Astro City: Confession (unnumbered, but third collected volume of Astro City)
Writer - Kurt Busiek
Pencils - Brent E. Anderson
Inks - Will Blyberg
Colors - Alex Sinclair
Covers(all) - Alex Ross
Letters - John G. Roshell; Comicraft
Collects issues #4- 9 of Astro City Volume 2 and Wizard Presents Astro City # 1/2. This trade paperback was published by Image in 1997.
New Kid in Town: In this story we meet Kinney (no first name yet), who is generally referred to as “Kid” by the several characters he meets. He is an orphan who has arrived by bus hoping to restart his life in the fabled Astro City. He demonstrates, against a version of Paste-Pot Pete, that he can handle himself well in a fight. We also meet the Crossbreed, a super-powered religious order. On the last page we see The Confessor for the first time.
Learning the Game: Wasting no time, the Confessor offers on-the-job training to Kinney as his new partner, Alter Boy. Kinney soon wonders how the Confessor does some of the things he does, since as far as he knows the Confessor has no super-powers. It becomes clear that Kinney knows nothing about him. The Confessor invites him to investigate him to learn what he wants to know. Before this can be pursued, he discovers an infiltration of aliens. Naming Grandenetti Cathedral after its founder instead of after a saint is pretty hard to believe. Maybe they do that in this alternate reality.
The Gathering Dark: Mutilation killings have been occurring in the Shadow Hill neighborhood and the super-hero community is taking heat for not stopping them and, in some people’s minds, possibly being behind them. In this story the Confessor addresses Kinney as Brian. At the end of the story Brian finally asks the Confessor if he is a vampire. He says yes.
Eye of the Storm: Honor Guard battles an alien spaceship. A bad-ass cyborg monster-hunter goes into the Shadow Hill neighborhood after the serial killer. We learn the origin of the Confessor, which dates to 1869. At the end of the story it becomes clear that there are more alien spaceships where that one came from.
Patterns: The bad-ass cyborg monster-hunter comes out of Shadow Hill barely alive and with his mind destroyed. Increasing pressure to outlaw super-heroes keeps building, particularly from the mayor, including armed private troops in force. The Confessor is outed as a vampire. He dies defending the city and killing an alien shape-shifter who is impersonating the real mayor. The large number of private troops are also alien shape-shifters.
My Father’s Son: Everyone, super and otherwise, is in a full-scale war with the alien invaders. The real mayor is rescued from the alien mothership and the aliens are defeated. The prevailing opinion is that the Confessor was the serial killer. Another body is found and the Hanged Man defeats some kind of extra-dimensional creature who apparently is the real killer. Ultimately, Brian Kinney takes on the mantle of the Confessor.
The Nearness of You*: This story presents us with a man who wonders if he's going insane. It's a deeply affecting look at the collateral damage of a world-shattering superhero battle. Like the Confessor story, The Hanged Man also plays an important role in this story. This is my (and Brent Anderson’s) personal favorite Astro City story.
Also I might have problems with what the Confessor's superhero persona is constructed from. It seems he just takes one aspect of Batman's personality - that he's kinda like a vampire - and makes that his whole personality.
When The Confessor is explaining to Brian how he became a vampire he says that he withdrew from the world completely and was afraid of what he would become. He goes on to say that he was inspired by Air Ace and other early heroes to become a super-hero himself. The construction of the cathedral began in 1869. Soon after this he became a vampire. He was totally alone from, say, 1870 to around 1930 (or later) when the early heroes appeared. Being totally alone for 60 years probably had a deleterious affect on his personality.
The fact that he has the, presumably extremely painful, sado-masochistic thing going on with the cross on his chest is also somewhat alienating. You have to be kind of sick to do that... Self-loathing and self-punishment are there in both Superman's and Batman's personality (and many others) as survivors guilt partially motivates them to do what they do, but it works better when we aren't being beaten over the head with it, and it's just part of the richness of their characters.
As Rob said, it probably serves as a reminder to not drink (human) blood. Self-flagellation involving some kind of pain or denial is still practiced in some religious orders. When explaining his chest symbol to Brian, Brian asks him if he has ever killed anyone. The Confessor appears very upset and says "please do not ask me that," which pretty much answers the question. Also, just after admitting to Brian that he is a vampire, The Confessor hunts for The Deacon. He is opposed by several of The Deacon's heavily-armed men. The caption reads "once they were all down and unconscious, he visibly shuddered, looking at them, and turned to go." His battle against his vampire self was constant.