Review by Frank Plowright
As in the previous Reflections, Ordinary Heroes couples looking back at characters seen in previous volumes of Astro City with spotlights on unseen heroes and those only mentioned in passing. And as was the case for Honor Guard, this entire collection is without contributions from series co-creator Brent Anderson.
Anderson may be absent, but at least this time all the artists work in something approaching his figurative style, so there’s no wild and uncomfortable deviation from the established look. In order of presentation Ron Randall (sample art left), Carmen Carnero (sample art right), Matthew Clark, and Rick Leonardi all know their way around effective superhero art, with only Carnero really being stretched beyond that.
Legacy hero Jack in the Box has been seen before, in various identities, which is the core of Kurt Busiek and Randall’s opener catching up with Jerome Johnson several years after his story in Family Album. His son Ike is now in his teens, aware of the family heritage, but Busiek stays well clear of what might be expected, in a two part study in contrasting circumstances. It’s Ike’s story and that of his grandfather, solving a mystery and presenting a man finding himself, but touchingly handled. It’s deliberate, but sometimes Busiek goes too far in accurately representing the material he’s homaging, and villain’s name Drama Queen is a name as hokey as anything to be found in poorer superhero material.
Marta Dobrescu was profiled in Life in the Big City, which also introduced the Hanged Man, a mysterious hovering presence above the Shadow Hill district. Again several years have passed since the previous story, Marta now drawn as visibly older by Carnero, and what might be considered a shame is Busiek laying out who the Hanged Man is and how he became that way. There had been something appealing about the mystery of the bizarre looking figure floating through the city, and the story could have been produced without the revelation, but Busiek’s right about so many things, and it may have later relevance. Marta’s tale is another in two contrasting parts, this time the contrast more extreme and featuring another character we’ve seen before as Marta has to learn on the hop.
The final two episodes each have a single focus, and again provide a contrasting pair. Clark draws a genius level engineer with a past, now trapped on a desert island, and Leonardi’s contribution ostensibly focuses on new characters Sunstrike and Nightingale, but that’s just Busiek toying with us, and he actually has something else in mind. It’s a smart piece in some respects, the silent sequence good, and Leonardi shining, but when the ultimate reckoning is taken of the top fifty Astro City stories neither will make the list despite having solid ideas behind them. Perhaps that’s just an indication of how good the series is overall. It continues with Anderson’s return in Broken Melody.