Through Open Doors (Part One)
"Through Open Doors (Part One)" was first published in Astro City No.1.
In a surreal sequence, the Broken Man introduces himself to the readers, telling them he'll need their help against something called the Oubor. He explains that the Oubor monitors most forms of media and electronic communication, and even the face-to-face speech of important figures, but the readership can serve as a secret network underneath its radar. To illustrate what he means, he presents the issue's story...
A strike at the Ellsworth Museum by the Iron Legion is thwarted by an odd superhero named American Chibi. She approaches them underground through the tunnel system, then bursts out underneath their three-man tank. The Legion was trying to get hold of an amphora whose patterns are encoded with alien technology, but she'd already stashed it away. Her work complete, American Chibi flies off and notices a strange, giant doorway over the Gaines River. She tries to charge through, but only ricochets off for her efforts, into the arms of Samaritan.
The Broken Man laments to the reader that neither of them can help him with the Oubor, nor can any other of the various Astro City heroes who are too prominent to escape its notice. However, he then hones in someone who's a different story: Ben Pullam, whose now-adult daughters are visiting him from out of town. As the family catches up, Ben finds himself thinking about where he is in life. He's made a comfortable amount of money through his career as an information services manager, his daughters are leading their own lives; he could retire now... but then what would he do? The Broken Man tells us to quickly concentrate our thoughts on the giant doors --
-- which are withstanding the efforts of the Astro City based members of Honor Guard, Reflex 6, and E.A.G.L.E. troops to break through. E.A.G.L.E. jets launch missiles at the object, but the superheroes intercept them out of concern for the growing number of civilians, including Ben and his girls, who are turning up to witness events. The doors open, and out steps a giant-sized alien named Telseth, "ambassador plenipotentiary" for the Kvurri. He wishes to open talks with humanity, but first, he'll need a helper to educate him about the ways of Earth. It should be a normal human, a civilian so that he can understand regular humanity, even if it's against Commander Flint's wishes. The Broken Man instructs the reader to think about Ben and his crossroads, and sure enough, Ben volunteers to become Telseth's guide. Side-by-side, this unlikely pair, the cosmic being and the human being who barely comes up to his knee, step through the door...
The Broken Man explains that regular people like Ben, and the readers who will be witnessing his exploits, will be his secret network. He parts ways with the audience then, but not before warning them to skip the next and final page of the issue: The Broken Man's real location, the Meskin Hills Psychiatric Hospital, where he sits drooling and straight jacketed.
- This is the first new story published under the Vertigo imprint.
- The Various newspaper headlines and artifacts of the Broken Man, feature some references to never seen or heard about characters; The Silver Adept, Darklings, The J-Hawks, Warpitron and Johnny Ragtime, as well as The Broken Man referencing Jazzbaby and The Blasphemy Agency.
- Also visible are headlines about Max O'Millions being hospitalized, Atomicus saving President Eisenhower, sometime after leaving office, and likely Air Ace's public debut fighting the Barnstormer Gang.
- It seems likely that Sunbird has changed her name sometime over the past ten years based on a headline involving Sunhawk and Nightingale.
- This story parallels issue #1 of the previous ongoing volume of Astro City. Both stories begin with the abrupt defeat of the Iron Legion and are about Ben Pullam. The latter's return marks the first time the series has re-visited in a significant way one of the non-super POV characters.
- The Iron Legion have apparently taken on a new look since their above-mentioned prior appearance.
- The Ellsworth Museum is a likely reference to DC and National Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth.
- The Broken Man's comment that "Spend a few years messing around with stuff that mostly happened thirty years ago, and you're going to miss a few things" is a meta-reference to the "Dark Age" saga, which precisely fits that description.
- It can be surmised from the gathering of heroes in this story that Astra Furst did indeed end up joining Reflex-6. The three previously known members of the team are all present, but none of the rest of the First Family are.
- In addition to her signature sword, Winged Victory is wielding some kind of blaster.
- Commander Flint bears a similar appearance to former E.A.G.L.E. leader Flannery Hawk.
- Meskin Hills like Jack Meskin is a likely reference to comic creator Mort Meskin.
- The two attendants bear an uncanny resemblance to series creators, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, adding more to the meta elements of the story...