Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Astro City: Family Album

by Kurt Busiek

So I think I've clicked to the premise behind Astro City. Busiek wants to focus on the effects that the presence of superheroes would realistically have on peoples lives. Of course he's not allowed to do this with DC's normal characters, they'd have a fit if anyone did anything 'disrespectful' to Superman. So instead he's invented his own city filled with characters who look and sound suspiciously like certain other superheroes. The premise may be a bit wanky, but Busiek's a really good writer and the superhero genre is so overblown, cliched and self-important that it makes a lot of sense to do something like this.

As you might guess, Family Album is a collection of stories about family. The first one, 'Welcome to Astro City' tells the story of an ordinary family who have just moved to Astro City. It's not overly interesting, but it is kind of cool to see how regular people react to angry gods appearing and threatening to destroy the city every month or so.

The second, 'Everyday Life', deals with the problems a young girl has trying to fit in with her peers, when she's a member of a family of superheroes. Again I didn't find the main story all that appealing, but there's some nice satire of normal superhero stories.

I like the next story, 'Show 'Em All', a lot more. Coincidentally enough, it didn't have a family theme. Instead it focuses on an aging villain, the Junkman, who pulls off a brilliant bank heist, but becomes disillusioned when he realises he's outwitted every hero in Astro City and no one will ever know.

Next is 'Serpent's Teeth', which depicts the fears of a new father rather literally when a superhero is visited by various demented versions of his son from different possible futures. I enjoyed this one a lot, as Busiek combines the high concept with action very smoothly.

Lastly there's my favorite story, 'In the Spotlight'. Again, not a family story. In this one we hear the story of Loony Leo, a cartoon character who was (literally) bought to life in the fourties, and proceeds to live a very non-cartoony show business life. This one probably appealed to me a lot because of it's juxtaposition of supposedly innocent entertainment (a talking cartoon animal) and more adult show business (the drugs, hookers and crime). I'm always a sucker for that sort of subversion.

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Confessions, the last Astro City collection I read, but it was still a pretty good read.

No comments: