Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Colors: Peter Pantazis & Alex Sinclair
Astro City has always been a book I take for granted. Ever since I picked up Astro City #1 on a whim in 1995 due to the gorgeous Alex Ross cover. Today Alex Ross covers are everywhere but in 1995 it was still had a unique feel to it. Marvels had been released a year earlier and had been an amazing success and propelled Ross to stardom but also introduced the wider comic book community to the writing of Kurt Busiek. Not an unknown writer by 1995 as he had bounced around Marvel and DC since the mid ‘80s but in the mid ‘90s he became one of the hottest superhero writers in the industry as he would take over the Avengers with George Perez and Iron Man with Sean Chen. In the post Heroes Return era of Marvel anything Kurt Busiek put his name on was guaranteed to be a quality read but Astro City was always his baby and it has been an incredible book since day one.
Astro City is Kurt Buiek’s magnum opus and this week with Astro City #41 the book reaches its one hundredth issue. How you might ask? When you add up the original mini-series at Image then its transition to Homage Studios before Wildstorm published the title and for the past three years it has been released by Vertigo. Busiek lays out the numbering in the back of this issue but I trust him since the one problem that Astro City has suffered from over the years is a sporadic release schedule. From switching publishers, busy schedules, and a prolonged illnesses the title has disappeared for extended periods of time but it has always returned and it is always a quality read. Astro City is a comic that is eternally on my pull list but it never makes it to the top of my read pile. When Life gets busy and I fall behind there may be five to six issues waiting for me to read. When I finally read them I always put the issues way with a smile on my face and wondering when I will get another peak into the world of Astro City.
Joined by Brent Anderson for almost the entire run on pencils with Alex Ross contributing covers and character designs Astro City has been an entertaining read from its inception. It is an anthology book that has no main characters or set timeframe. There are reoccurring characters like The Samaritan, Winged Victory, and the Confessor who are stand ins for DC’s Trinity. The First Family are a constant, which allows Busiek that chance to play with the Fantastic Four, as is Crackerjack and Jack-in-the-Box, which are analogs to Green Arrow and Spider-Man respectively. That’s one of the joys of reading Astro City as it is a wonderful creative team playing with comic history and they can jump to any era they choose to, which leads us to Astro City #41.
Astro City #41 (#100) is the story of how Astro City gained its name and it begins in a post prohibition America suffering through the Great Depression and takes us through the end of World War II but focuses on the friendship of eventual Mayor Joseph Greenwald and Roy Virgil AKA the Astro-Naut. Roy is an amalgamation, in my opinion of Tony Stark, Howard Hughes, and Buck Rogers. He begins as a genius engineer who uses his aviation manufacturing company to create amazing inventions that allowed him to take to the air and fight crime. Yet over the course of the story he expands to traveling through the far reaches of the universe looking for adventure as well as saving countless solar systems but always returning to save Astro City when needed and also to tell his tales to Joseph who is our narrator for this issue. That’s another wonderful aspect of Astro City, as the stories can be told from any point of view; Hero, villain, or simple bystander. Busiek really plays with sci-fi history and early super heroics with this issue as well as the ramifications being a hero during this time period could have on a person. I found the adventures of the Astro-Naut to be both fantastic and sad at the same time. I enjoyed the story of the Astro-Naut and he joins the great pantheon of Astro City heroes, both contemporary and classic, and hopefully we’ll see him again, if simply in the background of another story.
Brent Anderson’s pencils are beautiful as always. Anderson has a John Buscema style that is realistic and detailed. He’s taken a few issues off during this current Vertigo run of Astro City but his style is Astro City and it’s a delight to see his work here. An issue of Astro City is nothing without an Alex Ross cover. I don’t know how the process works but I have a feeling Ross designs his cover and Anderson then runs with it on the interior pages since the two always meld perfectly together. Busiek brought his A game with this issue and it is a perfect example of why Astro City is always a great read and I’m hoping there is another hundred issues to come.
Verdict: BUY! Astro City has always been a delightful read and Astro City #41 is no different. Very few people can write super heroes like Kurt Busiek writes them and his work on Astro City is always compelling and enjoyable. Brent Anderson’s work has never looked better and the Alex Ross cover is a beautiful homage to the early days of comics with a modern sensibility. You need to know nothing of Astro City to enjoy this issue, but if you’re new to Astro City then prepare yourself for a return trip as you visit the fine city month after month.