After writing up a few of my impressions on the short story “The Nearness of You” a few months ago, I was met with numerous comments that it was among the “cream of the crop” in Busiek, Ross & Anderson’s Astro City and was rivaled, or surpassed, only by “The Confession” storyline that ran through Vol. 2 #4-9. Now, I loved Astro City 1/2 as I indicated in the previous entry so I knew that “The Confession” storyline would indeed have some pretty big boots to fill if that was going to prove to be the case.
Well, wonder of wonders I made it out alive from my Japanese final and I celebrated last night by spending some quality time alone. With no studying to do, and no worries occupying my mind, I simply read. Two weeks ago I actually read Astro City Vol. 2 #4, which introduces both Brian Kinney and The Confessor, and closing that issue I was all fired up to jump right into the next issue to find out what was going to happen next when I was disappointed to find that I had managed to duplicate Astro City Vol. 1 #5 in my collection, as opposed to Vol. 2 #5 and that I didn’t have the next installment of the storyline. So I had to wait. Well, the issue arrived last week and after reading part II,“Learning the Game” I sat back and read the storyline in its entirety, uninterrupted.
I was already on board to read the adventures of another dark vigilante knowing that Busiek is very capable of making pretty much any idea interesting, but I was that much more impressed when Kurt turned the idea upside down a little in making this particular one a very real creature of the night, one who actually put on the costume to conceal his true form, check himself physically so as to not give into the nature of the beast, and find a way to do good when everything inside him likely screamed to do just the opposite.
The origin of the Confessor is as follows, from Herocopia:
Jeremiah Parrish…had first come to what was then Romeyn Falls as a young Priest. He had been brought to the city to oversee the importation of materials and manage negotiations and relations with the foremen and workers, many of who had been brought from South-Eastern Europe to help build Cardinal Grandenetti’s magnificent monument. He was enthralled by an unknown female vampire, drained of his blood, and dumped into a waste pit. He rose again three days later, a vampire himself.
The last mention of Jeremiah Parrish is from an entry in the diary of Enzio Grandenetti himself; “The Creature that now inhabits poor Father Parrish’s body has again eluded the godly efforts of those that hunt him. It seems we will now never be able to destroy him, and grant peace to his soul. We must seal him in his lair, away from those he would prey upon, as his thrice-accursed kind always do. I have set the masons to this task and hear them already about their godly work. May God bless their efforts, that we may have peace from this blasphemous creature.”
The efforts of the priests and workers were unsuccessful, and Parrish lurked in the Cathedral for decades, his humanity dwindling until the emergence of the first public superheroes showed him the possibility of doing good work amongst humanity while keeping his secrets. He became a shadowy stalker, feared by the criminal fraternity, little seen and never photographed.”
We follow Jeremiah through the eyes of Brian Kinney, a gifted young man who has recently moved to Astro City to distance himself from his Father’s legacy and the failings he had perceived in him. Later, proving himself capable in a scrap but in need of a hand, the Confessor arrives to save the day and ends up taking Brian on as a sidekick, “Altar Boy” no less. Sounds a little silly, but the story really does succeed in making the partnership believable. As a man of faith Jeremiah needed to teach, and despite what he had become, even more than that he needed a friend and confidant, having been alone, and isolated for what he was for too long. However, just as the crime fighting duo is born, a gruesome string of murders begin to take place and as a result Astro City and her citizens give in to an almost tangible, palpable, form of panic and fear as they attempt to make sense of the violence and bring it to some resolution, no matter the costs. In the midst of the chaos the city’s mayor seemingly takes it upon himself to resolve the problems gripping the city and eventually goes so far as to capture and kill any super-powered being that wouldn’t conform to the ‘safety measures’ he’d adopted in the crisis. Super-powered individuals and vigilantes operating in Astro City were now outlawed and would not be tolerated. Meanwhile, the hate, persecution, and general distrust is really starting to get to young Brian, as do lingering doubts about his mentor and what he’s up to. He begins to notice what appears to be preternatural abilities in the Confessor, and the cryptic statements that Jeremiah makes about life, death and the supernatural amidst the violence in the city feed his rising suspicions that things just aren’t what they seem. After much deduction, eventually Brian confronts Jeremiah with the truth, that he knows of his vampirism and from that point things really start to get out of hand. Anyhow, there are plenty of interesting side-plots, life lessons and character moments worth looking at but in the interest of time, as the story reaches its climax we finally find out that the entire world has been infiltrated, that it’s being invaded by a shape-shifting alien species known as the Enelsian’s and amidst Brian’s angst it is the Confessor that puts the pieces of the puzzle together and figures it all out.
Armed with the truth he confronts the mayor in the public square, where he is immediately attacked by the ‘special guards’ the mayor has brought in. Ready for the confrontation, these guards are equipped to take on any number of threats, including a vampire. The public, confused and angry, are taken back when having been pierced with a wooden stake through the heart, the Confessor’s true form is made manifest. But still, in his dying moments he manages to turn the tables on his attackers, grab the weapon of his demise and fire a shot off at the mayor who is immediately impaled — and revealed, himself, to be one of the alien invaders.
The secret is out and eventually the city is saved by the very heroes the mayor had tried to outlaw.
And in “My Father’s Son,” what Brian is left to do is come to grips with it all. His mentor had turned out to be a vampire with a good heart, though vilified among the citizenry despite all he had done for the city when they caught a glimpse of what he was. Brian had come to Astro City to remove himself from a Father’s legacy that he thought was a joke. His Father had been a kind man, but he died broke with few friends despite his ability to reach out and help others. He was unappreciated and Brian didn’t want to be unappreciated, knowing all the while how good a man his Father had been. But here again he found a father-figure in The Confessor who would ultimately be unappreciated as well, despite his sacrifices. However, fortunately Brian finally figures out that it mattered not what the perception of someone was no matter how untrue or unjust the perception, be it his Father or The Confessor, so long as he knew the truth about the good they had accomplished. So long as he could begin to grasp why they did good…for goodness sake.
And with that, “Altar Boy” died and born anew was “The Confessor.”
Busiek, Ross & Anderson knocked it out of the park. And while they’re different animals, in the end “The Confession” probably resonated even more with me than “The Nearness of You” thanks to its sincere lessons of service and sacrifice, and the many genuine character moments of the excellent cast. I’ll be carrying this one with me, and I can’t wait for my return trip back to Astro City.