Boy, the choices we make every day can really come back to bite us, can’t they? Take this guy, for instance. He’s been floating around out there for who knows how long, and whether his current circumstance is the result of deliberate action or random happenstance changes nothing. Still, he’s managed to keep a pretty upbeat attitude about the whole thing, advanced stages of decay notwithstanding.
And the things he’s seen…
As with all anthologies, Tales from the Dead Astronaut is on a bit of a ramble. No single story is around long enough to really establish itself beyond whatever is right there on the page. Which might very well be the whole point of writing an anthology, I guess, even if it doesn’t really make for an easy comic to review. See, I like to dig into the underlying stories, what’s going on between the panels, and character arcs are the reviewer’s bread & butter.
None of that applies in this book… We don’t even get anything about the titular dead astronaut. Okay, he died, and through some twist of circumstance he’s managed to hold onto his consciousness as his body turns to goo around him. But- and I’m gonna need you to stay with me here- this isn’t a book about definitive beginnings or endings. The stories held within these pages are snippets, photographs taken at a point in time that give only the barest idea of what’s really going on. Some people might get frustrated with that because there are readers who like to be told a story, from the beginning through to the thrilling climax, and that’s actually okay. There are still many comics out there for them.
But, if you’re the kind of reader who doesn’t mind stepping into the middle of a story and pondering about what might have led up to that point or where it could have gone after, it might be that Jonathan Thompson has just the thing for you. What Thompson has done is create a singular character who’s in the perfect position to play the passive observer, floating around in space with no stake in the events around him, or her seeing as the Astronaut is never identified as any specific gender. The Astronaut just is, and the events being related simply are. What a reader may take away from them, where the mind wanders off to after the book is closed is a matter of imagination and choice, whether you find an amusing anecdote or a valuable life lesson.
So we’ve talked about one thing Tales from the Dead Astronaut isn’t, a series of complete stories or finished concepts. Another thing it isn’t is boring to look at. Ever. Every page by Jorge Luis Gabotto is artistically rendered and full of visuals to keep the eye moving and give the reader points to think about. Just like Thompson’s script, Gabotto’s illustrations are dealing with right now, complementing the open-ended nature of the book. Whether we’re looking at a moment in time with the Astronaut on his cosmic journey, a race of displaced explorers looking for a home, or an intergalactic rock star on a press tour, the pictures maintain the perspective established in the writing. Honestly, the book just looks cool…
Tales from the Dead Astronaut is a comic very much in the style of classic anthologies, especially Heavy Metal Magazine (or Metal Hurlant, for the purists). A meandering series of snapshots, it’s all about the journey while paying no mind to a destination. As readers, much like the comic’s title character, we’re all just drifting… We’re all just along for the ride.
Final Score: 11/13