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Astro City: Shining Stars Paperback – April 15, 2014
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"Kurt Busiek's brilliant series Astro City tries to answer that question by focusing on the ordinary people whose lives are affected by epic battles fought in the skies. Busiek's stories, vibrantly illustrated by Brent Anderson, focus on such unlikely subjects as a bellman at an Astro City hotel, or a superhero's ex-girlfriend, or a young reporter who stumbles on a superheroic scoop."—SLATE
About the Author
Kurt Busiek is the acclaimed author of DC'S 2008 weekly series TRINITY, the ASTRO CITY graphic novels, as well as JLA/AVENGERS, SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, Marvels and many others.
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This volume,the 8th in the series,is a collection of various tales...in one,the omnipotent hero Samaritan accepts a dinner invitation from one of his most ruthless nemesis,a villain bent on remaking reality itself...in another,the android superheroine Beautie,who bears more than a passing resemblance to a life-size Barbie,contemplates the enigma that is her existence,her origin a complete mystery to her...we look in on the graduation night celebration of Astra,a teen celebrity superheroine who is in a constant battle to balance a normal life with that of being a scion of a superhuman dynasty...the book concludes with the previously unknown tale of the Silver Agent,once considered one of the greatest heroes of Astro City,who met his end in the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit.
This is an amazing collection of stories,one that will definitely whet the reader's appetite for the other stories in this series.
When we last saw Charles and Royal Williams (see my review of "The Dark Age Book One"),they had learned the identity of their parents' killer;now,their determination to seek revenge upon this man becomes an all-consuming passion,even going so far as to join a supervillain army to achieve their goal.Not an easy task,as their world has become a destination for extraterrestrial beings,as well as the emergence of black magic,which threatens to tear apart reality itself.The brothers' quest culminates in the most unlikely of circumstances,with a final hint of events yet to come.
This has far more twists and turns than Part One (which,it goes without saying,you should read first to fully enjoy this);some of it may seem like more plot devices than actual plot,but rest assured that this conclusion to Astro City's single longest story (so far) is a good one.
The story began with a family tragedy - two brothers left orphaned during a battle between the forces of Good and Evil. As they struggled to make sense of what had happened to them, they chose different paths growing up to cope. One became a cop, the other descended into petty crime. Meanwhile things continued to go downhill.
With every year, the good guys seemed to become harder, meaner - as did the bad guys. For ordinary people, it came to seem it didn't matter who was battling - they just didn't want to become collateral damage. Justice began to seem out of reach; it began to be all about payback. The brothers found themselves as bit players on the edge, witnesses to a world going wrong, one not quite able to figure out why.
The second book takes up where the first left off. The two brothers came together after one saved the other. In Book Two, they stop being victims of their past, and become players in their own right in their ongoing struggle for justice and/or revenge. Through it all is the parallel story arc of the martyred Silver Agent. We finally learn how he came to become a redeemer (in more than one sense) traveling through time to appear at critical moments, trying to bring a message of hope amidst the darkness. The dance of destiny steered by the choices the characters make is what keeps driving the story.
Without revealing the twists and red herrings the plot turns on, Book Two comes to a satisfying conclusion. Set across decades of time, The Dark Age is an incredibly rich era in the Astro City universe; there's so many characters coming and going, there's barely time to give some of them more than the briefest of tantalizing glimpses. It would be easy to expand the story into multiple volumes - but this will do for now. Busiek and the artists working with him have crafted an epic tale with a really satisfying finish that brings the Dark Ages full circle into the rest of the Astro City universe.
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