Wednesday, April 11, 2012

GN Review -- Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity / Dave Roman

So, I think I just read my first children's comic that I just wasn't very crazy about.  It's a shame, too, because it's a work by an artist I've met and admire personally.  Dave Roman has had a hand in quite a few comics I've enjoyed, but one of his more recent works, the first installment of the Astronaut Academy series, Zero Gravity, just didn't work very well for me.

There really isn't a main plot to Zero Gravity so much is there are a multitude of episodic, interconnected vignettes featuring the various characters, the sum of which forms a kind of composite of a plot.  You have a boy, Hakata Soy, who's come to Astronaut Academy in an attempt to put his super-hero past behind him, but who has his own adjustment issues, including a robotic duplicate trying to kill him.  You have the various veteran students, including, among others, Hakata's jock roommate who's secretly a sentimental sap, two girls who were once friends, but are now enemies, and a boy who simply likes to float out in space in his spacesuit.  Together along with the other students' tales, a year at Astronaut Academy is chronicled, through madcap classes headed by insane teachers, contests and grudge matches between students, and an incident with the school's gravity system and Hakata's robot assassin, Cybert, finally trying to get the drop on him.

I hate to begin a review on a sour note, but this was one title that I put down and picked up several times before I finally found the strength to muscle through it.  I had serious issues with the jokes, which fly out ad nauseum and are clearly not intended for my age range.  Much of the language ends up being repetitious or unnecessarily lengthy, which I believe intended as a poke at manga and anime conventions, but it quickly wears thin, and was one major factor in my initial distaste for the book.  Again, I imagine much of the visual and dialog humor works well for a children's work, but it simply didn't translate into an enjoyable experience for me.

Still, as I pressed on, I did occasionally find myself surprised by how involved I could get in some of these kids' perspectives and problems.  One boy sees Hakata immediately as a lost soul, and identifies with him due to his own hard experiences.  Doug Hiro, the boy who would prefer to float out in the silent endlessness of space, harbors a secret passion for a lady who works in the principal's office.  And Marion Mellonbelly, who was once friends with but now dislikes Miyumi San, shows surprising depth of character when she recalls how Miyumi San fell away from her circle of friends.

Art-wise, I can see how this work would appeal to children.  The tone is light and cheerful, and the simple line work and pleasing expressiveness of the characters will easily grab the attention of young readers.  For my part, it's not terribly impressive, but again, this story is clearly not aimed at audiences like me.  While I doubt its ability to transcend its intended demographic, Roman nonetheless puts together a work that will visually captivate its intended audience.

Overall, I would recommend this work for kids.  The art, the story, and the humor clearly lend themselves to a younger audience.  I doubt many adults readers will care for this work, and again, I had to put this work down several times before finally pushing through to the end with it.  Recommended, with some reservations.

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