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Astronauts In Trouble

Remember way back in 1969, when some guy wearing what looked like a helmeted snowsuit planted an American flag on the moon? Well, I don't because I was born about 13 years later and by the time of my birth, space travel had once again become a thing better left to science fiction. And that pisses me off.

Where is the weekly lunar shuttle to the moon colony? Where is the manned mission to Mars being launched from the moon base we establish there (and for those who I know watch The Simpsons, where's my freaking Tang)?

Space travel once got an entire nation excited about science and expanding our knowledge of the universe. Now we have almost no respect or admiration for it. NASA is too underfunded to do anything really history-making, and the US government doesn't seem to care about much save for the Middle East nowadays.

I guess I'm just a little bitter that the world isn't as cool as I want it to be. But one comic helps to take a little of the edge off: Astronauts In Trouble: Live From The Moon, created and written by Larry Young and drawn by Matt Smith.

AIT asks the question "What if a very rich man decided he wanted to do what Armstrong did all over again?"

Ishmael Hayes is such a man: owner of one of the near future's largest conglomerates, Hayes has funded his own personal mission to the moon, bringing with him enough supplies, raw materials, air, and crew to establish the world's first other-terrestrial space colony. He's also brought with him the main cast of characters, the Channel 7 news crew, who are about to get the biggest story on or off the planet (assuming they survive the trip, the landing, and what may well be a very dangerous billionaire).

The story is mostly told from the view of the media, a storytelling tool that Young capitalizes on in the forms of the Channel 7 news crew: cameraman Heck, producer Anne, and reporter Dave "Sparky" Archer, the most trusted man in television.

Much of the story is exposition from Dave, reporting on the events of the comic as they happen, and that is the real strength of Young's script. He starts the reader off with some break-neck action as we are quickly introduced to the characters and rushed into the near fatal launch of the moon mission, then slows everything down in the middle, giving the reader time to get to know (and like) his characters.

And then he hits you with more action, intrigue, and some dire consequences for everyone's favorite journalists.

Young also adds some politics to the equation when the territorial status of the moon is questioned. Think about it: what country would a moon colony owe allegiance to? What is the global effect of a principality that is not on the globe? I'll give you a hint: not a good one.

Though the story is vastly intriguing, the art isn't great. Smith has a style that is pretty much a Mike Mignola rip-off, but unlike the expert Hellboy artist, Smith's style isn't as clean and his use of heavy inks and dark shadows are too sparse. Some of the characters look too similar and it creates confusion in Young's very good plot.

The art I do like is actually in the short back-up story in that rear of the collection, drawn by Darick Robertson. It features not one, but two forms of monkeys, in conjunction with space travel. And what could be sweeter than a chimp and a gorilla wearing space suits? Not a damn thing, I tell you.

Despite my objection to the artist, this is a good book and worth your bucks. Astronauts In Trouble is AIT/plaNETar's signature book (notice the "AIT,") and it won't break your wallet wide open at $12.95. I ended up with a damaged copy (you mean UPS guys don't listen to "Fragile" stamps? LIES!), but the guy who does my weekly pull list is giving me a break and ordering me another copy, free of charge (Bless you Dave. Bless you).

Now go out and buy this book and rekindle that boyhood (or girlhood) love of space that had all of us wishing we had personal jet packs and a rocket ship.

Astronauts in Trouble : Live from the Moon

Robert Sparling

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