My transmission is a lie. I have long since catalogued this planet in enough detail. I could have sent the signal. And yet - there is something about this world, something that makes me delay. I do not understand it, but I cannot deny it.

Astro City is in many ways the spiritual successor to Kurt Busiek's Marvels, and provide a uniquely human look into a world of superheroes and -villains, criminals and crimefighters. In this story (in issue #5, first published in 1995 under DC's Homage Comics label), a retired man has made it his habit to spend his days outdoors, "looking at the sun and sky until he managed to flush the flourescant light out of his system."

This, however, is a disguise. The reader comes to find that this "old man" is actually a mantis-like alien, spying on the superheroes of Earth in preparation and reconaissance before his people invade the planet. After sending a transmission of his observations for the day (and ranting about his annoyance with the gaggle of old women in the same apartment building and their gossiping), he utters the above quote, and retires to bed for the night.

Spoiling the story no more than neccesary, he later finds himself observing the actions of "Crackerjack," a superhero who isn't much of a person, as a microcosm of humanity, to decide whether or not to call for the invasion. In the course of a night, he claims the results of luck as his own (although it may be that Crackerjack's power is his luck), he claims credit for other people's work, he is jealous of other people's accomplishments, and he does sloppy work on top of it all.

Yet, for all of these flaws, the nameless invader can't bring himself to condemn humanity. He has a nameless feeling of kindred with humans, thinking about how his own race was once considered petty and impudent, always presuming that they were more than they truly were. There's something he can't put his finger (or claw, in this case) on, nameless qualities that he shares, that he respects.

As he returns to the ashes of the apartment complex, his final actions, his decision to activate the invasion beacon, reveal what those qualities are. He chooses to call for the invasion out of annoyance at the women of the apartments, driven mad, in his own words, by their useless twittering.

The qualities he felt so close to, the qualities that he saw in humans as well as himself, the qualities that almost stayed his hand, were pettiness and spite.

While my ideas are all my own, the source for the story, and probably the only place to get it now, is in the Astro City: Life In The Big City trade paperback.

Muchly thanks to Jet-Poop correcting my blunder in using dated information. I should know better than to make mistakes which can be corrected by 5 minutes of research on the Web.

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