By: Kurt Busiek (story), Brent Eric Anderson (art), Alex Sinclair (colors)
The Story: Winged Victory realizes that boys have feelings, too.
The Review: While I’m very much all for supporting the progress of women in society, I’ve never much appreciated the ladies who labored under the impression that they could only advance themselves by treating men as the enemy. After all, men can be victimized and unfairly stereotyped, too, though more rarely and with less serious consequences. Statistically, women are more vulnerable, but that doesn’t make guys somehow invulnerable.
Joey Lacroix, a young man escaping abuse and seeking sanctuary with Winged Victory, is a good example (and, I might add from personal experience, entirely credible). This is someone who’s suffered no less from callousness and domination as the people Victory usually takes in, yet the immediate response from one her workers to his plea for help is, “Whoa. We don’t do that, kid. We teach women self-defense here. Just women. No men allowed.”
Obviously, there’s some role-reversal going on in the women’s reaction to Joey, but there’s also a measure of misplaced cruelty to it as well. Letting their beef with men get in the way of their compassion for a persecuted youth seems like misplaced cruelty. Why transfer their resentment to the wrong target, like healer Meg does when she arrives to see to Joey’s injuries:
“So. Here’s the boy. ‘Oh Healer Meg, heal him up! Heal him right up so he can grow up big and strong. Into a man.’ Another freakin’ man, all fists and anger and eyes and privilege. ‘But it’s what I want, Meg, it’s what I want.’ Blue-haired Sparrowboy’s addled her brains…”
But is this really all that different from Victory’s modus operandi of choosing to save women over men, regardless of their relative need? Victory’s choices, however, are motivated out of an obligation to the purpose which gave her powers; these other women who work for her are clearly taking things more personally. Whereas Victory at least has enough pity to keep Joey around temporarily, her employees are ready and willing to send him on his limping way. That, along with the disparaging tone they (or, at least, Meg) use in referring to Samaritan, and you wonder if perhaps Victory’s enemies this time come from the inside.
Whether these foes are friendly or not, their current plan to ruin Victory isn’t all that inspired. Bad press plots have been part of the superhero genre since it entered the modern age. It might actually be easier at this point to identify the characters who haven’t dealt with an unjust attack on their reputations. As it so often is in Astro City, the purely superhero aspects of the plot are the least interesting. It’s only the human consequences that stand out. In this case, Victory has a lot more to lose than just her respect and credibility. After revealing her origin story, you realize that if things don’t go her way, she’ll be reduced not only to an ordinary woman once more, but a rather pathetic one at that. It’s the fear of that fate that makes Victory’s trials worth investing in, more than any threat to her popularity.
Anderson is a more than fine artist, but hampered by a somewhat ungainly sense of posture and movement. You can’t help looking through the issue and frequently feeling like something is a bit awkward about the way a character looks. Look at Victory (as her civilian persona Lauren Freed) running away from her two-timing boyfriend. What exactly is she doing with her arms in that panel? Is she trying to clutch her head like an actress in a 1940s melodrama? Biting her fingernail? Hiding her face? Thumbing her lips to do a Porky Pig impression? What, what? Sinclair’s shimmering colors pull a lot of weight to give Astro City that classic superhero look, even when Anderson’s action sequences aren’t quite up to the task
Conclusion: Though entirely focused on the purely superhero half of the series, Busiek doesn’t lose sight of the humanity which makes the title’s spirit.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – It’s hard to look at Samaritan and Victory and not think of the romance between their mainstream analogues. Let’s hope Superman and Wonder Woman reach the same level of respect and familiarity Sam and Vic have someday—even if it comes after their breakup.