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October 01, 2007



Dear Dr. Singer,

What did you think of the latest Batman (699)? I can't help thinking it was kind of a bust.

Connor, Age 22
Formerly of Dartmouth (You helped me with my thesis)

Marc Singer

I'll probably have a post up soon, just out of a sense of obligation from having written about the first two parts. That shouldn't signal any disappointment with the issue--I loved it, but since it was devoted entirely to wrapping up the plot I don't think I have a whole lot new to say about it.

Stephen Frug

I read the first five (I think) Astro City trades, and enjoyed them, although less and less as they went on -- I felt like I'd sort of gotten the point with the first one, and while it was amplified in the later trades, there seemed to be less & less value in the additions. I haven't sought out this latest series (part one or two), and this sort of confirms my decision not to. Oh, if it shows up at my local library I might read it. But I'm not going to go buy it.

Frankly, I wonder if this particular vein is mined out, and it might be time to move on to something else.


I had high hopes when The Dark Ages started, despite my longstanding qualms with Astro City, because I thought Busiek's palpable love for the comics of the Bronze Age might produce something different from the usual condemnations of modern comics and celebrations of their supposedly innocent forebears, something that got to the heart of why the Bronze Age fascinates him. Instead it's just extended the condemnation back to the 1970s while the storytelling (once the consolation for the book's simplistic recitations of familiar themes) has deteriorated. If Book One was a sign that the vein was mined out, Book Two may be the canary dying in its cage.

Ken Lowery

I had completely forgotten about that JLA/Avengers post. Good god, what a waste of money that was.

Astro City is a peculiar beast for me. As with so many "classics" new and old, I came to the party very late, so I got to sit down and read a lot of the trades all in one shot. I was feverishly addicted at the time (up through Family Album, which I think is the third one but I'm not sure could someone please number these damn things) but once I stopped I found I didn't miss them. Right now the only thing I could tell you I distinctly remember is that spiffy supernatural hero for the, uh, vampiric part of town. Oh, crap, was that Top Ten?

Busiek seemed to stay away from pastiche, which is how I got three books in, but after awhile I pretty much got the idea he wasn't doing anything but recodifying comics history into his own personal canon, which when considered with your opinions about his Avengers run, may just be what he does all the time.

Once I figured out (more subconsciously than not, I admit) that, while a reasonably good story, recreation was all he wanted to do, I lost interest, and fast. If I want to be reminded of really great stories from years past... I'll just go read them myself.



That spiffy supernatural hero was the Hanged Man in Astro City. Depressingly easy to confuse with Top Ten, isn't it? Although Top Ten never subsumed the story to the pastiche the way this does.

(Actually, I can't shake this weird suspicion that the Hanged Man is this volume's Simon Magus, still fighting the good fight after something killed or transformed him in the 80s. Busiek is still great at implying these fake continuities with all their little twists and turns, but if that story ever made it onto the page I would probably be just as frustrated as I am here.)

To end on a slightly more upbeat note, everybody should go check out Ken's blog for his fantastic movie reviews. The Pirates of the Caribbean 3 piece isn't just spot on; the last paragraph is one of the most intelligent and damning summations of geek culture and its darlings I've ever seen.

Ken Lowery

Ahem, well, thank you. That means a lot coming from you; I always thought this blog was a place that I simply wasn't smart enough to comment on. I'm not a dunce or anything, but I can recognize when folks are operating on a different level. So, thank you. That's very encouraging.

I don't believe I have any reviews hitting tomorrow, but I'll have three up next Friday: Darjeeling Limited, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and We Own the Night. I was less than impressed with the former two, and I'll be seeing the latter Monday night.


Just to be Mr. Geek Continuity Guy, The Hanged Man has supposedly been around since the 19th century, so I doubt Simon Magus is him. Unless the fact that the character is a parallel for The Spectre is supposed to indicate that the character has had several host identities over the years, and Simon is one of them.

On a much more simplistic level, I always get a little frustrated that we never know, and may never find out, what happened to the various Astro City characters of the prior eras. That also touches on the frustrations with the books' painfully slow release schedule, which has taken us mostly away from modern-day Astro for several years now. I actually suspect The Dark Age would go down a lot easier if we'd gotten the fist 8 issues within a year--the Silver Agent story would seem more continuous, for starters.

And yes to Anderson's artwork, which, given how late the book is, is unforgivably sloppy. I've seen people on the Astro City forums suggest to Busiek that he should rotate writers--which was what they had planned to do in the first place--but he refuses to consider that idea. The man's loyal to his friend, which is nice and all, but the book which could have been his masterpiece is suffering because of it.


I think you're right about the release schedule.

I'd forgotten that Busiek said the Hanged Man has been around a while (although that seems to have mostly been imparted in Visitor's Guides and the like; there's only one on-panel mention of it). Funny that he hasn't shown up in any of the Dark Age issues, especially when less period-appropriate characters like the Gentleman have popped up in a couple of crowd shots. What could be less 1970s than a square-jawed white guy flying around in tails?

So this means we have yet another character like the Old Soldier or now the Silver Agent with a conveniently undefined history and a knack for showing up whenever the writer wants him to, to do whatever the writer needs him to. If the bifurcated characters are becoming repetitive, Busiek's many gods from the machine are even worse.

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