The comic book adventures of costumed superheroes represent a specialized genre of literature that has been around for decades. Every so often a new work comes around that truly represents a new high point in the field. Such a work is "Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Life in the Big City," an intelligently written and spectacularly illustrated volume that tells the story of a remarkable group of superheroes.
"Life" is actually a collection of six interrelated stories, each of which stands on its own as a fine piece of comic book art. Together the six tales present a stunning portrait of the fictional Astro City, a postmodern metropolis teeming with costumed superheroes, sinister supervillains and other memorable characters. Among the many heroes we meet are Samaritan, the almost godlike caped hero with a tragic past; Winged Victory, a flying superwoman with a feminist twist; the Hanged Man, a mysterious figure who maintains a silent protective vigil; and Jack-in-the-Box, a demonic-looking clown with a number of high-tech tricks up his sleeve.
But just as compelling are the "ordinary" citizens of Astro City: veteran reporter Elliot Mills, legal clerk Marta, and the other working folks whose lives are lived in the shadow of the supermen.
"Life in the Big City" smoothly blends elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and social commentary. Well-written dialogue is complemented by a wealth of memorable images... The stories explore such thought-provoking issues as ethnic identity and the anxiety of assimilation, gender politics, and the psychology of paranoia. One of the compilation's best tales, "The Scoop," is a witty and surprising parable about journalistic ethics.
The book length comic, or graphic novel, is a rich genre whose practitioners have produced some outstanding classics in recent years. The intelligence, visual power, and moral integrity of "Life in the Big City" elevate it to that distinguished company.