I know I'm not the only person who counts Astra Furst as their favorite "Astro City" character. Her earlier spotlight story, back in "Astro City" #2-3, was an examination of someone desperate to live a somewhat normal life despite her ultra-celebrity status. Astra's attempt to attend elementary school and just be a kid was funny, heartwarming, and even exciting. I feel a little old realizing that enough time has passed between then and now that Astra is now graduating college. Fortunately for readers, time hasn't dulled Astra.
With the rise of the reality star and celebrity-spotting culture, Astra's attempts to escape the public eye for even a second seems more real than ever. That's probably why Busiek only starts with that piece of story, jumping from there to all of the other potential problems of being Astra Furst. And of course, one of those problems is being a normal human who's trying to date the most famous college graduate superhero in the world. As Astra and Matt go from one situation to the next, Busiek is careful to not only pay attention to Astra, but Matt as well. Busiek gives him just the right combination of resignation, befuddlement, and acceptance of all of the strangeness thrown in their direction. After all, some of these obstacles would have to be old hat by now, even as there's always something new around the corner, from ex-boyfriends that are superheroes, to ultra-dimensional hops.
What Busiek always remembers to keep in the script above all else, though, is a sense of fun. There's an undercurrent of joy running throughout the comic, so that you just want to see Astra and Matt's night never end. There's wonder and excitement in each new surprise, and Busiek once more makes the world of "Astro City" a place that would be desirable to live in. A lot of the credit goes to Brent E. Anderson, whose pencils burst with energy and over-the-top fun. After the grim stories of "The Dark Age" mini-series, it's a nice way to remember that Anderson makes his art match the style of story that Busiek writes. Some of the little touches just make each moment stand out, like Tearaway using Medulla's energy field as a recliner chair while they soar through the air, or the explosion of the Gordian Knot across a well-deserved two-page spread.
While I'm enjoying "Astro City: The Dark Age," reading "Astro City: Astra Special" #1 is a good reminder that "Astro City" has its share of fun along with, well, dark. It's a great reunion for readers and Astra, and we've still got a second issue to read a month from now. For "Astro City" fans who have missed some of the lighter-hearted stories, come back! It's what you've been waiting for.