Astro City Special: Silver Agent #1


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Astro City Special: Silver Agent #1


  • Words: Kurt Busiek
  • Art: Brent Anderson
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: "To Serve and Protect"
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jul 14, 2010

What makes a hero? Does it require a cool mask and an array of fantastic powers to combat injustice? Does it take a badge and a gun or blaring sirens to protect those less fortunate than us? Or are all of these things simply bells and whistles disguising what really matters – that is, the desire and the will to do good deeds?

These are the questions Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson pose in their Astro City Special focusing on the mysterious Silver Agent, a character – a hero – central to the beloved franchise who has until now remained largely unexplored.

For years, the Silver Agent’s legacy has loomed over the history of Astro City, his sacrifice hinted at in several stories but never fully detailed until this latest special. In a recent interview in Broken Frontier’s digital news magazine The Frontiersman, Busiek explained that whereas seminal works such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns focused on deconstructing the myth of the superhero, Astro City has always set its sights firmly on rebuilding the archetype.

This is particularly evident in the Silver Agent Special, as Busiek and Anderson reveal the origin of the titular character and the deep motivations driving him to serve his city. There are obvious overtones of Marvel’s Captain America in the Silver Agent’s origin but Alan Craig’s story may hit a little closer to home for many readers.

Steve Rogers’ inspiration has always been the Flag – he was built to be a super-soldier, created to defend his country as both symbol and shield. Patriotism has and always will color every action Rogers takes in red, white, and blue. The Silver Agent, on the other hand, stands for something a little more immediate and down to earth.

Both more and less than a patriotic ideal, Alan Craig’s mission speaks to more practical, street-level concerns. Despite a colorful rogues gallery that would do any self-respecting masked hero proud, the Silver Agent fights crime not out of a sense of duty to political borders or philosophies but out of a basic moral need to serve his community.

It’s a belief that’s been ingrained in him by a family of men and women who have acted as the stewards of Astro City in various capacities for generations. And it is his humility, grace, and faith in his code that allows him to return just in time to sacrifice himself to uphold the laws he spent his entire life defending, even as they wrongfully condemned him to death.

Like Homer’s Odyssey, which starts with a storm-ravaged Odysseus floating in the middle of the sea, Busiek and Anderson drop the reader right into the middle of the Silver Agent’s last stand against a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek menace threatening the 43rd century. As Craig and an army of Silver Centurions prevent the digital evil of iGod (love it!) from harmonizing the universe, he faces the choice of whether to accept his fate and return to his own time to be executed or to remain in the future with heroes he inspired and continue to serve his “community.”

Craig’s final decision is well known. The circumstances surrounding his return have always been shrouded in mystery though, as the Silver Agent appeared at various dark points in Astro City’s history just in time to turn the tide before vanishing again. It’s a sad yet hope-filled tale – one that hasn’t fully played out yet.

And a part of me hopes Busiek and Anderson never completely reveal the Silver Agent’s story in its conclusion next issue. The mystery surrounding his sacrifice only made it all the more potent. As backwards as it sounds, I fear revealing too much of Craig’s history will dilute his legacy. Just knowing the Silver Agent laid down his life not to save his city from some catastrophic event or an evil genius’s insane scheme but for an ideal instead, was somehow enough.

We’ll see though. Busiek and Anderson know what they’re about. These two gentlemen are masters of the medium and Astro City is their baby. Busiek’s accolades are many and Anderson is for my money, arguably the best pure superhero artist working in comics today. So however the Silver Agent’s origin story turns out, I trust the journey to be one full of adventure, insight, and innovation.

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