Overview

Astro City: The Dark Age #4

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Astro City: The Dark Age #4

Credits

  • Words: Kurt Busiek
  • Art: Brent E. Anderson
  • Inks: Brent E. Anderson
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Thicker Than Water, Part Four: Execution Day
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 19, 2005

The Silver Agent meets his fate and Charles and Royal meet their worst nightmare as the first arc of The Dark Age draws to a close.

The Silver Agent, once one of America’s greatest champions, has been convicted of murder and treason. On the day he is sentenced to die, the world faces an unexpected crisis as Madame Majestrix leads her monstrous forces to reclaim her lost son, Rex. And amid this chaos, our focal characters, Charles and Royal Williams, face a crisis of their own when the Blue Knight comes gunning for Royal once more.

Since issue two of the original Astro City, the fate of the Silver Agent and the eternal shame the city feels over it have been among the central mysteries of the series. This story, to put it lightly, has been a long time coming. Yet in true Astro City fashion, Kurt Busiek reminds us that it’s not the Agent or any of the superheroes that are the true stars but the ordinary people whose lives are affected by them. The trial of the Agent, Majestrix’s mad plot against North America, even the political turmoil and unrest of the 1970s—all of this is but a backdrop for the compelling human story of Charles and Royal. A cop and a criminal respectively yet family nonetheless, the Williams brothers have followed a fascinating character arc as The Dark Age unfolded. Their story is filled with resentment, love, betrayal, and tragedy and has made for as fascinating a story as anything the larger-than-life superheroics can produce. In this issue, they come to an inevitable crossroads and each must decide if their personal differences are worth the life of the other.

Ambitious as ever, Busiek has woven Charles and Royal’s story into a tale that comments on numerous other themes and ideas. Watergate, Vietnam, and the loss of American idealism; the end of the Silver Age and the changing nature of heroism in comics; the fickleness of public opinion and how quickly we turn on our gods and idols when they let us down. All of this subtext is part of the series yet the human element is never lost.

By now, Brent Anderson must know Astro City inside and out yet I am consistently surprised by everything he brings to the book. His character designs walk the fine line between creativity and homage, giving the comic a feeling that is fresh yet universal. Majestrix’s grotesque armored minions look like they were spawned by the mind of Jack Kirby. Hero crowd shots offer both new and familiar faces, including characters in the vein of the Fantastic Four (The First Family), Captain Marvel (The Gentleman), and Jim Starlin-style space heroes (Starfighter). Anderson’s storytelling is clean and beautiful and every character, human or superhuman, conveys the emotion of the story on their troubled faces.

Astro City remains an extraordinary series with more depth and resonance than many expect from a capes-and-tights book. The city may be facing a dark age but Busiek and Anderson continue to shine.

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