Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Lettering and Design: John G Roshell, Jimmy Betancourt
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Executive Editor: Shelly Bond
Here we are with DCN’s review of this week’s Astro City! If you’re new to the series and looking for a jumping-on point, get this issue. In fact, get any issue. This is a fun, interesting book that’s accessible to the new readers as well as old.
Astro City #5 starts with a big purple meta guy, whom you apparently work for. He is stringing articles, artifacts, and comics across several lines throughout time. Using these objects, you find yourself looking into different periods of early 20th century America. These three scenes range from an artifact-collecting group in the 1930s to a female superhero in an unspecified time chasing after a villain and uncovering his disturbing scheme.
Busiek’s efforts to make Astro City accessible is a very valuable element of the title. New or casual readers are always welcome in Astro City, and #5 is as self-contained as the rest. The purple guy, known as The Broken Man, not only acts as a character, but also as an unusual narrative tool. His breaking of the fourth wall causes readers to read and therefore participate in the comic in a different way than the typical experience. Unlike other meta comics where the narrator appears in short intervals, The Broken Man is with you all the way.
The reader is technically placed in four separate settings throughout the issue, which is an interesting approach for Anderson to take. The first, with The Broken Man, typically has about four rectangular panels within a page. When breaking into other times, the panels become more numerous and unevenly shaped with the action sequences. This brings an excitement to the page that establishes the division between your place with the Broken Man and the weird time stuff you are not supposed to be looking at. Anderson’s work conveys emotion very well, especially panic. Near the very end of the comic, there is a revelation where poignancy becomes crucial, which he pulls off.
In comparison with previous issues, this one is not quite as engaging. Busiek writes at the ending note that this issue is setting something up for the future, which might explain the excessive exposition. There is still excitement and tension, but readers might not feel in sync with most of the characters.
And while the issue is still open for anyone to pick up, I had to reread to understand more of what was happening. Scenes come and go very fast in this issue.
Verdict: Astro City retains both its fun and its deep themes, interacting with and affecting the reader in various ways. This is a comic that demands your attention and participation, refusing to become a forgettable read. On the other hand, #5 stands out less in comparison to the previous installments due to its part in a long-term plan and so with that context in mind, it earns 3 stars out of 5.