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Astro City, Vol. 4: The Tarnished Angel

(Astro City #4)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,511 ratings  ·  138 reviews
When recently paroled super-villain Steeljack finds himself back on the streets, he quickly discovers that life outside of prison may be even harder than his life as a prisoner. Trying to make good with his life, he is still unable to find work that won't violate his parole. Desperate, Steeljack takes a more dangerous job: investigating the murders of several super-villain ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Wildstorm (first published May 1st 2000)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  2,511 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 2018-comics
When Steeljack got paroled and tried to go legit, he couldn't find a job. Now he's trying to figure out who's killing the washed up criminals in Kiefer Square, his old Astro City neighborhood. Will Steeljack discover the killer before he becomes the next victim.

I knew this was going to be something when I saw Kurt Busiek dedicated it, in part, to Lawrence Block. Since I've read a few hundred detective books over the years, this one was right up my booze-soaked alley.

The Tarnished Angel is about
mark monday
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comicon
alas, poor dejected Tarnished Angel! Steeljack is an ex-con trying to hew to the straight & narrow, looking for work and a fresh start while staying right with the law... until circumstances intervene and he must fight for greater things - even if that means going against the law and straying onto more crooked paths. a classic post-war noir plot for a classic comic.

Astro City's fourth volume takes the tone of its story and the look of its imagery directly from all of those grey and ambiguous mov
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, hoopla
Busiek and Anderson craft a noir set in Astro City. Steeljack is let out on parole after 2 decades in prison. While no one wants to hire an old man covered in steel who is trying to go straight, the people in his neighborhood trust him. They hire him to discover who is killing off old washed up career henchman and minor villains. Steeljack is out of his depth but plods on, discovering a much larger plot. I like the noir angle and longer form storytelling of this arc. I really like how Anderson a ...more
James DeSantis
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I like these stories, and love most f Kurt Busiek stuff, but these story feel VERY long.

So this is about Steeljack. After years of being in prison he is finally released and decides to try to do good. Try to live a normal life. He's done being a bad guy, or fully bad anyway, and wants to fix his life up. However, when small time villains begin to get picked off they hire him as some type of private eye to help them figure out what's happening. Will the villain turned hero be able to figure it o
A re-read. A single great big meaty story. Dark but not too dark. Sad but not too sad. Predictable but not too predictable. Not all that deep. But just damned good.

It's just a crime based superhero book told from the point of view of one of the villains. But a damn good one. Lots and lots and lots of text but a really fast read. Quite good enough art. Tons of characters but they don't distract. And always coming back to our main pov hero Steeljack. This book and this series is in such sharp cont
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how I missed this volume when going through the Astro City volumes. Especially since it's got a noir focus, which adds to the appeal. We get the story of Steeljack, a low-level villain trying to make good after two decades in prison, but getting sucked back into the life. It's also an exploration of the second-tier villains, the ones who serve as chaff when the super-villains take the credit. Steeljack makes for a good noir hero, out of his depth but soldiering on. The story goes to ...more
Shannon Appelcline
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Steeljack is probably my favorite character in the Astro City universe, for his deep desire to be an angel, tied with his earthy reality. Unsurprisingly, this is also my favorite Astro City arc to date. The mystery is great and the many characters of the area are interesting, but it's Steeljack that really makes it all terrific. I've always wanted to see more of him, but of course this marked the end of the original Astro City run, followed by a five-year hiatus.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Four and a half stars.

Another good story of the Astro City universe; about SteelJack (see the cover), a super human loser and about his redemption.


4 1/2 stars
Possibly my favorite Astro City story. And that's saying something....
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I just want to run. To run far and fast, and get away. But I been running' all my life now, and I'm still in the same place."
Astro City takes a break from the anthology format and returns to the extended arc structure with this great story focusing on one of the small-time, street-level criminals of Astro City instead of the grand heroes.

Our main character is Carl Donewicz, aka Steeljack, a recently paroled super-crook with metal skin and a new desire to go straight. He finds himsel
[Name Redacted]
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A genuinely moving tale of a super-villain trying to go straight, torn between the ideals with which his mother raised him, and nearly 50 decades of bad company and worse advice. This is a novel about second chances, bad choices, and the crippling fear that you can escape neither your origins nor the consequences of your actions.
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another trade with a long story arc. Was Busiek making a habit of it? This story follows former villain Steeljack, out on parole. He wants to go straight, but it's hard when you're literally made of steel. He's highly visible, and there's a distinct limit to what a steel man is capable of. Adding to his troubles is his neighborhood, home to many of the other middle tier villains he used to hang out with. Except that they're now all turning up dead. The police don't care, and the heroes don't car ...more
Quentin Wallace
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow what a story. This was basically a noir using superpowered characters. Steeljacket is a life long loser, a supervillain who's been in and out of prison forever. Now that he's old and getting broken down, he tries to go straight. Of course, that's never easy.

On top of that, someone is murdering all the old villains from the neighborhood. They hire Steeljacket to get to the bottom of things. Many twists and turns later we find out there's much more to the story than what shows on the surface.

This is my favorite Astro City volume so far. It's remarkable that each volume is so different in style, yet they all work. Well, except Astro City, Vol. 2: Confession, that was a bit weak. Anyway, this was a full volume with a single plot, like Confession, but more focused and much more effective. The main character, a failed supervillain and all around failure, Steeljack/Carl, was very sympathetic and it was enjoyable to see how his story developed over the course of the entire book. The art w ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Robert Mitchum lookalike coated in steel skin, doing hard time and then saving his neighbourhood? What's not to like!

The Man Who Inspired Steeljack

Loved the backstories of "El Hombre" and "Mock Turtle", as well. Great volume.
Nov 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Now see, THIS is what I like about Astro City. It seems that Busiek's stories only really set themselves apart in this universe when they're given some room to breath and subvert expectations. In this story, we meet Steeljack, a former "black mask" (AKA super villain) who's just been released from an extended prison sentence and wants to go straight. What follows is a story that starts familiar enough, but expands to really utilize the unique universe of Astro City to its advantage, crafting a n ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
Busiek has had me since Marvels and he and Brent Eric Anderson (p), and Will Blyberg (i) don't disappoint with this edition to the Astro City universe. The Tarnished Angel is classic, hard-boiled noir centering on Steeljack, a minor-league super-villain who can no longer banish his love-handles and who's out on parole from another prison stretch.

Steeljack returns to his home turf, yet another fully realized neighborhood in Astro City: Kiefer Square. Not a great part of town, but a real neighborh
B. P. Rinehart
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another interesting volume that shows Busiek was not afraid of who he would put as the protagonist in his books. This time he goes to an old c-list villain whose only crime was being perpetually in the wrong environment and having no guidance. After some lengthy jail time , he is out on parole and just trying to get back on his feet. Because he is an ex-con, jobs are not there. Because he is an ex-super-villain (his name is Steeljack), he is on the radar of all the superheroes in the city (oh an ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Can an ex-con ever be anything else? Why do repeat offenders keep following the same patterns? This is the story of the Steel Jacketed Man, a career criminal who has faced off against the heroes of Astro City time and again. He's hired muscle mostly, in and out of jail until he's been in for so long he really does want to stay out. It's a much more nuanced view of crime and punishment than what's generally available in American fiction.

The noir tone of this book is well crafted and particularly
Ryan Mishap
Sep 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
Sometimes the loser gets to be the anti-hero, despite all the super-heroes mucking about in the skies. See, they don't always understand that normal people got worth, that some of us just trying to get by, and any scrap we can get a hold of might make the difference. Sometimes we have dreams waylaid and fall into patterns etched for us, but that don't mean we can't do right by the people we come from, by the people we know, by the people who don't get no accolades or stories written about them. ...more
Anne Langston
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
What makes a hero? What makes a villain? This noir-ish trade explores this question, introducing a narrator/main protagonist that has been a "super villain" as he attempts to live his lfe after being released from prison. The mystery that he gets involved in is intriguing, as are the characters that are introduced along the way. And the character of Steeljack, a genuinely good person that became a "black mask" is compelling to me. I couldn't give this five stars because a lengthy section in the ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love the art and the atmosphere of this series. The lead this time around was kind of a sad sack, but my heart went out to him.
Volume 2 remains my favorite, but I still look forward to reading more stories in this nostalgic, original series.
Michael Underwood
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
D-grade supervillain turned local do-gooder, a powerful consideration of how participation in the supers world can irrevocably change someone's life.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Astro City: The Tarnished Angel is an adult graphic novel full of Greek pathos and grit.

Astro City comics, by Kurt Busiek, are at their best when they are telling human, not superhuman, stories. One of the first stories to really hit home was in Volume 1, Life in the Big City. Titled “Dreams,” it featured a character named The Samaritan most would identify as a superman archetype. He is completely self-sacrificing and never finds a moments rest while trying to stop all the world’s calamities. Ho
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vol 4 swaps back to a single story, and it’s one of the series’s best yet! Steeljack is a recently paroled supervillain ex-con trying to make sense of the life he’s got left, with a fading hope that he might be able to redeem what he considers his failure of a life so far.

His difficulties adjusting to any sort of life outside Biro Island are compelling and feel similar to what many people must experience today, while still being noir-ishly stylized. Once the core mystery shows up, I had a blast
Pablo Martinez
Tarnished Angel hitted me in a weak spot, me being a big Mitchum fan and all, and I would have given it 5 stars if it wasn't so damned long. The story would have worked betwer trimming two (or maybe three) chapters into one. This is the story of a old-crook trying to reform, we all know the archetype of these stories, at some points he gets caught and has to race against time to stop "it", you don't have to stretch it for that long. The Mock Turtle story is pretty good but I don't see the need f ...more
Lucas Chance
A noir slice of Astro City

Less of the typical noir thriller and more like The Friends of Eddie Coyle with superheroes. A really great look at the blue collar world of a superhero comic and a fresh perspective. This series really deserves its reputation
Jonathan Maas
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible, hope to write a full review soon.
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Reprints Astro City (1) #14-20 (April 1998-January 2000). Steeljack is a career criminal who has finally been released from prison on parole. With orders to stay away from crime, Steeljack finds himself drawn back into his old life out of necessity for an income. When Steeljack finds something sinister is growing in his old neighborhood of Kiefer Square and none of the big superheroes care. Steeljack is going to have to break his parole if he hopes to save his people…but Steeljack’s discovery co ...more
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Kurt Busiek is an American comic book writer notable for his work on the Marvels limited series, his own title Astro City, and his four-year run on Avengers.

Busiek did not read comics as a youngster, as his parents disapproved of them. He began to read them regularly around the age of 14, when he picked up a copy of Daredevil #120. This was the first part of a continuity-heavy four-part story arc;

Other books in the series

Astro City (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • Astro City, Vol. 1: Life in the Big City
  • Astro City, Vol. 2: Confession
  • Astro City, Vol. 3: Family Album
  • Astro City, Vol. 5: Local Heroes
  • Astro City, Vol. 6: The Dark Age, Book One: Brothers and Other Strangers
  • Astro City, Vol. 7: The Dark Age, Book Two: Brothers in Arms
  • Astro City, Vol. 8: Shining Stars
  • Astro City, Vol. 9: Through Open Doors
  • Astro City, Vol. 10: Victory
  • Astro City, Vol. 11: Private Lives

News & Interviews

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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