- Booster Gold #0, by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
- Countdown to Final Crisis #11 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Keith Giffen, Mike Norton & Mark McKenna (DC)
- Salvation Run #4 of 7, by Matthew Sturges, Sean Chen & Walden Wong (DC)
- Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #6 of 8, by John Ostrander, Javier Pina & Robin Riggs (DC)
- Astro City Special: Beautie, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
- Nova Annual #1, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mahmud A. Asrar, Klebs, Wellington Alves, Juan Vlasco & Nelson Pereira (Marvel)
- B.P.R.D.: 1946 #2 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart & Paul Azaceta (Dark Horse)
- Atomic Robo #5 of 6, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, & Christian Ward (Red 5)
I’ve felt for a long time that Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is the best comic book of the last 15 years, and it’s not even particularly close. Despite its erratic publishing schedule (for which there are good reasons, I understand), this chronicle of the heroes and ordinary citizens of the fictional city full of superbeings is always great human drama. Right now we’re in the middle of the 12-issue series The Dark Age, which is being told in 3 short series, each with an unrelated special between them. Beautie is the second such special, and it’s a great one.
Beautie is a member of the Honor Guard, the foremost group of superheroes in the Astro City world. What she is is a life-sized Barbie doll with super powers – really. She’s actually a robot, who mimics human form but has some frustrating limitations, and not just her problems relating to humans. She also has no memory of where she came from or why she exists, or why there are no others like her, or for that matter why she resembles a Barbie doll (which in the Astro City world is called a Beautie doll). This is the story of her quest to find out who she is, and what happens when she does.
After a fashion, this is the story of a character like Star Trek‘s Data compressed into a single issue, and rendered more realistically: Beautie not only has Data’s emotional hang-ups, she also has physical problems which prevent her from blending in. And not only is she frustrated by her limitations, she’s also not quite sure how to truly react to being frustrated. It’s a satisfying tale both emotionally and in its depth, with a little twist before the story’s climax revolving around the fact that Beautie is an android.
This would be a good issue to introduce new readers to Astro City, as I think it embodies many of the best elements of the series. And it’s another fine entry into the ongoing series, which should make longtime readers happy. I know it did me.
So once upon a time I used to sort each week’s comics alphabetically and read them in that order, which I know provoked a snarky comment from my Dad on occasion. These days I still sort them, but in the order I most want to read them. You can’t take all of the OCD out of the boy, it seems. Anyway, in any other week I would have put Astro City on top of this week’s stack, but this week I ended up reading Nova Annual first, since it’s one of my favorite comics and I thought it would be the conclusion of the current Phalanx story.
I was mistaken, it’s not the conclusion, but it was still a good read.
Rather than wrapping up the story, it instead featured Nova remembering his origin, when he was first recruited into the Nova corps, and also thinking forward to later in life when the restored Nova corps will fight the final battle against the Phalanx, who have completely taken over the Earth. It’s likely that the latter story was simply in Nova’s imagination, but it was still pretty chilling.
In a way this issue is a throwback to Marvel annuals of old, revisiting the hero’s origin, while throwing in some extra stuff on the side. It also explains one of the underlying principles of the Nova corps – they’re not the best and brightest, they’re average citizens empowered to do extraordinary things. It’s a good issue, and makes me wish anew that Nova hadn’t been largely excluded from the Phalanx storyline in Armageddon Conquest. But hopefully he’ll get his own satisfying conclusion when the current storyline ends.