Written and Drawn by Dave Roman
Published by First Second
Reviewed by Marc Mason
It’s difficult to make predictions about how a year will turn out when February isn’t even finished, but in this case, I will make an exception: there will not be a better all-ages graphic novel published this year than ASTRONAUT ACADEMY. Period.
Many San Diego Comic-Cons ago, I was walking through the small press area when I happened upon a table full of minicomics. Amongst them was one titled ASTRONAUT ACADEMY, and on the cover it was described as a “mini-manga.” Intrigued, I laid down my cash, and when I got it home, I was immediately blown away by how good it was. The book followed the adventures of a young boy named Hakata Soy as he headed off to a private school on a space station. The school was silly, the character was surprisingly complex, and the art was fantastic. It had a simple quality on its surface, but Roman was doing interesting things with layout and design that would capture the eye of a grown-up reader. It was one of the best minicomics I had ever seen, and from that point onward, I made it a point to find Roman’s work at SDCC every year.
And you know what? The series just kept getting better.
The plots got more complex, the characters grew, and the ideas behind the stories got bolder. Once Roman wrapped up the series with a triple-sized mini, I felt some real disappointment. However, that disappointment is now tempered with the coming release of this book, which collects all twelve installments of the minicomics under one cover. A larger number of readers will now discover the book, and follow Hakata and the other characters on their journeys, which is a very good thing. In today’s market, there are very few fantastic options for younger readers- at least few options that won’t make parents want to tear their hair out. Not so here- this is a book that anybody in the family can love, because there is truly something for everyone.
The book arrives in June, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you check it out. Come December, it will unquestionably occupy a spot high on my top ten list of the year. Dave Roman is a talent deserving of greater recognition and acclaim, even with the fantastic successes he’s already enjoyed in comics, and this collection is a fantastic step in that direction.