Astro City: The Dark Age.
(AfroGamers.com) Astro City had a number storylines prior to it taking the more mainstream issue-based approach. Prior to this, the series’ issues were written more with being a part of a larger graphic novel than to be read from month to month. Of the storylines featured in the first run of the series, the Dark Age is one of my favorites.
Like all storylines, it does some heavy lifting in the world building department as far as establishing the lore of Astro City and its heroes and villains. Not only that, but it tells the events of a larger event from a different perspective.
The Williams Brothers
The Dark Age takes place across four books several years apart. The first book deals with the younger years of Charles and Royal Williams, two brothers who would take very different paths in life. During the 1950s, they grew up idolizing the heroes of their hometown after meeting the Black, street-level hero the Black Shield. They would later idolize the Silver Agent, the gold standard for superheroes and basically the Astro City universe’s version of Captain America.
The two would stay on the straight and narrow because of inspiring words from the Black Shield but a family crisis would undo these notions. In late 1950s, their home was set ablaze during a Pyramid agent’s attack which the Silver Agent was handling. Their parents died were shot and killed by the agent. Silver Agent was unable to help even though he came through their house in pursuit of the ne’er do well. The scene traumatize the young Williams boys just ten and six and the two harbored a hatred of the Silver Agent and Pyramid since.
The Fork In The Road
As adults, the two brothers still remained close but often butted heads because of their professions. Charles became a police officer in the early 1970s while Royal turned to street crime. Since this was a period where street-level vigilantes were just rising, crime was rife in Astro City. Like the Avengers and the Justice League, street crime was pretty much below them. There was a Batman-like hero in The Confessor but he handled crime in a particular part of the city. One could say the city was in a Dark Age of sorts.
Royal’s first confrontation with a hero as a criminal was with the original Jack-in-the-Box, a Black hero who was actually a toymaker and used his craft to create a variety of weapons and gadgets.
In 1973, the younger Williams brother’s line of work threatened to bring him into the crosshairs of the Blue Knight, a police officer/vigilante who actually killed criminals, something heroes didn’t do. When he finally did run into the Blue Knight, Royal’s luck got him out of trouble again but he had been marked for death. He went into hiding for sometime only emerging when Blue Knight was said to be dead and the vengeful ghost out of his body.
As it turned out, the Blue Knight wasn’t dead and Royal was still on his hit list. When the final confrontation between the two occured, Charles, still a policeman, stepped in and went to bat for Royal. His brother’s life was spared but Royal didn’t steer from his life of crime.
From this point, things really start to pick up in the epic. Their tale isn’t one of two brothers who became villains but of two brothers who were orphaned, had to survive, and wanted revenge. It spans several decades and sees the brothers falling out, several dark periods throughout the 1970s, and the two eventually joining back up to finally seek out revenge against their parents’ murderer.
Along the way, they become involved both directly and indirectly in several defining moments in Astro City history. Do they finally get vengeance? Do they reconcile their feelings towards America’s finest hero? You’ll have to check out Astro City: The Dark Age to find out but I’m certain you’ll be drawn in by the storytelling here.
You can pick up all the issues or the graphic novels via Amazon, your local library, or your local comic book store.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.