Astro City:
The Tarnished Angel

by Kurt Busiek,
Brent E. Anderson
(Homage, 2000)

I haven't been back to Astro City in a while, so for this visit I decided to avoid the high spires and shiny towers of this thriving metropolis and focus my attentions instead on the seedy back streets and crumbling tenements of Kiefer Square. That's where we'll find Steeljack, a hardluck ex-supervillain, newly released from prison after 20 years hard and stumbling in search of a decent life.

But someone is killing his friends and, for all that they're the sort of lowlife criminals his parole board would frown upon, Steeljack isn't one to turn his back on people in need. That may seem an odd sentiment from a career badguy, but Steeljack isn't your normal joe -- and Kurt Busiek's Astro City isn't your normal kind of town.

But the answers aren't easy to find, especially when you're a metal-sheathed lunkhead with more muscle than brain and no particular talent for detective work. Even when the answers seem obvious, they aren't -- and just who is that English-accented Mock Turtle guy, anyway?

With Brent E. Anderson manning the pencils, Busiek's stories come to life in a realistic manner not often seen in superhero comics. Sure, Steeljack is covered in shiny metal, but his face sags with a lifetime's exhaustion and his belly paunches out in a way that suggests he didn't spend a lot of time in the jailhouse weight room. Still, he gleams and reflects his surroundings with sparkling intensity.

The Tarnished Angel is another exciting chapter in the history of Astro City, combining superheroics and villainy with a plain, old-fashioned potboiler detective yarn. Busiek and Anderson proved long ago that they weren't one-note creators, but it's always gratifying to find new evidence of the fact.

by Tom Knapp
30 September 2006

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