Missed Directions: Local Heroes

I do not pay much attention to sales numbers or things like that, the drier side of the industry. But I have worked part-time in a comics shop for the past five years, and this has afforded me an opportunity to make note of sales trends to some small degree. It seems lately that interest in Astro City, by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson, has declined somewhat. Perhaps this is because Busiek’s health problems have prevented the book from being released in a timely manner, or perhaps it is because the current series, The Dark Age, seems to be dragging on a bit.

But even if I am wrong and the book is going as strong as ever, I would be remiss in not doing all in my power to generate interest in this ground-breaking series. Busiek and Anderson have taken years of superhero comics knowledge, and have effectively avoided the genre’s many pitfalls while maintaining the traditional sense of fun and adventure. Nowhere is this more clear than in the five-issue mini-series, Local Heroes.

Busiek often takes a somewhat postmodernist tack when it comes to perspective (see the collected series Astro City: Confession), but in this series especially, the stories are told from the points-of-view of a handful of non-powered everyday citizens of Astro City, the world’s most densely super-powered city. By going about the stories this way, Busiek allows for a very solid bedrock of realism upon which to relate the fantastical adventures of the many heroes and villains, bringing to mind the huge strides Marvel Comics made in the early ‘60s merely by setting their stories in the actual city of New York.

In the first issue of Local Heroes, the doorman of a big hotel, one of the first citizens you are likely to meet on a visit to any major metropolis, shows us around town a bit and also shows us who the heroes truly are. Issue two takes a look at the Lois Lane/Clark Kent/Superman dynamic in a different light, one that underlines the major contribution that sassy big-city gal made to superhero story-telling. Issue three gives us an insight into the more rural outpost of heroism, and issues four and five bring us right back to a much deeper, darker urban side. These final two issues are truly the highlight of the series, for not only do they address the loss of American innocence as was delineated by Vietnam, Watergate, et al, but also we can see a much more mature level of story-telling in place specifically as it relates to superheroes. Perhaps if Marvel had heeded what Busiek has done here, their Spider-Man story-line Brand New Day would not have been so disappointing.

So whether you have never read any Astro City comics or merely have not read any in some time, to not pick up Astro City: Local Heroes would be a Missed Direction.