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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:








 

WHITHER THE STEAM?

Every once in a while, I have the chance to pull a book off the shelf that I haven’t had the chance to read in quite some time. Lately, I’ve been doing so while riding my recumbent exercise bike. Comics and exercise are a brilliant combo.

Most recently, I grabbed the first volume of KURT BUSIEK’S ASTRO CITY and devoured it while working up a good sweat. For those unfamiliar with this book (and this series) a brief primer: Busiek, one of the great writers of superhero stories pretty much ever, created his own “universe” of characters and stories that had a bit more of a “real” feeling to them. His Superman analog, Samaritan, dreamt solely of being able to fly without reason, rather than blazing through the sky from one emergency to another. In another story, a small-time hood discovers one hero’s secret identity and wants nothing more than to exploit that knowledge for money and recognition. But logic finally carries him through until he sees the error of his thinking, realizing that the knowledge is the worst thing that has ever happened to him. One story details how a reporter watched an amazing confrontation between heroes and villains but struggled to get the tale told in the paper. But the one thing each KBAC story has in common is a ton of humanity. Volume one is one of the finest efforts of the 90s. Period.

WIZARD named it the best superhero book on the stands. Fanboys everywhere talked it up; Usenet newsgroups were alive with chatter about ASTRO CITY. It was the ultimate buzz book.

Now, raise your hands: how many of you out there have actually read it? Put your hand down if you’ve been reading comics longer than ten years. Thanks.

The number of hands in the air was probably not very high. Why? It wasn’t like KBAC suddenly started to suck. It took some time off the publishing schedule, but returned with the same folks at the creative helm. But the noise?

The noise died down to a whisper.

This could be explained if it were so many other books. THE AUTHORITY never recovered from Mark Millar’s idiot-reign after Ellis and Hitch left. The TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES became a commodity, not a comic book. Judd Winick abandoned BARRY WEEN so he could return Jason Todd to life. Those books faded for legit reasons and exited the fan consciousness.

But ASTRO CITY? No. Plenty of trades out there. Great material from beginning to end. Kurt Busiek writing, Brent Anderson drawing… these are two amazing professionals putting together some of their career-best work. I find it somewhat aggravating, really.

It’s one thing to have an indy gem, never to be heard from again. (see: VERY VICKY, among others) but another to have a readily available mainstream classic gathering dust and lacking appreciation. So do yourselves a favor- if you have never read KURT BUSIEK’S ASTRO CITY, do yourself a favor and pick up volume one. You’ll thank me for it. And then you’ll start buying the rest.

Marc Mason

 

 

 

 



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