Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Colors: Peter Pantazis
Letters & Design: John G. Roshell with Sarah Jacobs & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
It’s bittersweet that Astro City #52 is the end to what has been an outstanding volume of this incredible long running series. I’ve been a fan of Astro City since I picked the first issue up on a whim in 1995. The gorgeous Alex Ross cover drew me in but it was the story telling of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson that kept me around for 23 years. I’ve read every iteration of the series and can honestly say that it has never disappointed me. Yes some issues are better than others but I have yet to put an issue away and said “that sucked”. It was announced earlier this year that Astro City #52would be the end of the current Vertigo run and what a beautiful ending it was.
Astro City has always been a commentary on Super Hero comics filled with analogies to the DC and Marvel pantheon of heroes yet the title is also littered with slice of life stories of the average citizen existing in a city full of heroes and villains. Those issues were the true beauty of the series. The catastrophic damage and destruction that lies in the wake of super heroic battles is often looked past by the big two. Every now and then there is a book that looks at it from the POV of the average person yet Astro City did this regularly. So many times comics have retconned their universes, starting with DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 to Marvel’s Secret Wars in 2015. We always focus on the heroes and what their ‘new’ origins are going to be, we never think of the average man whose life may be altered or destroyed by this reworking on continuity. What if a super hero battle that happened on a Sunday now happened on a Monday and two bystanders who were destined to meet during that fight never meet and their daughter is therefore never born. I still remember Astro City #0.5 when it was released in 1996 as it dealt with this issue as a man named Michael Tenicek had turned to drugs and booze to combat the memories of the love of his life who he had never actually met. It is revealed in that story that during a time shattering battle his wife’s, Miranda, parents had never met but in the restructuring of time Michael could still remember her even though no one else could. It was a heartbreaking tale and a tale that Busiek decided to revisit as he put a cap on this version of Astro City.
Beginning in Astro City #50 we the readers finally get to catch up with Michael as we find out he runs a series of support groups to aid victims suffering from the repercussions of super hero/super villain violence. Named in honor of his ‘wife’ Michael has aided hundreds of people get on with their lives while he still can’t let go. Astro City #52 concludes Michaels story as he must decide if he wants to continue the exsitstence he currently lives in or finally take the Hanged Man, Busiek’s stand in for the Specter, up on his offer of letting him forget. And move on with his life. It’s a difficult decision and one that Michael must dwell on and his internal struggle is beautifully written by Kurt Busiek and wonderfully drawn by Brent Anderson, who has faithfully rendered 95% of the Astro City’s stories over it’s 20+ year run.
Even though Astro City #52 was a great story and a wonderful conclusion I am sad to see it go. I’ve counted on Astro City putting a smile on my face monthly for the past four years as a staple of the Vertigo line. But I can’t be to sad as it looks like the title is going to evolve into a series of graphic novels that will begin being released in 2019 so even though the current run is ending we will soon be visiting Astro City again. If you’ve never paid a visit to Astro City or haven’t been in some time I recommend a visit, you’ll never be disappointed.