The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
Lewis Trondheim is really a can’t-miss cartoonist. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by him, a claim I can make about very, very few fixtures in the comics market. Trondheim manages to tell stories for all-ages that are fast and funny to keep young readers interested, but filled with crisp dialogue and considerable moral questions to keep older readers engaged. Readers of every age are likely to be stunned by his endlessly surprising twists.
Astronauts of the Future tells of Martina and Gilbert, a pair of elementary school kids who believe that everyone around them are either robots (Martina’s theory) or aliens (Gilbert’s). It starts off as a precocious kid comedy, with our heroes attempting to prove their theories without getting into (too much) trouble. Of course, when they find out they’re both correct (I thought I was annoyed at NBM’s cover copy for spoiling the surprise, but it happens so early on that NBM’s claim of a shocking twist could refer to any of a dozen different events!), the world becomes a wholly new experience, one that justifies Gilbert’s ray-gun obsession and needs Martina’s creative leadership. The first of the European albums reprinted in this book from NBM Publishing establishes the world and circumstances. A second tale pits Martina and Gilbert against an alien invasion with a truly startling moral quandary.
Sometime Trondheim collaborator Manu Larcenet (author of the superb autobio Ordinary Victories) provides the artwork. Packing each page with information (usually around ten panels), Larcenet keeps every scene active, exciting and filled with drama and humor. The character designs are clever and cute – from people on the streets to alien ships, and Larcenet captures the broad humor of boys and ray guns, and the shock, terror and excitement of living among an aliens and robots.
Trondheim’s upbeat and lively dialogue keeps the story moving. Twists come flying at the reader with rapid-fire pacing, and the subtle sense of family and belonging is built with strong, distinct supporting players that ground Martina and Gilbert in this wild sci-fi world. Readers of all ages will find plenty of reasons to fall in love with comics if they’re lucky enough to find a copy of Lewis Trondheim and Manu Larcenet’s Astronauts of the Future in their local library.