A Story Of Heroes: Reviewing ‘Astonishing Times’ #5
by Scott Redmond
Astonishing Times brings its exploration of the nature of heroes to a close, leaving it all out on the table in an epic, insightful, and relevant action-packed issue. Every aspect of this book has showcased how much this creative team loves comic books and superheroes, as they wove their own addition to the storied genre.
What actually makes a hero a hero? Perhaps it’s always that person that has a long resume of good deeds and actions, selfless moments where they put their own needs and desires and even safety aside for the sake of others. Or maybe sometimes it’s that person that happens to make a big step at the right moment, saving others from something (even something of their own making) that wipes away any potential sin on their ledger.
There’s even the chance that the “hero” of the story is just something that we concoct by slapping that label upon a person or persons, in order to try and bring some hope and goodwill to the world through the spreading of this story.
These are the sorts of avenues explored in Astonishing Times #5, the final issue of this great series.
From the very beginning, Frank J. Barbiere and Arris Quinones took familiar pieces in order to build a fully fleshed-out world, one where superheroes were a very real thing that eventually faded away as the world moved on and mostly forgot. Through the five issues, this series seemed to pull from many superhero-related ideas, and deconstructions, that we’ve seen elsewhere but made sure to frame them in new ways that asked new questions. We’ve seen worlds where a Superman-like character went “bad,” but here we got something that has a far more solid backstory to why this character made the choices that he made, even if they are of a more villainous nature.
There are many marks that make a series great, and one of those is being able to build such an engaging world within the confines of a handful of issues that is leaves the audience wishing there was more to come. While this issue wraps up the main storyline with Infinite, Kokin, the reporter Noah, there are still so many avenues that could be explored should this team decide to do another series within this world.
As noted in the intro here, this issue concludes in a way where despite the sins he might have committed, Infinite will still go down to the world as a hero because of the words written by Noah. While there is a whole barrel that could be opened within journalistic ethics and the like, this moment speaks to something that is true in many respects: sometimes the world needs heroes, even fictional ones. It’s almost a meta-commentary in a way since this is a book about fictional characters. Here a tale was weaved in world that painted Infinite as the hero, once he actually put things aside and saved the world from his own machine because people need something to believe in and a reason to look to the skies and wonder.
In our own world, we could use some of that as we continue to wade through some truly dark and troubling, and dangerous times.
As with all the previous issues, the work that Ruairí Coleman, Lauran Affe, and Taylor Esposito are doing artistically is phenomenal. Every bit of energy that this story deserves and more is pouring off the pages, the very detailed and well-crafted pages. No two pages look exactly alike, because the paneling and the setup changes to suit the needed moment or mood.
There are also steady changes to the color across various panels and pages, bringing so many bright popping yet shadowed colors to build this world out. From bright greens to purples and yellows/oranges that just overtake the panels in the best way. It feels heavy, with depth, and realistic in so many ways.
Their action scenes have been top-notch through the whole series, but we get some really huge ones here as Infinite and Noah face off. This fight takes place surrounded by fire and a lab that is crumbling apart, and Affe doesn’t shy away from that. The aforementioned yellows and oranges are here, like a giant filter upon the fight, making sure that every moment is fitting of the setting rather than shying away from the setting the characters are currently within. There are little details among this like shifting shadows upon their faces and a slight glow in their eyes, which makes it even better.
Per usual Esposito knocks it out of the park with the lettering work across the issue, from the bubbles to the SFX that fills some of the pages. Noah’s journalistic caption boxes are still a highlight of this book, as they are just such a perfect character piece. While the SFX are still big and bold and fun, there is also a dire nature to them as they match the dangerous setting in some ways along with little indicators within the dialogue that help heighten the stressful feeling that would come from a moment like this.
Through five issues this team has expertly shown how one can take notions and story tropes that feel familiar or have been seen a million times, and still come up with something unique and different to say about them. One can take the same puzzle pieces or set of ingredients and come up with something different in the long run.
Astonishing Times #5 is now available digitally through ComiXology.