It was recently reported Batman writer Tom King was bringing a crisis center to the DCU to explore superhero PTSD. My thoughts instantly went to this recent news after reading Astro City #50, which focuses on the regular people of Astro City who have gone through hell due to the many supervillain attacks. It’s a great concept as it explores the reality of living in a world with alien invasions and missing persons every week, and is wonderfully done here.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
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.
Why does this matter?
Superhero comics are sometimes knocked for being over the top or childish. Kurt Busiek has been proving them wrong with every issue of this series and this is another great example of that. This issue continues to explore a world of superheroes in a mature and realistic way, which is, frankly something we don’t see enough of.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Just an average day in a superhero world.
With a story like this superheroes and supervillains end up being supporting characters. Instead we get a look at the average people of Astro City who have gone through terrible events and lived to tell about it. They now go to the Miranda’s Friends support group to talk about the things they’ve experienced and the fear they feel every day. Busiek once again masterfully tells a tale about pain and anguish in a world where terrible acts happen on the regular. This issue reveals one person’s terrible story–a new attendant of the support group–but gets at the heart of what Tenicek does everyday to help others.
The beauty of this issue is how it reaches Tenicek’s own loneliness and struggle via this group. The group is his entire life and while he takes care of himself on a basic level he’s probably not doing enough for himself. It’s an interesting exploration that begs for another chapter.
The art by Brent Anderson is simplistic, but realistic at the same time. The wrinkles in the faces remind us these people are human and when the fantastical does enter the story it’s obvious. In a great flashback to one of the support group members, Anderson renders the art with tiny Ben-Day dots which does well to convey it’s a memory. Later, Tenicek is scene painting and his paintings are gorgeous. Rendered with a good watercolor effect, it’s almost more real than everything else which gives it a ghostly sort of look that works well for the scene.
A support group is most likely necessary in a world with constant attacks.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This is the type of story you need to be in the mood for. Upon flipping through it I wasn’t sold on the art — it’s mostly talking heads of ordinary people, but if you give it a shot you’re bound to relate to these characters and feel a bit of empathy. The story may lack action, but it makes up for it with sentiment.
Is It Good?
A good issue looking at those ordinary folks affected by the world of superheroes. Busiek continues to shine a light on the realm of superheroes in an effective and meaningful way.
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