An era ends, in a sense, in this issue of Astro City #21 as Crackerjack’s story takes an unexpected turn and Quarrel deals with the consequences of the shocking event.
Kurt Busiek continues his examination of the life of superheroes in his unique, masterful way as *spoiler alert* he deals Crackerjack a major blow. Anyone who reads superhero comics has read about a hero getting brutally injured more times than we can count, but, as per usual, Busiek finds a different and interesting angle to look at this injury by digging deeper into the effects on Quarrel. This issue focuses on Jessica Taggart and issues she is having with aging, and watching her long time partner Crackerjack be brutally wounded. Aging heroes have been analyzed before, but I’ve never read it quite like this and Busiek does a great job of highlighting the confusion in Jessica without ever painting her as weak. Quarrel is still tough and capable, but after years of defending the world from every threat known to humankind, when is the right time to hang them up? The pacing of this issue is brilliant, with the fireworks at the beginning of the issue balanced by Jessica’s soul searching throughout the rest of this tale and, as is typically the case with Astro City, readers are given a rock solid story with great characterization, dialogue and a fantastic angle. Busiek is a master at coming at superhero tropes from a new direction and after all these years he’s finding ways each month to keep Astro City interesting, fresh, and unique.
Brent Anderson’s artwork is as consistent as ever and whenever I see something penciled by his hand, it’s like coming home. There is a serious feeling of nostalgia in any issue of Astro City and this one is full of it. Anderson deftly shows the age of these heroes, and the weariness of characters like Samaritan who may not be feeling the physical effects of time, but are certainly becoming mentally tired. Anderson uses some great layouts to keep this visually interesting while Quarrel contemplates her future, and his storytelling is as skilled as Busiek’s. These storytellers are like peanut butter and jelly, a tried an true combination that started something magical with Astro City years ago and have maintained the highest quality to this very day. Anderson’s characters are remarkably human, which may seem to be a silly statement, but rather than being perfect photo-realistic models in costumes, their humanity shines through in every panel. These are people, with flaws and emotions that leap from the page and his work combines with Busiek’s words to deliver some of the best character work in comics.
Busiek and Anderson have another rock solid issue of Astro City with #21. This series is always solid and this issue is just another fantastic chapter from this legendary creative team.
The Verdict: 8.5/10