I like the concept of "Sorrowsday," Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett's story for "Astro City" #17. But for a series that has normally worked so well in dipping in and out of a long, fictional history that is often described to us rather than actually experienced, this is an issue where I feel we needed the actual experience in order for this comic to have worked at full capacity.
"Astro City" #17 gives us the story of a microscopic universe's people, their foe Krigari Ironhand that regularly tried to bring his army into the world of Astro City, and how Stormhawk of the Honor Guard had ultimately sacrificed himself to stop Krigari. The story is told through Eth, a member of the microscopic Quiqui-a, as he explains the rise of Krigari and the sorrow that has resulted from the telling of this story.
Often, Busiek's relating of "Astro City" stories that we've never seen is charming and enthralling, but it never quite coalesces here. Maybe it's because Stormhawk's a bit of an enigma -- I barely even remember him, although a quick scan online says that he appeared in the various "Astro City: The Dark Age" mini-series -- but it feels like we should be experiencing some sort of emotion over Stormhawk's fate and how it was something that seemingly could have been avoided. But neither he nor Krigari particularly stand out; they're both non-entities here. Krigari snarls a lot, Stormhawk flies around a bit... even Eth, despite all of his misery, doesn't have any discernable personality trait other than sorrow. (And after DC Comics' character of Pariah from "Crisis on Infinite Earths" back in the day, I don't think we need anyone else quite like that.) The ideas are all interesting here, but the execution is lacking.
Grummett steps in on the art and normally I'd find that reason to cheer. The first 10 pages of the book has Grummett providing full pencils, with Cory Hamscher inking all but one of those pages. Those pages are what I expected, full-figured characters with a rounded, consistent look. The rest of the book has Grummett just providing layouts and four different artists creating finishes. It's not quite as great; some pages are a little more angular, some a little less expressive. A casual reader might not notice the shifting look from one page to the next, but those who enjoy the comics medium might well pick up on what appears to have been a sudden scramble to get the book published on time.
"Astro City" #17's heart is in the right place, but this isn't one of its more shining moments. With a larger four-part story focusing on Crackerjack and Quarrel starting in December, things look a bit more promising. But this feels like another faltering moment for a series that used to be impervious; considering how great Busiek and Benjamin Dewey's "Tooth & Claw" #1 was this month, it's a bit of a let down.