[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
A duo of heroines, Sunshrike and Nightingale, are analyzing the evidence in a kidnapping case, when they are interrupted by Kittyhawk, a cat that Nightingale has adopted. Kittyhawk had been doused by a strange chemical created by a supervillain, changing her markings to resemble Nightingale’s. Unknown to her owners, Kittyhawk has developed super powers.
The little girl who was kidnapped was the daughter of a scientist, who is being forced to work for the Popinjay. She had left behind a pair of mittens, which Kittyhawk swipes. Growing wings, she locates the canine hero Rocket Dog, and gets him to track the little girl by scent.
Kittyhawk locates the girl and releases her from her bonds, then disables the shield blocking the girl’s father from sending a signal for help. Sunshrike and Nightingale arrive to defeat the villain and rescue his captives.
Despite the Popinjay mentioning “a ridiculous feline” and Nightingale catching a glimpse of the cat, she doesn’t credit the idea of a cat fighting crime.
I have to admit that I am a cat person. Although there are a number of dog sidekicks for superheroes, it is quite uncommon to see a feline crimefighter. This makes for a superhero story unlike any we’ve seen before.
And Busiek makes it clear how a feline superhero would be different from more typical sidekicks. Kittyhawk is not there to back up her human owner. Showing her typical feline independence, she takes the case away from her owners and solves it for them. And she doesn’t do it for praise and attention, but rather because it needs to be done and she only trusts in her own ability to do it.
Also, I found it amusing that when Kittyhawk needs the tracking assisitance of a dog, she doesn’t ask nicely. She just goes and finds the dog she needs and orders him to track the kidnapped girl’s scent. Clearly, she sees herself much higher in the pecking order than any dog, as any cat would.
One of Astro City‘s advantages, is that it is a non-sequential anthology title. This allows it to use different characters in different settings and times from one story to the next. This keeps the title fresh and interesting. However, this is also its biggest drawback. Often, I find that I want to see more of the characters introduced in the story, but the title moves on to a different story with an entirely different cast of characters.
I found that happened with this story. I very much want to read a series about this superhero team that doesn’t realize its most effective member is their pet cat. If Busiek ever decides to do an Astro City spinoff (or to allow someone else to write one), I hope he picks Sunshrike and Nightingale to star in it.
If you’re a cat person like me, be sure not to miss this issue. Even if you’re not a cat person, it’s still a fun story and well worth your time.