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Astro City: Local Heroes #1 By Matt Martin
DC Comics/Wildstorm/Homage Ė Kurt Busiek (w); Brent Anderson (a)
A while back I did a review where I admitted some embarrassing entertainment-related factoids about myself to illustrate a particular point. In doing so, I mentioned a handful of books that I was sort of nervous about admitting that I had never read. Now, I didnít make a point out of saying that Iíve never read Astro City, because thatís not entirely accurate. But it might as well be, because what Iíve read of it (the first two or three issues, I believe) has always left me with the impression that Iím not the target audience for this book. So Iím loath to criticize this book, because itís one of those titles that seems almost universally well-liked and I simply donít get it.
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Itís not that this mini-series (or the previous series, for that matter) doesnít have an interesting premise. Astro City is about a fictional metropolis (no pun intended) and its superpowered inhabitants, though on a more existential level, itís equally about the impact that the presence of those heroes has on the workaday world of Astro City and vice versa. Local Heroes is no exception, focusing solely on the effect that a city populated in no small portion by those with superhuman powers has on the portion of the city that lives without abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
The first issue of this mini revolves around a day in the life of a man named Donacek who works for one of Astro Cityís eye-catching hotels, The Classic. Though he began humbly enough, Donacek has been on The Classicís staff long enough that he currently serves as a resident guide of sorts, standing out in front of the entrance and fielding questions from the legion of tourists that surge through Astro City on a daily basis. The tourists themselves come almost solely for the purpose of catching a glimpse of one of the many masked marvels that call the area home and Donacek proves himself a veritable encyclopedia of superhero lore, calling upon his wealth of experiences to point travelers in the right direction. Sometimes Donacek serves only to steer them away from dangerous situations; sometimes his words go unheeded.
The problem I have with the story is that it simply feels like this has all been done before (and it has, to be fair). Iíve lost my interest in seeing people profess their love for DCís Silver Age through a series of thinly veiled references to Superman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League. As well, Iím not sure how many more stories I can take about how the idea of larger-than-life metahuman heroes can inspire those of us without superpowers to become heroes in our own right before I snap.
Busiek, to his credit, provides a satisfying twist at the close of the issue, using a throw-away comment from the opening pages and turning it into something more meaningful, but again, itís all in the vein of ďyou donít have to have superpowers to be a hero.Ē Astro City has always been a nostalgic look back at a simpler time, both for the real world and the fictional world of superheroes, so if youíre reading it, you know going in what youíre going to get. If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, I have no problem with that. However, if youíve heard good things about this book and looked at a new first issue as a good place to start, be forewarned that you may not see what all the fuss is about.