joysweeper: Grand Admiral Thrawn steeples his hands in front of his face. (Thrawn Must Consider This Carefully)
[personal profile] joysweeper posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Here's the first half of an Astro City arc called "The Confessor." It's collected in a trade, "Confession", along with that well-known tearjerker "The Nearness Of You". This is one of my favorite comics.  It's from the second volume of Astro City, issues 4-9.


Our protagonist is Brian, who leaves his small town on a bus one hot morning in early summer. In caption boxes he apologizes to his father, since he didn't finish school and feels like he's abandoning him. But he can't take the looks from his classmates anymore, and he wanted to stop being "The Kinney Boy" and be his own person. He wanted to find someplace where he could be someone else.

So he came to Astro City. And gaped like a tourist, especially when he saw his first superheroes. His bus driver was dismissive of the "Jesus freaks", always on the same corner at this time of day, and Brian doesn't know what he's talking about. Superheroes, real live superheroes -


Then the lion one, whose name is Daniel, gets into Brian's face demanding to know if he'd accepted Jesus as his personal savior. A random passerby steers him away while complaining about the Crossbreed, tells him that they're mostly harmless, and starts to head off.



He finds a motel and lies on the bed, feeling tiny and overpowered but telling himself that he was there, that was what mattered. His radio mentions a third mutilated body found on the outskirts of Shadow Hill.

The next day he wanders around, largely looking to the sky, until a hot dog vendor says he must be from out of town. It wears off after a while. No one looks for them anymore - they're there, but they're not seen every day.

Brian eventually finds a job, a bar mentioned in someone's memoirs. It's not in the best part of town, which he guesses gives them the privacy they want, but the local toughs don't bother him. He thinks it might be because they can tell he can take care of himself - five years of biking twenty miles to the only dojo in the county should count for something. The bartender and bar owner, K.O. Carson - formerly the Black Badge - gives him a job as a busboy.

The bar fills up with rough-looking characters, a lot of them not all that human in appearance. Brian serves beer and popcorn. He's kept busy, but he still takes it in, and he recognizes a lot of the people.

Rex, of the Furst Family, arm-wrestles a train person with sepia-tinted speech bubbles. Carson tells Brian he's Ironhorse the Human Locomotive, who's been around since 1862, more or less. Air Ace was the first to get his name in the papers, not the first period. Brian is impressed by how the others all defer to him, treat him with such respect...

Brian goes to put the trash out, captions saying that he wasn't going to make his father's mistakes, he was going to be someone. He sees Jack-In-The-Box leap by overhead and thinks that even in a clown suit, he was respected, trusted. Some people were scared of him, maybe, but he was respected.

He looks up saying "Someday." Carson comes out and says he wasn't taking pictures or angling for autographs. Says he's too smart to be bussing tables and schelepping popcorn in a beer joint - and if he's not there for souvenirs or a news story, he's there for another reason. But these aren't the right sort of costumes. He gives Brian a card.

It's got the address of a private club not in anyone's memoirs, which turns out to be owned by a butler who'd inherited his master's wealth, a master who was rumored to have been Leopardman. It was very exclusive, and Carson told him that they had an empath who might turn him away sight unseen. He goes anyway.

And he gets in, has to wear a domino mask, gets a really well-paying job with benefits. But the other busboys eye him as a potential threat. He's fine with that.

This club was different than the beer joint - smiling, athletic men and women, all elegantly dressed.

He wonders if they were really what he was looking for until Crackerjack bounds in in costume and one of the women upbraids him for doing this after she got him an invitation. Brian smiles and thinks yes, they are. After only three days, he was cleaning up a table -







But the other busboys are angry. They'd all been there for longer - eighteen months, two years - and he'd stolen their chance.

He's defensive and sarcastic, and there are five of them. They square up to fight until a speech bubble says "Excuse me."

"I'd like to talk to the young man. Privately." It's the Confessor, crouching on a ledge.

The issue ends.

The next issue, Learning The Game, opens with Brian as "Altar Boy" and the Confessor jumping down on some carjackers, while Brian's text boxes muse that his father liked apprenticeships, and Brian agrees that they're a good idea.

Flashing back while fighting, Brian muses that his father said a lot of things, and although he used to think his father was the smartest man in the world, he died in a small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who used and belittled him. Brian did what he never did.

Part of the flashback is a panel where he incredulously looks at his costume and says "Altar Boy?!". The Confessor tells him "Altar Boy or busboy. Your choice." Back in the present, he thinks that his dad stayed a busboy; he could have been more, but never tried. Brian, on the other hand, was going all the way.

The Confessor takes out someone who was coming up behind Brian and chastises his sidekick for not keeping track on where everyone is. Then he jerks Brian out of the way while someone fires, disappears, and appears out of the mist in front of the gunman, disarming and grabbing him. Then the Confessor asks if the costume worked out well - did the weighted hem of the surplice keep it out of the way, the low-friction coating keep them from grabbing it. It did.


In the daytime, Brian watches the news. Honor Guard saved an ambassador, but after Crackerjack robbed a convenience store and Winged Victory derided Catholic schools, public opinion of superheroes was dipping. Brian dismisses it, since there's always a hero who's not favored by the public. More importantly to him, he's part of that "us". He's secret, special, and can't resist.



The Confessor called "them" predators, preying on innocents - and it was their job to prey on them. They beat up some thugs then swing by a building with smashed windows. The cops are giving up. Brian thinks the crooks got past them, the Confessor tells him not to assume - look at the patterns, the facts, what doesn't fit.

He shakes hands with the cops, musing "But at least I felt like an idiot with potential. After all, he didn't have to train me." The Confessor also arranged for him to stay at a dorm in Robinson Prep and take classes in the fall. He hadn't had to do that, either. Someone in that building invites Brian to pizza, and as he leaves he wonders who the Confessor is, why he's never seen in the day.

He thinks about it, about the Confessor's scholary manner, and thinks he could walk past the man every day and never know it. At the pizza place the TV talks about more mutilated bodies, what's now called the Shadow Hill Murders. Brian's new friends talk about this and how creepy Shadow Hill is.

Then one of them brings up an issue of Current, which has pictures of Altar Boy. Including one of him leaping across a rooftop, apparently alone. No one's ever taken a picture of the Confessor himself, and he must not have taught the kid how to do that yet. One of them says that Altar Boy looks about their age - man, wouldn't that be great. A girl says he'd got a cute smile.





Then he sees Crackerjack vaulting along, and since I'm not covering that part at all, I'll summarize instead of giving the page-by-page.

Crackerjack's a blowhard but honest, and wouldn't be committing all these crimes. It didn't fit. He'd either changed or the one committing crimes wasn't him. Brian follows him, recognizing that the colors are a bit off, the scepter doesn't work right, and he skittered down a wall like a giant insect.

The false Crackerjack tries to rob a convenience store and Altar Boy steps in and starts fighting, his theory confirmed when he finds that the false one isn't much of a fighter. He uses smelling salts on him, and the false one turns into a buggish alien with a huge nose who lunges at Brian and is stopped by the real Crackerjack, who claims that he's been on the thing's tail for days, why don't they share credit.

Of course when the media arrives Crackerjack hogs the credit and reduces Brian's role to a footnote, and no one notices when the alien slips away. Or when Brian does, for that matter.


They bound off over the rooftops, Brian asking the Confessor if he'd pegged the fake Crackerjack from the start, the Confessor saying it hadn't even occurred to him. A reporter transitioning away from the story says that now they'll go back to a report on the latest body found near Shadow Hill.

That issue ends.

"The Gathering Dark" begins with a photo of a blonde girl and captions about how the marches started after Sara-Lynne Felton's body was found.

A whole sequence here had to be left out; in short, the temperature was getting even warmer and the Confessor and his sidekick were after an assassin called the Gunslinger. Brian did the standard overenthusiastic sidekick stuff and suddenly had guns in his face, point blank, but the Confessor got in close quickly enough to prevent a death. The caption box says "I could've sworn he was too far away to-"

Gunslinger, shooting the wall, manages to make them fall off, and the Confessor has to save Brian, so by the time they're back up he's gone. "Recriminations don't help. We'll get him next time." Then people throw trash at them, demanding to know where they'd been when she needed her. Neither of them had any idea what they were talking about.

The Confessor says no. He's investigating it, so are others, but Brian's not ready yet. Brian accepts this grudgingly - it's not like there weren't plenty of others out patrolling. Even the Hanged Man is sometimes seen drifting around as if on a path only he can sense. But no one found anything.

Brian's friends mutter that it could be one of the heroes. All of them have secrets. Maybe some of them aren't harmless. Out patrolling by himself in the daylight, Brian muses that the looks he gets from people always have disappointment now. He'd wanted to be someone, and now he was, and they expected miracles out of him. He didn't know how to do that. And he keeps wondering about the Confessor now - where he went in the day, why he acts so strange sometimes.

Two more bodies are found and the mayor calls in a cyborg called Mordecai Chalk, a specialized monster hunter.

The mayor also announces that he plans to register all superheroes with mystic powers. E.A.G.L.E. troopers will be called in to help - watching on TV, Brian thinks that the Extranormal Activities Garrison for Law Enforcement troopers are usually called in after the heroes, taking custody of villains. This is new.

The heroes aren't happy about this and refuse. Civillians have mixed opinions. The mayor's not happy about the refusal.


The people who the Gunslinger had killed all turned out to be men from the same squad in Vietnam, so the Confessor takes his sidekick to go find people who might know something about that squad. Brian learns that the ones who most want to avoid them are the ones to talk to. The Confessor mesmerizes that person and is told that the guys in that squad were involved in a heroin ring and killed their Sarge, who had a pregnant Vietnamese wife, when he wouldn't go along. Personal motivation, the Confessor says, and Brian thinks he should be glad but he keeps remembering the Confessor saying, "in a voice like oiled gravel", "Are you asking me if I have mystic powers?"

There's a single splash page where Honor Guard, Astro City's heaviest of heavy hitters, has to fight aliens, the Thermians and the Frigians, in Antarctica. Didn't matter that they'd have shattered the planet if left unopposed, what mattered to the populace was that they'd left. Someone says "Typical! All the time in the world for cosmic crap, but when it's little girls dying!"

Some citizens go and made a human chain to keep EAGLE troopers from getting to the Superhuman Studies Department, but all in all the citizenry really sours on the heroes. A mob pelts the Crossbreed with junk. Watching on a TV in the base, Brian says that they were cheering the heroes only weeks ago, how did it change so fast? The Confessor says that nothing changed. Both faces are always there, and the darker one's come out into the light over less.

A mob tries to burn down Shadow Hill, and Honor Guard and the Irregulars go to prevent that. A... priest guy who I guess represents Shadow Hill urged people not to try and defuse a land mine by stamping on it.

Mordecai Chalk goes in and Brian is annoyed, since he's getting cheered, but he hasn't been doing anything the heroes haven't. The Confessor shrugs this off. He's offering hope, and if he succeeds the threat will be gone. That's all that matters.

He hit the Confessor dead center, to no apparent effect. The Confessor taunts him, saying he may be slipping, or maybe his conscience is bothering him. He crushes the guns, and Gunslinger vaults over a wall and uses his jetboots, which were clearly for emergencies - slow, not going to hold out for long.

Gunslinger heads for Shadow Hill. The Confessor goes after him, telling Brian to stay back and let him handle it. Brian, of course, follows anyway, because if the Confessor wanted him out of Shadow Hill, he would have to tell him why first.



The next day, the mayor lined the barricades with EAGLE troops and makes a speech vowing to bring down all of the so-called heroes feeding the atmosphere of fear and paranoia. Public sentiment being what it is, he gets nervous applause. Brian muses on this, and despite the heat all he feels is cold.




I'll get the rest up when I can. Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging long.
Requested tags: title: astro city

Date: 2010-04-24 10:30 pm (UTC)
bluefall: blue-tinted autumn leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluefall
Man, Shadow Hill and the Hanged Man delight me so.

Astro Boy's story is issues 4-9. Of... I think its' the second volume? I'm never sure if a 6-ish run counts as a volume or not.

Which reminds me, I think I promised somebody on S_D 1.0 ([personal profile] bariman?) that I'd do a post about the deal with Silver Agent. I really should get around to that... >.>

Date: 2010-04-24 10:31 pm (UTC)
bluefall: Wonder Girl facepalming (facepalm Cassie)
From: [personal profile] bluefall
.... Altar Boy. Altar Boy's story is 4-9. Astro Boy is a different thing.

Random aside...

Date: 2010-04-25 10:19 am (UTC)
bariman: by perletwo (Default)
From: [personal profile] bariman
Hmm. Nick Cage played the father of both Astro Boy and Hit-Girl. Crossover potential?

Date: 2010-04-25 03:54 am (UTC)
silverzeo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
Speaking of S_D 1.0. The Backup is down... is anyone going to fix it?

Date: 2010-04-25 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mr_austin
I hope this is cool to ask, but what is this?

I lurked on S_D 1.0 from 2006ish (Identity/Infinite Crisis-era) onwards and would love to see if there's any backup of a few key things still around.

Date: 2010-04-25 03:10 pm (UTC)
glimmung: (Default)
From: [personal profile] glimmung
From my limited understanding its host took it down out of spite.

Date: 2010-04-25 10:17 am (UTC)
bariman: by perletwo (Default)
From: [personal profile] bariman
I have the first Dark Age trade and know what happens to the Silver Agent (damn... just damn), but a post would be good if you can swing it.

Date: 2010-04-24 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] hybrid2
I just got all 3 trades last week. Confession was the best.
I wanted to reread it right after.

Date: 2010-04-24 10:44 pm (UTC)
silverzeo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
"And to top off this prepositionally onslaught... I... am your BROTHER!"

Date: 2010-04-24 11:22 pm (UTC)
sir_razorback: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sir_razorback
"That's not true! That's impossible!"

Date: 2010-04-24 11:48 pm (UTC)
silverzeo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
"And you about about the force, it's really a bunch of microscopic germs in your bloodstream."

Date: 2010-04-25 01:47 am (UTC)
simiansyndicate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] simiansyndicate
Man, if you don't start taking this seriously, I'm out.

Date: 2010-04-25 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] arxh
"and when i was a kid, I BUILT C3P0!"

Date: 2010-04-25 12:34 am (UTC)
nezchan: From Super Friends (heh)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate!

Date: 2010-04-25 09:27 am (UTC)
ulf_boehnke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ulf_boehnke
So what does that make us?

Date: 2010-04-25 01:57 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
Absolutely nothing!

Date: 2010-04-24 11:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daningram.insanejournal.com
Man, I loved this arc. And I wish like hell Confessor wasn't a one story character, so bad ass...

Date: 2010-04-25 10:15 am (UTC)
bariman: by perletwo (Default)
From: [personal profile] bariman
And not sparkly at all!

Date: 2010-04-25 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] shadur
But it was a hell of a /good/ story. That's more than many an unfortunate character in more mainstream comics can say.

Date: 2010-04-24 11:19 pm (UTC)
iskander: (Default)
From: [personal profile] iskander
Great story.

Date: 2010-04-25 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thandrak
Those 'robbers' are people. I think Kurt and Alex and someone.

Date: 2010-04-25 02:36 am (UTC)
crinos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] crinos
I really enjoyed the Crossbreed, just really interesting characters to me.

Date: 2010-04-25 05:16 pm (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
Yeah, Busiek could have made them jokes or extremists, but they're actually quite sincere. Plus matching up the names and powers the way he did was pretty awesome.

Date: 2010-04-27 01:34 am (UTC)
cmdr_zoom: (zoom)
From: [personal profile] cmdr_zoom
Motto.

Date: 2010-04-25 06:27 am (UTC)
magnetic_regina: Lazin' in a flower (Default)
From: [personal profile] magnetic_regina
Man, this still makes me tear up. That trade is one of my favourite comics.

Date: 2010-04-25 07:07 am (UTC)
wyatt1048: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wyatt1048
Astro City has got to be the best superhero series out there. I love the way it always seems like there's a lot more going on than we know about, and crams in so much without seeming too compressed. I was thinking of taking some scans from this for a 'Secret Invasion: Astro City!' post back when that was being published, to show Marvel how it should be done, but then I was lazy.

Date: 2010-04-25 08:21 am (UTC)
cmdr_zoom: (zoom)
From: [personal profile] cmdr_zoom
So goddamn awesome.

Date: 2010-04-25 04:36 pm (UTC)
darkness_p: (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkness_p
I haven't really had a chance to read Astro City before. What an awesome looking book.Thank you for the great scans. I'll pick up the trades next time I'm at my LCS.

Date: 2010-04-25 05:14 pm (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
You know, this is sort of timely with Kick-Ass coming out. Boys with chips on their shoulders playing at being superheroes, despite being in pretty much over their heads. The big difference, of course, is that this is actually good.

Date: 2010-04-26 03:21 pm (UTC)
bittercupojoe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bittercupojoe
This is in the running for my favorite comic book story of all time. It's very basic in content, but it hits all the notes exactly right.

Date: 2010-06-01 02:35 am (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
I love love love the Confessor's little speech about detectives and asking the criminals what their plans are.

Because I recall the dark times.

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