Astro City: Local Heroes TPB
by Kurt Busiek (Author), Brent E. Anderson (Illustrator)
The best part of Busiek, Ross and Anderson’s Astro City is the fact that it gives a different perspective of superhero comics that upends how one reads them. Being an anthology series, it does not venture to create a coherent narrative between issues; and yet, it manages to be coherent just because the heroes and villains populating Astro City are so familiar to us.
But that is not what makes it work.
It is the people.
Of all the stories in this volume, Local Heroes, that brings this to the fore is “Knock on Wood”; it is a court case around a mob boss within the world of Astro City. How does a court case work in a world were multiple dimensions exist, where death is a malleable concept, where doppelgangers run free?
While the story is very much evocative of a fan trying to keep an assessment of the worlds of pulp-and-ink and flesh-and-blood apart, it still works as a story within the universe of Astro City. It indicates the struggles of the fight for everyday justice were the worlds of the super and the world of the pedestrian should remain apart, even if one cannot be functionally separate from the other because it is tied to the fabric of consequence from one to the other. It is very much a statement of arguments posited by fans, were everyday politics should be kept out of comics, and statements made in comics be kept out of everyday discourse; it cannot really be done. No matter how irrelevant one world can seem to the other, they are tied in ways that seep through the cracks in the most unexpected of ways and change the way we see things; the comics will always inform the perspective of fans, and the real world will always inform the way comics are made.
In a way, that is the forte of Astro City; it is essentially a comic about comics that does not need to linger on the coherent narrative. We know the heroes, they are based on stereotypes familiar to us so much that we simply fill in the blanks at a glance. But what it does is it makes statements on the nature of comics not in a dense, hyper-metaphysical way that Grant Morrison would be proud of; but in an accessible, layperson’s point of view as if you are one of the denizens walking through Astro City.