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Astro City: The Dark Age Book One Paperback – April 21, 2015
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About the Author
Kurt Busiek was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He began writing comics professionally in 1982, selling stories to both DC and Marvel Comics in the same month, both of which appeared the same day. Since then, he's written series and characters ranging from Mickey Mouse to Vampirella, including Aquaman, Spider-Man, Conan, Iron Man, the Avengers and more. He is best known for the Marvels series and for his co-creation Astro City, both of which have garnered numerous industry awards. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Ann, and his two daughters. He spends far too much time on the Internet.
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Top Customer Reviews
Massive budget deficits; more torture revelations; the collapse of the banking system now propped like a zombie on the taxpayers dime, rising unemployment, accelerating climate change - if this isn't a comparable Dark Age, it's a pretty good facsimile. A story with politicians replaced by robot drones, corrupt authorities, waking nightmares, freakish crime lords battling for turf, conflicted heros battling their own demons - sometimes literally - well maybe it's not so strange and outrageous a territory as it might seem. Of late our own evening news programs feature stories and characters as grotesque as any found in this book.
Choosing to tell the story in loose fashion around the lives of two brothers, bonded by a shared tragedy, divided by their response to it, this offering is a bit rougher than previous entries in the Astro City universe. In a way it's a memoir told from two different viewpoints and as such it tends to skip through time from event to event. A clichéd way to view the two protagonists is that one is the 'good' brother on the side of law and order, while the other has chosen to turn to crime and is 'bad'. It would be as true to say both men are trying to live their lives by their own moral codes based on not so very different perceptions of the troubled world around them. Neither is getting much reward from their choices. 'Normal' humans both, they're doing their best to cope with a world in which it seems even those with special powers are overmatched.
If there is something frustrating about this book, it is that there are so many story threads, glimpses of a larger tapestry of which we can only see fragments. Busiek and artist Bret Anderson introduce a number of Super Heros and Villains, enough to fill an entire stable of comic books. We have to take what we can get for now, and at least some things hinted at in other Astro City books are finally getting revealed.
This is only part one, and however disjointed it may seem at times, the overall story arc builds to a satisfactory cliff hanger at its conclusion. The brothers are left at a key turning point; a major villain has emerged into view; a doomsday weapon is nearing the time when it must be used, and great powers together with great dangers are racing to an appointment with destiny.
Above and beyond all of this is the fate of the martyred Silver Agent. Wrongfully executed for a crime he was powerless to prevent, the unfolding of his story looks to be the culmination of the story arc in the sequel to this collection. Facing a certain doom, he appears again and again at critical moments to make a difference, then vanishes into Time with the parting promise to those encountering him that "things will get better."
What is the price he has agreed to pay, and to whom, are questions that will have to wait. The parallax view of our own world gained by venturing into this one is worth the price of admission.
The other problem is that the leads and the other characters are not particularly interesting or compelling, and they spend the majority of the story narrating to no one. There's a couple of moments with some gravitas but for the most part they're dull talking heads who mostly explain what happened in the 70's as if they were talking to somebody that hadn't lived through it. I don't know if it's intentional, but references to Nixon and public backlash about super heroes reminds me of Watchmen, which did something similar but in a way that made dozens of characters come to life in addition to telling an interesting story that's informed but not dependent on the past. Dark Age lacks that narrative hook that took something like Watchmen and made it approachable.
That said, the art's very good, there are some scenes that work, and I thought the action sequences were well done. It's not bad, but it's a little disappointing and not for everyone.