Current Reviews


Astro City: Local Heroes #4

Posted: Friday, October 3, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson

Publisher: Homage Comics

Defending a client accused of an incredibly violent murder, and with all the evidence stacked against him, including his own belief that his client is as guilty as hell, we see a defense attorney comes up with an untested defense that takes into mind the idea that they live in a world where shape-shifters, evil twins from Dimension X, and masters of disguise are a reality.

Keeping in mind that this case is supposed to be set in 1974, and my entire collective knowledge of the legal system comes from watching episodes of "Law and Order", I've not going to make a fuss about the defense attorney catching the prosecution completely flatfooted with his defense strategy, because I'm not sure how exactly the disclosure of evidence is suppose to work between the prosecution and defense, and since our protagonist isn't really offering up evidence, but rather theories I'm not sure he would have to disclose anything. What I do know is that while this is a clever juxtaposition of super-hero elements into the legal arena, I found that this seat of his pants defense was enough to sway the jury rather difficult to believe. I mean if this verdict stands than they might as well toss aside every means of collecting evidence the police and various investigative bodies currently use to apprehend criminals, as in this case a man was allowed to walk in spite of his bludgeoning a woman to death in front of numerous witnesses, and leaving behind the murder weapon that contained his fingerprints and DNA. In fact unless the police are able to arrest the criminals as they are committing the crime, or in possession of an item that links them to the crime than this evil twin/doppelgangers/shape-shifter defense would come into play. Than again the book did hint that the jury was being pressured, so perhaps this defense worked because the squeeze was being placed on the jury, rather than they were utterly convinced by this rather haphazard defense strategy.

As for the art, I do believe that artists actively cringe when they see they are being called upon to deliver a courtroom issue, as there's very little visual excitement that they can inject into such an issue. Now the art does some nice work capturing the look of the 1970s as we get the lava lamps and the water bed in the opening pages, and even the old style televisions and kitchen appliances later in the issue. We also get the wide collars on the suits, plus the goofy hairstyles, and eyeglasses. However, admiring the attention to detail is about the only real enjoyment I got from this issue from a visual sense, as the talking heads scenes were well done, but Brent Anderson doesn't exactly have a huge array of facial expressions that I could sit back and admire. I did enjoy the smug smile on the face of our lead character though when he closed his case, and the look of murderous fury made by the father of the accused, when his offer is rejected.

Final Word:
I like it when Kurt Busiek is able to combine elements of the real world with the fantastic elements of super-heroes, and while this is exactly what he does in this issue, I found myself struggling to accept the idea that the jury would be gullible enough to accept the strategy out protagonist uses. I mean with the O.J. Simpson trial one could always argue that his celebrity was enough to sway the hearts and minds of the jury, though the seemingly inept presentation of key evidence by the prosecution also played a role, as well as the questionable behavior of some of the investigating officers. However, in this issue all we have is a defense attorney planting the seeds of doubt by offering up possible alternate theories. I mean the very severity of the attack itself should be enough to keep the jury from putting much stock in this wafer thin defense strategy, though it certainly is helped somewhat by the contrivances of the plot itself that had all three key witnesses each been involved in a seemingly open/shut case that had been tainted by the involvement of super-heroes.

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