After building up a world, Astonishing Times begins to tear it all down in an action-packed brutal, and revealing issue that continues to prove how much this creative team loves the medium of comic books. Every single page is gorgeous and energetic and feels like the characters might blast right off the pages. If you love superheroes and comic books, this is a series that you need to be reading.
Superheroes are very often based upon the idea of people with extraordinary abilities who are seeking to do what they can to protect and save the rest of humanity, and the world itself. This quest all too commonly is referred to as a ‘never-ending battle,’ showcased by the decades of stories where these superheroes fight the same or similar threats repeatedly. What happens though when a hero decides that this never-ending battle is useless because humanity itself is the issue, and has to be corrected in order to be saved?
Well, that’s how you get Astonishing Times #4.
In the previous issue, Frank J. Barbiere and Arris Quinones introduced the uber-powerful hero known as Infinite who was instantly at odds with the more street-level Kokin. We were shown two heroes divided over what happened in the past and with what one of them was doing in the present. Infinite spoke of doing more to actually save humanity that was beyond the small hero work they used to do. It was an issue that really set a foundation and built out more of this world.
Issue four though takes things to a whole new level and actually tears down that which was just built right down. Truly I appreciate the fact that they didn’t shy away from just diving in to get to the point, after setting the table with the first three issues. We’ve seen uber-powerful Superman-like characters who turn away from their normal superhero quest but this feels so different as this whole series has.
This isn’t a super-powerful hero seemingly doing it for nefarious reasons, but in his way of thinking, he’s watched and concluded that the only way to make things better is to fix humanity itself and try again. There is little doubt that many of us know someone that has jokingly referred to humanity needing a reboot or a hard reset or something of that nature, but here Infinite wants to actually make that a reality.
Ruairí Coleman, Lauran Affe, and Taylor Esposito keep doing tremendous work as they, just like the super characters within these pages, pull none of their punches. Coleman’s artwork is just so detailed and has such a powerful energy to it, and the paneling work is top tier. Each page works differently depending on what is needed for the scenes, and it shifts rapidly to keep you visually on your toes and presents the story in an easy-to-follow but always intriguing way.
The action scenes especially are kinetic and gorgeous to behold, as the action truly feels like it could just burst right off the page and into our world. Mixing this with Affe’s colors is always a win for everyone. They hit that great spot where they are bright but also muted at the same time, really matching the environment whether it’s outside as the sun is setting or inside a darker metallic lab or anywhere else. There are a lot of really distinct and popping colors that fill the background and foreground or work as filters of sorts over the characters that match the sorts of lighting that would come from the current environment.
In the second part of the story with what Noah is going through mentally at the hands of the former hero, Cross Out, there are a lot of colder colors in use that sell the horror of the situation. Next to that is the well-used classic Ben-Day dot filters for the flashbacks, pulling at that classic comic sort of feelings that are always appreciated. At times these colors even just serve as blank backgrounds, allowing the given action or moment more room to be in the focus of each panel.
These same pages all have a lot of fantastic lettering work through the dialogue bubbles that make sure to flow around the action perfectly. Not to mention the big bold and loud SFX that Esposito drops in that just dominates and sells the action even more. There is nothing like a giant takes up a good chunk of the page rendered ‘Krakoom’ to get one right into the superhero fight mindset.
Despite this series pulling from realms that most comic book fans are intimately familiar with in the superhero realms, I can honestly say this series has caught me off guard in many ways and I love that. When one has spent a lot of time taking in things from the same format or genre, getting that genuine feeling of not knowing at all what might come next is truly great.
With each issue, this series continues to live up to its descriptor of being a love letter to the medium of comic books.
Astonishing Times #4 is now available digitally through ComiXology.