Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Astro City Volume 1 Life in the Big City

Welcome to Astro City, home of superheroes, super-villains and simple people.

Astro City is Metropolis and Gotham City all in one. Its bright and glorious but also dark and petty. Its filled with proud superheroes that, despite having godlike abilities, have very earthly life issues.

Astro City Volume 1 Life in the Big City marks the beginning of Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Brent Anderson's take on superhero comics.

How is it?

Kurt Busiek chooses a very interesting approach to superheroes in Life in the Big City. Instead of the usual (DC and Marvel's) take on superheroes Busiek portraits his characters in a very mundane manner. The Superman like character only wishes to be happy and longs for the simplest of things. The Wonder Woman like character is just as insecure as you or me. Also the common Astro City citizen has hopes and dreams and fears, just like everyone.

The parallelism between Astro City's characters, superheroes and locations their counterparts from DC and Marvel's Universe is evident. Most archetypes are present and Busiek makes the most of this. Its not a parody but a new take on most popular superhero mythos.

The storytelling is not continuous like in most collections. There are no story arcs. Instead Busiek takes an episodic approach to the story. Each chapter (issue) tells one tale and the are no conducting line between them. This first volume seems to be about getting the reader up to date with what is Astro City. Its superheroes, its lore and its spirit.

The first chapter introduces the Samaritan. The Samaritan is Astro City's Superman. A boy scout with God like superpowers that lives with the weight of the world on his shoulders. But all he wants is to fly, that is what he truly loves.

Then comes the story of the Silver Agent, a Captain America (i think) like character. This is told through flashbacks by Astro City's Perry White. In the third story we get to know the Gotham side of the city. In the third story a lowlife identically discovers the secret identity of a famous superhero but has a very hard time dealing with the situation. The result is certainly unique.

The fourth and fifth chapters are my favorite. In the fourth we follow one day of a suburbia woman that works in Astro City. She lives conflicted between these two worlds and has to find her place in the world. The fifth chapter follows an alien that is evaluating the human race and reporting back to his masters. This story is hilarious and genius at the same time.

Jack in the Box
The sixth and last chapter is the tale of the date between The Samaritan (Superman) and Winged Victory (Wonder Woman). Its an interesting way to approach this subject, mainly because Busiek doesn't portrait his heroes like the pinnacle of all that's good and true and  that DC and Marvel many times do.

Art wise Brent Anderson does a very good job. This book manages to hide its age due to great writing and very good art. I particularly love the difference between the Metropolis side of Astro City and its Gotham side. Its so distinguishable that its almost perfect. The character designs are also very good. The homage their DC or Marvel counterpart but at the same time are original and new.

Alex Ross provides some glorious covers that are available in the cover galery at the back of the book.


This is one of the best superhero books I've had the pleasure to read. I know I'm 14 years late to the party, but this is as glorious today as (I imagine) it was back in 99 (the original issues are from 1996). Its aged fantastically well, in fact had I not looked for the publishing date I wound't have guessed it wasn't hot off the press.

Very highly recommended.

Publisher: Wildstorm
Year: 1999
Pages: 192
Authors: Kurt Busiek, Brent E. Anderson, Alex Ross

Follow Reading Graphic Novels on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Esse é um livro que eu tenho pena de não ter...
    Esta edição contem todo o material da série?

    1. Viva Nuno,

      Sinceramente não sei. Eu tenho a versão TPB, e essa tem os 6 primeiros fascículos da série e a galeria de capas do Alex Ross. Imagino que no mínimo a versão HC tenha o mesmo.


  2. Love it! One of my favorite Busiek works! I read it 10 years ago and I'm more than willing to re-read it now.

    1. Hi Arion,

      This is quickly turning into one of my favorite superhero books. I've added the next volumes to my wishlist.

  3. Great book Rui, I read most of these through the local library and have always meant to get around to collecting them.

    The good news is Busiek has just announced he will be producing some more issues this year.

    1. Hi Joe,

      I still have a lot to catch up to before I get into the new stuff from Busiek. But I'm looking forward to :)