Sunday, August 27, 2006

Astronauts in Trouble: Space 1959 #1

Astronauts in Trouble: Space 1959 #1, January 2000, AiT/Planet Lar
writer/letterer: Larry Young
artist: Charlie Adlard
cover artists: Kieron Dwyer & John Heebink
editor: Mimi Rosenheim
editorial assistance: Adam Beechen

As I type this review, the Emmy awards are unfolding on television behind me, an appropriate soundtrack for a comic book about the dawn of pop culture’s two most important sciences: space travel and broadcast journalism. If these two professions have anything in common, it’s that its most notable pioneers often have their heads in the clouds. Heh.

This issue is the first in a miniseries and successfully establishes a murder mystery meets government conspiracy yarn, with an L.A. Confidential meets Armageddon feel that surprisingly blends in the gumshoe era of the '50s. While covering a police officer’s alleged accidental shooting of a janitor, a premiere field news team is led to an experimental island launching pad, where they are sequestered by the paramilitary group to secure America's successful role in the space race. Indeed, this first issue is that easy to summarize, and just as pleasant to read, with a dialogue occasionally too bulky for the panel, but consistently rife with noir and intrigue. Adlard's art is crisp and fitting for the black and white format, by way of Brian Stelfreeze and with some similarity to Phil Hester, in my opinion. AiT was just as fun to look at as it was to read.

As I've written here before, issues like this offer not only a glimpse into a series, but also a company, as I’ve never read an AiT book before. (I take that back: I believe Brian Wood's Channel Zero is from AiT. Let's just over look that, shall we?) Just as the Valiant sampling from over a month ago revealed a superhero comic book universe desperate to establish its own identity and continuity, AiT seems less concerned with weaving an ongoing tapestry than it does just telling a good story. I know Young has a foundation laid for his Astronauts in Trouble books, but this issue didn't obligate me to dig up any back issues to fully understand it. In fact, I dare say it's a good jump-aboard book for interested newcomers like myself. Rather than ally his company with the superhero genre, Young obviously sought to exploit another niche of adventure fiction, to his benefit, I reckon. His company, its logo, and its library have created a productive impression on the industry.

John Stewart and Stephen Colbert just finished presenting the award for best reality show competition series, or some such category that I'm sure didn't exist five years ago. Entertainment is changing. Larry Young could really be one of its new architects.

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