[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Our 50th issue begins a special new story: Michael Tenicek lost his wife, years ago, to a chronal cataclysm. But he’s not the only one in Astro City whose life has been upended by life among the superheroes. Today, we’ll meet others, learn their stories and see how Michael—and friends—cope with their trauma. A sequel to the Eisner-nominated “The Nearness of You,” considered by many to be ASTRO CITY’s best story ever.
Back in 1998, when Astro City was still being published by Image Comics, a special issue was bundled with the now defunct Wizard Magazine. This issue, labelled Astro City #1/2, contained a story titled “The Nearness Of You” (this story can be found in the Astro City Volume 2 trade paperback). This issue featured the story of Mike Tenicek, who is haunted by recurring memories of a woman he doesn’t know. The Hanged Man reveals to him that the memories are of his wife, Miranda, who was erased from history as the by-product of a supervillain’s manipulation of time.
Fast forward twenty years to this issue, which marks the 50th issue of Astro City’s run under the Vertigo Comics banner. To mark the occasion, Busiek returns to show us what Mike has been up to in the years since.
Although you can’t say that Mike has been happy, he has moved on with his life and has admirably decided to help others in similar situations. He has started a support group called Miranda’s Friends for people who have been traumatized in the superhuman battles, alien invasions, and supernatural catastrophes that frequently happen in Astro City.
One of the main themes of Astro City has been a look at how the ordinary citizens cope with in a world where superheroes fight supervillains on a daily basis. We often see the Justice League face off against Darkseid or the Avengers against Ultron, but we rarely see the effect that these events have on the innocent bystanders who are injured or lose loved ones in these battles. But here we get to see how some of these people cope by getting together and giving each other emotional support.
There also seems to be a bit of mystery going on in Mike’s life. He tells us that he never receives any bills in his mail – not for rent, utilities, or credit card. Some unknown benefactor is paying his bills to allow him to run the group as a full-time job.
Also, we see that the Hanged Man still checks in on Mike occasionally. We aren’t given any indication on what his interest in Mike is. We don’t know whether he is just concerned for Mike’s well-being, or if there is some other unknown motive. The story continues next issue, so perhaps we will find out more later.
Well, if you were hoping for an action-packed story or were hoping to see any of Astro City’s heroes featured, you’re out of luck with this issue. Other than a single panel appearance of the Hanged Man and a couple of brief mentions of other heroes, there are almost no heroes or villains in the book – just regular people coping with the fallout from their battles. This isn’t much of a drawback, as it allows for an emotional and relatable story about coping with trauma and loss.
This issue tries something rare for Astro City by giving us a sequel to an earlier story, which allows for a deeper exploration of how people cope with the fallout from living lives upset by extraordinary events. The subsequent chapters promise to give us a poignant story of loss and healing.