Astro City: Dark Age/Book Three #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions)
by Kurt Busiek & Brent E. Anderson
Kurt Busiek turns his attention back to the Williams brothers and their new quest to avenge the death of their parents at the hand of a criminal henchman. There’s a lot of history to the Astro City: Dark Age storyline, and Busiek’s script ensures this latest in a series of series is accessible to the new or casual reader (whether or not Astro City is attracting new readers at this point is another matter). The cover and the opening scene are something of a distracting from the main plot, but they are important to the success of the storytelling experience overall. The harshness of the massacre and the emergence of a more brutal incarnation of an established heroine help to establish the cultural, political and emotional mood that’s integral to the story. That Busiek has set this story in 1982 is no coincidence. It mirrors darker times in America and a time in super-hero comics when more mature and darker ideas were being explored. What I most enjoyed about this plot, though, has to be Royal’s redemption. Though revenge is his ultimate goal, he’s definitely changed his ways; he’s acting more selflessly, having become something larger than his own greed.
Anderson’s loose, sketchy style doesn’t prevent him from doing an incredible job of world-building. He makes the Silver Age goofiness of a private army of Pyramid soldiers seem plausible, and he makes the horrors of a demonic, murderous villain seem chillingly plausible. There’s a grittiness in his style here that reinforces the darker atmosphere as well. 8/10