Astronaut Academy offers a school experience like no other. With classes like Dinosaur Racing, Anti-Gravity Gymnastics, and Spanish, there is something for everyone in this school. The new kid that Astronaut Academy follows is one Hakata Soy. Hakata needs to deal with passing classes such as Wearing Cute Hats while maintaining his very important air of mystery. Roman establishes a great story structure that relies very little on what Hakata is up to at any given time. Stories are presented in typically one to four page vignettes, narrated by one of the varied students and faculty of Astronaut Academy. Often, the character that is showcased will discuss either their impression of Hakata, or completely ignore him and talk about a class or a problem in their life. That way,
character-by-character, the crazy world that exists in Astronaut Academy is introduced.
While the insane rivalries and imaginative mix of space-school technology give polish to the story, what really makes it shine is Roman’s writing. Characters, despite all being kids, directly tell you their motivations and feelings behind their actions. Without this self-aware narration these would just be students going through, what is for them, a very normal school day. However, a kid telling you in a pointed manner what their character type is, or what they may do in reaction to a rival, is so unlike how any other story is told, that it sweeps the reader up in a burst of hilarity. Even when the stakes get higher as the mysteries surrounding Hakata start to unwind, the book never stops trying to make you laugh.
Astronaut Academy is drawn in a strong and simple cartoon style. Roman uses his lines sparingly, but well. It takes very little for him to shift between deep space and classrooms, or a Fireball game to the cafeteria. The entire book is rendered in grayscale, but it is employed so well that color is not missed. The only thing that requires attention is the huge cast of characters. Since most of the characters are the same size, and there is little variety between their looks, it might become hard to tell them apart. Especially since most of the characters fly by in their small piece of the story, but may come back fifty pages later in someone else’s.
Overall, Astronaut Academy is able to deliver a myriad of stories talking about crushes, classes, and playing around with time travel, in a short space. Because of the inside nature of the jokes, this book might be better understood by an older elementary school student or a middle schooler. For readers who enjoy zany fun, this book should hold a wide appeal.
Astronaut Academy, vol. 1: Zero Gravity
First Second, 2011