The Eagle and the Mountain: Once a year, The Samaritan shares a meal with his arch-nemesis, The Infidel.
Most authors use super heroes to tell super hero stories. Kurt Busiek uses super heroes to tell human stories and this one is a prime example. In a very sensible turn, The Samaritan and The Infidel share an uneasy truce, each bent on bending the other to his point of view. The story is told from The Infidel's point of view and it's very interesting to see the history of their relationship unfold. It's a logical conclusion to the never-ending battle between a hero and his arch-enemy and it's very well done.
Her Dark Plastic Roots: Beautie is a life-sized robot doll, not unlike Barbie, who longs to understand her place in the world.
This tale was a sad one. Beautie is an outsider, even among the Honor Guard, who wonders who created her and why. It's a tale of loneliness and isolation, normally heavy stuff for a super hero book but par for the course in Astro City.
Graduation Day + The Gordian Knot: Third generation super hero Astra Furst has graduated from college and is contemplating her next move. But what about Matt, her ordinary boyfriend?
This was both a coming of age tale and a tale of the perils of celebrity. Astra Furst has been in the public eye her whole life and just wants to be normal. Her boyfriend Matt wonders if her future plans include him. It's hard not to feel for Astra. Also, it was nice catching up with the First Family. Astra's tale also shows what the Fantastic Four could be like if they'd been allowed to progress a bit instead of being largely static since Franklin Richards' birth.
To Serve and Protect + Home to the Hill: The Silver Agent has been fighting the iGod in the future for years, snatched away from his prison cell just before his execution. Now, he's returning to his own time to face the music. Will things be different?
This is a tale of not being able to escape the past. It wasn't the Silver Agent tale I wanted to read, how he came to be on death row for murder, but it was still very good, the tale of a man with a second chance to say goodbye.
Shining Stars is another great collection of tales from Astro City. If you're tired of the endless resets and reboots in super hero comics, give it shot. 4 out of 5 stars.
How can you not love Silver Agent. "Eternal".
The Astra story was a nicely bittersweet. Makes me happy that I'm not rich enough, talented enough, motivated enough, or lucky enough to be famous. :)
And the Beauty story would make Rod Serling proud: a tragic cycle continues, but with a glimmer of hope that it could break.
Wow. This series just stays great - volume after volume, story after story. And they are all different. And I'm not sure what order you read them truly matters. In this one the last story, of the time-traveling Silver Agent was certainly the weakest and somewhat confused. But the other three ... Beautie - a Barbie doll superhero basically come to life but still plastic - works like some of the best of short stories. And really The Eagle and the Mountain with a superhero and his Nemesis works the same way. Graduation Day is a lot lighter and yet gets into the nature of celebrity. Really, you want to read good superhero graphic novels - Astro City is what you should read.
We learn more about one of the Samaritan's arch nemesis' backstory, we feel sorrow for Beauty (a real-life robotic "Barbie" superhero) as she searches for a creator whose own upbringing has damaged her so she doesn't want to face her own creation, we see some of the loneliness a childhood lived in the spotlight can cause, and we get another installation of the heart-wrenching tale of the Silver Agent as he bravely faces a death he feels duty-bound to suffer.
This is vol 8. Go, pick up Vol 1, get hooked like I have. Some are better than others, like any series, but this one was really good.
One thing this latest collection does brilliantly is go from the epic to the intimate, a balance that's often hard to achieve in superhero comics. Silver Agent's centuries-spanning tale is both, as we see the influence he's had on more than 20 centuries of heroes who followed him as well as the personal cost to him. The tale of the gigantic struggle between Superman-like Samaritan and the immortal Infidel swoops between both poles as Busiek details the uneasy detente the two titans have brokered. A literal living doll, Beautie seeks her creator and we see epic stories framed from her very personal perspective. And the aforementioned tale of Astra who graduates from college and literally has multiple universes to choose from when deciding what she might do next has to deal with the profound impact ordinary people with their mundane desires have upon her already epic journey.
It's just really good stuff.
Normally I tell people that it doesn't matter which of the Astro City books you start with, but for this one I would make an exception. It's better to read Shining Stars after you've read the other seven books, because it manages to both expand and contract this universe they've created.