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Astro City: Local Heroes #5
writer: Kurt Busiek
artist: Brent Anderson

"Sometimes justice comes from the barrel of a gun." Well, of course in Astro City you'd have to assume that vigilantes would have that attitude. And in this intriguing end to Astro City's return, Kurt Busiek makes a pretty strong legal case for it (with some help from part-time comics writer and full-time attorney Bob Ingersoll).

Other writers may kick themselves for never having thought of this before, or they may just smile and nod sagely. In telling the story of the spectral Blue Knight, Busiek frames it with the story of an innocent - if you will consider a lawyer innocent.

Defending a "connected" murderer, defense attorney Vincent Oleck made use of logic that would only work in the comic books. But the surprise is that nobody else has tried to make it work before. How, in a world running rampant with shape-shifters, android duplicates, ghostly doppelgangers and the like, can you be sure that you've seen who you've seen? Ever? When trying to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it should be impossible.

But of course, there are those that know for certain. The Blue Knight, at least, seems blissfully (and violently) free of doubt. As Busiek has often done in the past, the information he gives about this intriguing character is subjective, and by its nature scant. Oleck narrates and drops hints about the vigilante's larger career beyond the time their paths crossed, but like the Silver Agent ("poor, doomed Silver Agent"), we may never really know.

Busiek is too busy building new corners to his world to keep going back and filling in the details. Sure, he taunts us occasionally that, no, really, in the next mini-series we'll get more. But when Astro City is at its best, we're too busy mulling over the fresh takes on old ideas to worry about what we really don't know. Though this mini-series got off to a bumpy start, the last three issues have been Astro City at its best.

More than a little of that comes from the steady work of Brent Anderson. Working in tandem with Alex Ross, Anderson delivers another arresting character design in The Blue Knight. It's a shame that the previous line of action figures died barely out of the gate; maybe DC Direct would consider reviving a line based on Anderson and Ross' work. This avenging policeman would look might sweet on a certain editor's desk…

At any rate, the creators have done the best thing they could do with this mini-series: left us wanting more.


The Flash #205
writer: Geoff Johns
artists: Alberto Dose and Howard Porter

For fans of the DC Universe, this is a textbook example of how to do a superhero comic. It starts right from the cover, one which promises a confrontation that isn't quite as violently dramatic within its pages, but it's bold.

In a nice change of pace from recent editorial policy, Dose gets to draw the cover, too. Though his style is a little more down-to-earth and not quite as flashy (pardon the pun) as Bolland or Kohlins were, it's still an attention-grabber. Why belabor this point? Because the cover actually relates directly to the interior rather than just being a pin-up, something that Marvel seems to have lost sight of on a lot of their books.

Catching up with the plot, Wally West has just recently discovered that he's The Flash. How did that happen? After the loss of his unborn twins, Wally could not take the pain of his existence as The Fastest Man Alive, and so his uncle's best friend Hal Jordan (now The Spectre) wiped Wally's memory of it from the entire world. Oh, people remembered there was a Flash, but nobody remembered his secret identity which had been public since Barry Allen died in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Not that you need to really know all that history, another reason why this is such deceptively simple storytelling. Know that Wally lost his memory, but a couple of issues ago, somebody jogged it by giving him a Flash-ring, complete with compressed costume.

The answers to mysteries raised in the last couple of issues appear, and what makes them particularly fun is Johns' strong grasp of all the characters involved. It's no secret that he loves Captain Cold, and has made that one villain stand out above all the others in the Rogues' Gallery. But Johns has been building up for a touching moment with Cold that proves that there is a kind of honor in the man. If the writer ever gets to do the mini-series he wanted, I'm there.

This is also one of the few Batman appearances (outside his own books) where you can buy that this dark creature of the night interacts with super-beings comfortably. Or at least as comfortable as Batman can get. Again, the history isn't as important as the attitude, and in conjunction with Dose's excellent face work, you can almost hear the contempt in the Dark Knight's voice as he realizes that Hal was involved. Even when the guy has been forgiven by heaven, with almost unlimited power, Batman will never trust him.

Though Dose was a surprising choice for this book, he has proven himself completely right for this arc. At its heart, this story has little to do with superheroics; it's about grief and putting the past behind you, something Wally has never been very good at. For such a story, Dose does somber without being depressing. (Two pages give us a quick look at his replacement, Howard Porter, whose work at least seems more consistent than it was on JLA -- I'm still not a huge fan.)

It's textbook without being derivative. Though The Flash hasn't had as high a profile as some other titles with creative teams brought in for short bursts of sales, it deserves better. It's solid, issue after issue.


Derek McCaw


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