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Astro City: Samaritan #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Great
Story Title: The Eagle and the Mountain

Samaritan and an old foe size each other up in their latest encounter, as we see key moments in both characters’ past.

astrocitysamaritan Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent E. Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering and Design: John Roshell of Comicraft
Asst. Editor: Kristy Quinn
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover Art: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Signature Series

While I’ve read several of the Astro City TPBs, the first arc of Dark Age, and a couple other AC stories, I don’t feel all that familiar with any specific characters. They’re largely archetypal to me, and I think I read them with other characters in mind, or at least, without much of a vested interest in anyone in particular.

Samaritan to me is a different take on Superman, and this "Infidel" puts me in mind of Lex Luthor, and visually in mind of some character from Hellblazer (Papa Midnight, perhaps).

However, these characters certainly are not the others–they draw from a similar pool of ideas, but hold a rich uniqueness all their own.

The issue opens with a story about an eagle and a mountain, to set things up. The issue is narrated by Infidel, presenting things from his point of view–something that when done on occasion like this, works very well. Though we know that he is the "bad guy" (Samaritan being the "good guy"), it’s easy to see where Infidel is coming from, his motivation and such.

Through the years, Infidel and Samaritan have clashed, and despite the intensity of the battles, neither every truly gained the upper hand, resulting in a truce of sorts, as each watches the other, waiting for a moment to strike. The cordiality between Samaritan and Infidel is a bit off-putting at first, but works very well here. It is in itself a bit archetypal–two bitter enemies interacting civilly, almost friendly, neither seeking to physically confront the other…but the dangerousness of both is felt throughout the interactions, and the characters have a very real feel to them, as more than just some black/white comic-book-supervillain/comic-book-superhero interaction; there’s just more depth to it.

And that seems to me to be a large part of the way Astro City works–standard superheroes and supervillains cast in a "real world" of sorts, offering plausible answers to questions that transpose comic book situations with real world actuality. Of course it’s still a comic itself–but it gets beyond certain cliches.

The art works really well here–Anderson‘s art is clear and mood-suited as usual, conveying both the quieter and the loud, cosmic scenes quite well.

Possibly the best part of this issue is that it stands alone. If you’re a long-time fan of Astro City, it’ll add to your enjoyment of the overall "saga." However, if you’ve never touched an Astro City book, this is a great place to check it out, with a story of one of the main superheroes and maybe his greatest foe. In a world of increasing need of the "previously…" page, this issue acknowledges that with a "previously" box: What You Need To Know Before Reading This Issue! / Uh, nothing, really. Dive on in, the water’s fine.

Check it out–it’s a $4 book, but it’s 40 pages, self-contained, and a very enjoyable read!

Ratings:

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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