By: Kurt Busiek (story), Brent Eric Anderson (art), Alex Sinclair (colors)

The Story: Winged Victory learns what the wise already know—a good tea solves everything.

The Review: The flipside of trying to support the historically disadvantaged is that you might end up showing your own gentler brand of racism or sexism.  I think we can all agree there’s a fine line between providing opportunities to the disadvantaged and patronizing them.  This kind of dilemma is what I like to call liberal anxiety-plus.  Not only are you self-conscious about coming across as prejudiced, you’re self-conscious about your self-consciousness.

Speaking as a member of a minority group, I don’t experience this extreme level of political correctness that often, but I can recognize it, and I definitely see it in Samaritan’s uncertainty after he flies in to give her a last-minute assist in fighting off the Iron Legion.  “Should I have held back?” he asks.  “Let you handle them?”  But even the very question has a vaguely paternalistic air, as if he’s the one in control and he need only “[l]et” Victory “handle” things.

Perhaps it’s better to frame Samaritan’s indecision in a less sexist light and more in the context of someone who doesn’t know whether his intercession or his restraint is what his friend needs.  Eventually, Samaritan concludes, as he must, that Victory “doesn’t need a champion.  She needs to be one.”  While taking a backseat role frustrates the antsy Samaritan, he still has plenty of challenges to work against.  Whoever is plotting against Victory has done a very subtle, elaborate job, infiltrating her institutions on all levels, if the backstabbing of her former students is anything to go by.

Surrounded by traps and hostility, unable to train her sights on a clear target, Victory is put in the unenviable position of letting herself be framed or go into hiding.  Both options are unattractive, but it’s the second one that produces the most anguished reaction from her.  Hiding is not only antithetical to everything she stands for as a figurehead for women, it would be regressing to the sniveling coward she used to be, “someone she doesn’t know how to be any more[.]”  It’s not just that she’s been Victory for so long that she’s lost touch with her former life (which should absolutely be the basis of an issue down the line); she’s simply no longer in the habit of running away from her problems anymore.

But taking a brief respite from the fray just to mentally regroup is different from running away.  That’s the difference between what Confessor suggests Victory should do and what Maisie Shimura, Council of Nike member, actually offers.  Maisie gives no counsel and she makes it clear her home is no hiding place.  She doesn’t belabor Victory of what’s at stake and what the heroine stands for; what she gives is what Victory needs most: a reminder of the good Victory has already accomplished, and that there is still work left to be done.

Maisie also gives us Astro City’s trademark human interest story, told in Busiek’s easy, thoughtful fashion with a minimum of drama and a maximum of reflection.  In almost any other comic, Maisie’s personal history would feel like an intruder in a storyline that’s about something else altogether, but what Maisie does is give Victory much needed perspective.  Maisie’s no superhero, but what she’s accomplished despite her damaged background is no less superhuman than Victory tearing apart an aerotank with her bare hands.  Basically, Maisie leaves Victory with no excuse to wallow in her troubles.

Anderson is a fine artist, and with Sinclair’s dazzling colors, he usually turns out a fairly admirable product.  But he occasionally demonstrates a loose grasp on his linework that makes the visuals not quite as tight as you’d like, particularly in a superhero-based series.  Characters often seem gangly and awkward in their body language, and more often than not, Anderson fails to convey any real sense of movement at all, which does little for action scenes.

Conclusion: A bit repetitive in regards to the obstacles our heroine faces, but otherwise intelligently written, with plenty of material for you to mull on.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – The “Choirboys”?  Do they not want to be taken seriously or what?  Also, talk about sexism, the name inherently suggests a certain kind of gender exclusivity, no?

– I was wondering why I felt so especially affectionate toward Maisie, and then I realized it’s because she looks a lot like my grandma used to.  Haunting, to say the least.