Astro City: The Dark Age Book 4 #4
After typing the title, I re-read it and thought, “How could you not be confused by it?” For this Astro City saga, there have been four mini-series with four issues each, and this month marked the publication of the last issue. After five years of publication, The Dark Age comes to an end. We find out if, after 15 years (taking place in the 70’s and 80’s), Royal and Charles Williams can save themselves in their quest for vengeance.
I have always enjoyed the conceit of Astro City: a comic book universe where time actually passes. The Dark Age used this conceit to it best possible advantage.
By showing how two brothers grow apart and come back together because of a family tragedy caused by a super-villain, author Kurt Busiek uses his world where super-heroes grown old and time passes to tell a great story. (Frustrated that Peter Parker was in high school before you were born and now you are older than he is? I know it bothers me sometimes.)
There are parts of Astro City that I do not like: Some of the heroes seem to be merely derivatives of commonly known DC and Marvel heroes. The First Family? The Samaritan? The Silver Agent? (One great exception to this is the Confessor. Read Astro City: Confession for this great story.)
While the characters he has created in Astro City may not always amuse me, Busiek shows he is a master plotter. With The Dark Age he has written a cohesive 16 issue story; no small feat. In this final issue he pulls together his plot lines and makes a great finale, giving me an end to the story of Royal and Charles that I can believe in. While the delays have been frustrating (what happened when?) it has been worth the ride.
However, because of the long lag between books, you might want to revisit the whole story line. The first two books are available in trade paperback. The third book came out last summer, and while it is not out in trade yet, the issues might be easy to track down.
Give yourself a good afternoon to sit down and read the Williams brothers’ saga as they grow and deal with the changes of Astro City of the 70’s and 80’s. The solution is definitely satisfying.
This last issue has extra pages to tell its wonderful story. I liked this. Unfortunately, it also had extra pages of what I would consider filler (something I would not normally pay for) in the form of the original treatment of what became the story of The Dark Age for another comic book company. That is the only reason I dinged the book in the Bottom Line final review (see below).
(Busiek intends to start up the regular Astro City series again now, with issue #23.)