Reconnaissance

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"Reconnaissance" was first published in Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 No.5.

Synopsis[edit]

A "little old man" who goes by the name Mr. Bridwell travels through the snow to watch the Irregulars fight a giant mechanical being created by the Scavenger Peoples. As Bridwell observes the combat, the acrobatic hero Crackerjack arrives on the scene to try and take things over.

Meanwhile, Bridwell is asked to leave by a policeman who sees the man has bypassed the police blockade around the fight. Bridwell walks around, looking for some other super-phenomenon to observe. He picks up an issue of the Current, which has a feature on Starwoman, and the day's edition of the Astro City Rocket. He also briefly spots Samaritan, flying "slower than usual speed."

Next, Bridwell heads to a nearby park, where he sits on a bench and opens up a high-tech computer system. The system has information on super-powered individuals, and he updates several files (those of El Robo, Starwoman, Samaritan, Gnomicron, Quarrel, and the Confessor). Bridwell's computer updates are interrupted by a youth who wants to check out the device, and the old man angrily heads home.

At his apartment building, Bridwell briefly has a polite conversation with Eugene, a younger resident of the building who relates details about his failed musical audition earlier in the day. The two pass by a gaggle of older women who gossip about Eugene behind his back, annoying Bridwell.

As Bridwell enters his apartment, his shape changes to that of an insect-like alien with large eyes. He transmits a report on his reconnaissance activities, advising that further observation and recording of "extensive paranormal activity" is necessary before the decision to invade this planet could be made.

Bridwell's equipment sparks at some point in the evening, and it sets fire to the building while he sleeps. Other residents of the building and firefighters spot him, but it is Crackerjack who leaps into action and saves Bridwell--who plants a tracking device on him for closer and further study.

Crackerjack and Bridwell escape the building safely right before it collapses; Crackerjack cries out for his record collection, revealing himself to have been "Eugene." He quickly departs, while the gossiping women chatter amongst themselves about the hero's secret identity.

For his part, Bridwell decides that his observation of Crackerjack--to last until dawn--will determine whether or not to advise invading Earth. Bridwell is shocked at Crackerjack's antics: congratulating himself despite the chance nature of some encounters, claiming ownership of the name "Jack" when trying to chat up Jack-in-the-Box, beating up criminals and offering them to the police despite absence of clear evidence of wrongdoing, and taking credit for an operation to take down the Techsperts actually run by Sunbird and Nightingale.

Viewing Crackerjack as a microcosm of the human race, Bridwell wonders whether or not it is folly or indomitability that he sees in Earthlings, almost deciding to leave them alone ... until the gossiping women from his building claim to a nearby KBAC reporter that they knew Crackerjack's secret identity all along.

In anger, Bridwell runs to the apartment building ruins, attaches his alien computer to its frame, and transmits a signal to an otherworldly destination.

Notes[edit]

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