Review – Astro City #50: “The Nearness of You” Grief Explored

Astro City #50 cover
The aftermath left in the wake of a world crisis. Image copyright DC Comics

Astro City #50 – Kurt Busiek, Writer; Brent Anderson, Artist; Peter Pantazis, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: THE FEELS

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Ray: Kurt Busiek’s independent superhero masterpiece, Astro City, will be wrapping up its single-issue run in only two issues, with graphic novels to follow. That makes this the final anniversary issue for the legendary series, and what an anniversary it is. It revisits arguably the series’ most iconic story, “The Nearness of You,” the tragic tale of an ordinary man who had the love of his life wiped out of continuity in a cosmic crisis. But the beauty of Astro City, unlike most superhero universes, is that time marches on. Mike, the broken man we met way back in the original run, is now a melancholy middle-aged man who has taken his tragedy and made it into something worthwhile. He’s now the founder of Miranda’s Friends, a support group for the civilians caught in the middle of cosmic superhero battles with tragic consequences. This is an issue that’s always on the fringe of a superhero universe but rarely dealt with in depth.

Astro City "The Nearness of You."
The final page of the most iconic Astro City tale, “The Nearness of You.” image via DC Comics

It’s a testament to Busiek’s writing that he can take an issue set almost entirely in a meeting room and turn it into something so compelling. The stories of the people visiting Mike’s support group unfold one by one, and they range from bizarre close calls to genuinely tragic meetings with the unnatural. A young man, making his first visit to the group, reveals a story of how his roommate died because he was too scared to evacuate during a super-battle. Some stories, like the elderly Mrs. Tanaka, are never quite revealed but simply hinted at, and that’s enough. And then the crowds filter out, Mike’s done his good deeds for the day, and he’s left alone with his thoughts. We see how he still pays tribute to Miranda, as the only person who can keep her memory alive. And then, the story continues as new tragedies come to Astro City. This is the first part of a three-part story that will wrap the volume, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting subject to revisit for the finale.

Corrina: It wasn’t until about halfway into the story that I realized that this issue was a follow-up to “The Nearness of You,” a short tale that always brings a tear to my eye. Like that short tale, this is a story about the nature of grief and healing and loss.

All of the Astro City stories deal in superhero archetypes, adding new twists and layers to them, such as what happens to reformed supervillains or what would powers from a magic amulet really be like, or how would a super-team truly be able to find and help those in need. The idea of a support group for those who’ve suffered tragedy as a result of the world they live in is brilliant. I can’t help but contrast this to the current villain in Batman: Detective Comics, the First Victim, who lashes out violently at our heroes and the city. Michael handles his pain and grief far differently, more quietly, but no less desperately. Astro City is not so much interested in your big superhero set pieces, it’s interested in the emotions related to those big superhero set pieces.

Thus, following up “The Nearness of You,” in this anniversary issue is a perfect choice and I’m on board, worried for Michael and the others, hoping beyond hope for a happy ending for them.

Astro City #50 page 5
The room soon fills up. Image via DC Comics

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes

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