By Busiek, Anderson, Blyberg, Sinclair, Ross

This trade has one long story arc and one unrelated story. Busiek combines many classic elements here: a young man coming to big city and growing up, mysterious hero, citizens and the authorities being suspicious of superheroes, and aliens. He manages to pull it off enjoyably.

A teenage boy Brian Kinney comes to Astro City head full of stories of heroes and dreams. He becomes a waiter and sees the heroes up close in their bar. However, he soon gets a ticket to a more upper-class place where the heroes wear evening jackets instead of masks. When a bitter villain attacks the place, Brian gets a chance to show a little bit of the hero inside him. Soon enough, he is recruited by one of the city’s most enigmatic heroes: the Confessor. The Confessor teaches Brian detective skills of seeing the patterns around him and finding what is out of place. Brian puts the skills to good use as the Altar Boy, the Confessor’s sidekick.

However, soon there’s a tide of suspicions against the heroes. One of them is accused of turning into a villain and another’s anti-religious statements are used against her. Things start to look bleak for the heroes.

While non-powered Altar Boy and his mentor the Confessor battle mostly muggers and looters, there are glimpses of more cosmic and large-scale battle going on in the background. I don’t know whether to be pleased or frustrated by this. 😉 I do like my cosmic battles but then again I don’t like just battles all the time with no character development (hi there, Marvel!).

At first I thought that the Confessor was just a redone Batman and I was mildly amused that his relationship with his sidekick was the opposite of the closeness of Bruce and Dick. Boy, was I blown away when his secrets were revealed! Very nicely done.

Although, I was quite frustrated how very few female heroes this world, too, seems to have when even teenage boys without any powers at all can put on a costume and battle muggers.