I couldn’t possibly count all of the comics I’ve read in my life. During Marvel Month, I actually read 200 issues in 4 weeks. That’s abnormally high, but just about every month I’ll read at least 25 issues. Out of all the comics I’ve read, a handful have stood out: Bone, Sandman, the work of Alan Moore, All-Star Superman, Starman, Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Boy in the World, The Unwritten, Fables… and now there’s another story to add to the list: Astro City Dark Ages.
If you’re new to Astro City, it’s a comic series written by Kurt Busiek and is published by DC. It takes place in its own universe, but all of the characters are essentially recognizable superheroes seen through a glass darkly. The series was started almost as a response to Watchmen. Kurt Busiek seems to be saying that to depict superheroes realistically doesn’t mean you have to write overly dark comics (i.e. what came out in the late 80s and early 90s).
With The Dark Age, Busiek looks back at Astro City precisely at the time when comics became dark. Instead of having the series match the bleakness of that era, Astro City instead serves as commentary on it.
The story follows two brothers who witness their parents being murdered at a young age by a goon in the employ of a villainous cabal similar to Hydra in the Marvel universe. They then vow revenge, but for many years they don’t know who to strike at. As they grow older, one brother becomes a cop while the other becomes a low-level criminal. For a time, the brothers are at odds with each other, until they learn who their parents murderer really is. Their common hatred of this man unites them.
What follows is a long, thrilling Jacobean revenge drama. As readers, we get to follow these characters over the course of several years as they pursue their quarry. In their adventures, we see obliquely the hysterical entropy that’s happening in the world around them. Most of the superheroes of Astro City start to act tougher and use more severe methods, and those who don’t recede into the background.
Astro City The Dark Age is collected in two graphic novel volumes. I would highly recommend reading both, and in order. The cover art is supplied entirely Alex Ross, and the enterior art is by Brent Anderson.
—-I have written and published two books of fiction. Please check out my Amazon author page to find out more.
If you liked this post about Astro City The Dark Age, you might also enjoy reading my article about Watchmen and its legacy.