Astro City is consistently one of the strongest superhero reads of each month, and this week sees the release of a new collection featuring some of the best chapters of the book’s current run at Vertigo. Astro City Vol. 11: Private Lives collects issues #11-#16, an assortment that includes the mind-bending Dancing Master story and a touching tale that introduces Astro City’s first transgender character (at least the first that this reader is aware of), and it’s a great showcase of the high-quality work done by writer Kurt Busiek, artist Brent Anderson (with fill-ins by Graham Nolan), colorist Alex Sinclair, and cover artist/character designer Alex Ross.

DC Comics has provided The A.V. Club with an exclusive look at Ross’ gorgeous design work included with this week’s collection, and it’s immediately apparent just how essential Ross is to this book’s visual appeal. From the mercurial appearance of the Dancing Master to the Kirby-inspired look of the robots owned by Ellie (a woman inspired by one of Ross’ relatives), and the bright, optimistic design of Starbright, Ross brings a sense of reality to these characters that fits perfectly with Busiek’s grounded scripts. He’s an extremely versatile, intensely specific artist, and his work has helped Astro City stand out in a crowded superhero marketplace.

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