A Universe in one Comic Book: Astro City (Vol. 3)# 11


I dunno.

Astro City‘s been back for almost a year now, and I’ve been waiting/wanting to catch fire over it, like I used to do, and it just isn’t happening. And issues like this aren’t going to do it for me, in fact they act as quite the opposite.

“The Sorceror’s Assistant” (giveaway reference to Dukas and Mickey Mouse) introduces the Silver Adept, greatest Good magician in all the Conjoined Worlds: strongest, busiest, most in demand and most disorganised. Her name’s Kim, by the way, and she’s a bit of a party girl on the sly. The Silver Adept used to base herself on Vancouver Island but, attracted by a ‘Silver Harmonic’ in Astro City, a ‘void’ to be filled, she’s moved to Astro City (if she’s talking about the Silver Agent, she’s not reacted that fast, given that he was executed forty years ago).

But, hey, the story’s not about the Silver Adept, or her world, or her magics, or about anything she does, or how she copes, of course it’s not about her. It’s about Raitha McCann instead. And who is Raitha when she’s at home? Why, she’s the Adept’s Executive Assistant, her PA, her Secretary.

Now there isn’t another superhero comic series would give us a story about this behind-the-scenes, what-it’s-really-like-to-live-in-a-superhero’s- world story. Only Astro City, which is an integral part of why we love the series. Only we don’t really need another one, and especially one that has no new insight, no unthought of corner, no new perspective on the effect the existence of superpowered characters has upon the world about them. Because this story adds nothing we haven’t already read.

Basically, Raitha McCann acts like a good PA to her over-committed boss. And that’s it. She answers e-mails, collects the post, packs her boss off where she should be going and juggles her schedule. Just when this day-in-the-life is well-established, there’s a crisis, at exactly the moment you expect Busiek to throw in a crisis to liven up the story, and Raitha solves this too. I’m sorry, Kurt, you’re still the only one doing this kind of thing, but now they’re starting to turn into a cliche in themselves.

There’s lots of interesting things in this issue, but the problem is that they’re all part of the background colour, not so much Kim the magic girl herself, but the realms in which she operates, but they’re the very things Busiek won’t expand upon. We’re only allowed to read a story about a glorified secretary, who is so resolutely blase about all the fantastic things going on about her that her major concern is getting off on time with her friends to go to their group Pottery Exhibition.

I’m sorry, this one’s a clunker, from start to finish. Which leaves me with a conundrum. I do not want to go around bad-mouthing Astro City month in, month out. I want to like it, I want to praise it, but I’m nowhere near getting out of it what I want to praise. Next month marks a year back in action. It also marks the first story not to be drawn by Brent Anderson, as Graham Nolan pencils and inks a non-fill-in. I’ll blog that, but afterwards I’m suspending this feature, unless and until I see the series meeting my expectations at last. It’s not like Salamander, I’m not enjoying ripping into this, and anyway Busiek’s not producing anything remotely so piss-takeworthy where I can have fun.

Over to you, Mr Busiek.

2 thoughts on “A Universe in one Comic Book: Astro City (Vol. 3)# 11

  1. I kind of agree with your points. I’ve been going on a few of your previous Astro City reviews. I’ve been a fan of the series since, “New Kid in Town” the first issue of the Confessor storyline. I think we’ve gotten some really good stories in the current volume, but nothing maybe for Sully’s story that would be up anywhere near with the best of the best in this series.

    To some degree, it’s felt like this since Local Heroes era, but even then there’s been a lot of stalwart stories. I attribute some of it to becoming hooked during volume two stories, which more so featured a superpowered/hero/villain narrator for almost every issue.
    And some of it feels like lack of details in the narrations. Granted a lot more has gotten explored and we know and have seen many characters/events/things, but in “New Kid in Town” and so much of the early issues, we got all sorts of tidbits and name droppings. Once the book came book in 2003 it seems like there hasn’t been those little details so much.
    Or maybe it was just the mystery wearing off after getting the last issue I was missing right before the book went on hiatus around “Great Expectations.”

    I still love the book though, but my first reading of issue 11, I kind of echo your thoughts, but haven’t gotten around to a reread yet. It feels more like a fun story, than an exploratory one. The PA for the Corporate CEO analogue is interesting, when compared to these end of the world tasks.

    I’ve enjoyed reading some of your other previous reviews. Hopefully you keep it up and as well as with the book.

    1. Hi Astrozac.

      Firstly, thanks for confirming that I’m not the only person feeling like this. I so wanted this volume of Astro City to be as good as previous issues, and it’s a colossal disappointment that it’s not, especially as so much of it was prepared during a period when, in the Character Specials, Busiek was writing seriously good stories. I’ve been wondering if it’s been me, having over-inflated my expectations.

      I won’t be dropping the series, not unless things seriously deteriorate in a way I can’t imagine from Busiek. But I genuinely do not like slagging the series off, especially if I’m being dissatisfied on a regular basis. It was different with Salamander, because it irritated me from the outset in a way that made me want to rip the piss out of it, and I’m certainly not going to act like that with Astro City. But if I can’t say anything constructive, I’d rather stay quiet.

      Thanks for the kind words, and may we both be rewarded by the Astro we both want to see.

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