So, this finally concludes my borrowed pile of graphic novels. As a result I have become a fan of Kurt Busiek's graphic novel work. His work on [b:Marvels|16982|Marvels|Kurt Busiek|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1300165177s/16982.jpg|265304] is unparalleled in the Marvel Comicverse and his work here in Astro City Volume 1
is likewise excellent.
Busiek explains in the foreword (one of the best forewords for a graphic novel in my eyes) how often individuals comment that his work makes the world of superheroes realistic. He pointedly argues: actually I don't. There are vampires and other creatures of the supernatural that could have come straight from Lovecraft's work in this volume. Then there are the superheroes themselves, each a unique creature of science or magic straight from Busiek and his team's minds. So rather than make realistic superhero stories what Busiek does is make superhero stories that humanise the hero.
Busiek writes in his foreword, the superhero tale has often been frowned upon as being far too immature, of being a macho wish fulfilment metaphor for the teenage male. And he agrees that the hero has been used in this way with its archetypical basis. However, he disagrees that this should be frowned upon entirely. He states that it is the power of the hero that he or she can be used as a metaphor. The problem, he notes, is in restricting the imaginative power of the superhero, of allowing the superheroic to only be a male power figure. He challenges that female empowerment, civil rights movements and historical periods can also become subject to the metaphoric power of the superhero. In fact, near anything can be done by the superhero, such is their figurative stature.
As such Busiek clearly tries to explore this kind of ability of the superhero figure in his novel, observing how power and reality intertwine. And in his own way Busiek turns the heroes of his world into symbols for the ordinary man and woman with extraordinary abilities. He observes what other graphic novel authors do not: the effect of the superheroic upon the ordinary world and the struggle of the superheroes to be more than ordinary.
In essence this volume is an entire love-letter, or perhaps a volume of sonnets in graphic novel form, to the figure of the superhero. Busiek makes the telling remark that in recent years authors have been taking apart the psychoses and quirks of the superheroes in the [b:Watchmen|472331|Watchmen|Alan Moore|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327866860s/472331.jpg|4358649] and [b:Batman: The Dark Knight Returns|59960|Batman The Dark Knight Returns|Frank Miller|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327892039s/59960.jpg|1104159] of the world. But, he notes, why take anything apart (say a watch for instance) unless you intend to put it back together again? And that is also what Astro City Volume 1
aims to do. It aims to put together the superhero and show them as the legendary and powerful figures that they are. And I believe Kurt Busiek and his team have succeeded excellently.