curtain is pulled back and we realize that everyone, hero, villain, cop, common criminal, and citizen, are equally at risk during this time. The rules are changing for every person, there is no population that will be left unscathed.

After Anderson’s recent work (Rising Stars, The Pulse) I was nervous if he was still the artisit he once was. In this issue and the last, it is clear that I had no cause of concern and those lesser efforts were aberrations, nothing more.

My one complaint with the book would be that issues 1 and 2 essentially accomplish the same point. Both show us how chaos, fear, and anger are building and people are losing faith. With the exception of Royal’ breakdown, however, this issue has nothing to say about it that was not said in issue #1. It’s not a bad story, but it does feel like a bit of a rerun of the prior issue. When the arc is collected, I think that that slow build will work nicely in that presentation. Serially though, issue #2 needs to offer more to stand on its own than it does.

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