I adore "Astro City" and every month there's a new issue is always reason to celebrate. But in the case of "Astro City" #15, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's story has little else besides sweetness going for it, with a progression that shifts back and forth between predictable and ideas coming out of nowhere.
Don't get me wrong, Ellie and her robots are rather adorable. I like the way that Busiek writes her dialogue; it's calm and relaxing, an amalgamation of every beloved grandmother figure out there. Already knowing that she's innocent certainly doesn't hurt matters, of course, but Busiek gives readers someone to cheer for even as she's thrown into jail over crimes that she wasn't responsible for. And in many ways, the high point of the comic is when she confronts her nephew Fred, who is responsible for the crimes in the first place. It's the sort of moment where you can see it playing out exactly that way; not in the typical comic book fashion, but more along the ways where your great-aunt gives you that knowing smile.
The problem is, most of the story feels far too predictable. You know it's going for a happy ending, but this one ends up even more pat than normal. And while Ellie is awfully sweet, it does mean that she doesn't bring too much to the table. The end result is a comic that moves from point to point that you can see coming -- well, except for the surprise addition of Vivi Viktor, who pops up twice out of the blue and feels a little out of place here. When Vivi is uncloaked near the end of the issue, it's a moment that feels quite literal in the plotting; she just appears with no warning and is rammed into the conclusion.
Speaking of Vivi, her two appearances don't look like the same person, which is a little odd, save for her headgear. Anderson draws her in a manner that actually looks a little mannish the first time through; it wasn't until you see the headgear the second time that you realize this old woman is also the middle-aged "guy" you saw earlier in the issue. I do have to give Anderson credit for all of the great robots that he draws this issue, though; they're inventive looking and rather entertaining, ranging from all levels of technology.
"Astro City" #15 isn't a bad issue, but it's just a solid average, and that's surprising for a book normally as fantastic as this one. I'll still take an average "Astro City" over a lot of other comics on the market, mind you, and I hope I'm not the only one. If this is the weakest a book can get, you're ultimately in very good shape. I know I'll be back for the next issue in October.