Astro City: The Dark Age, Book Four #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions)
by Kurt Busiek & Brent E. Anderson
First of all… wow, what a cover. This is one of Alex Ross’s most striking covers and character designs, not only for Astro City comics. The greenery and the intensity of the stare really allow this book to stand out when racked along with other recent comics release. This elemental force of nature, the Green Man, doesn’t play a pivotal role in the plot, but he serves to send a strong thematic message to the main characters. It’s good that this has just an attractive and effective cover, because the subtitle — The Dark Age, Book Four — isn’t the most alluring one I’ve seen. The Book Four part is basically a cue for new readers to avoid this comic book, and that’s too bad, because Busiek’s script is thoroughly accessible despite the fact that this is the umpteenth issue in an ongoing story arc. The Williams brothers have really transformed into well-supplied and armed rogues who ignore everything else going on around them in pursuit of the man who killed their parents. Busiek really drives home how anger and thirst for revenge have tainted these two men, and their prey’s desperation and fear also sells the story effectively as well.
Anderson’s art is obviously a lot rougher in tone than the polished, photorealistic images that Alex Ross provides for the covers, but that grittier look works well with the larger theme of the story. The Dark Age is about a period in American history that wounded the country’s ideals, that robbed a proud nation of its innocence. That’s reflected in the sketchier leanings in Anderson’s approach to the characters and action. He handles the Green Man adeptly as well, albeit in a different way than Ross did for the cover. He captures the immensity of the character’s presence nicely, further reinforcing the thematic importance of that scene. 8/10