I love a good alternate reality story, which is lucky because we seem to be living in a golden age of alternate history/ reality media right now. It’s almost like the world is terrible and we all dream of living somewhere else.
Stories of alternate worlds have been popular since the dawn of storytelling, since they allow authors the freedom to explore an infinite array of possibilities, and give the readers the chance to think about, debate, discuss, and even argue about all of the different ways the world could have, or as some people feel, should have been.
Personally I love a good alternate war story, where everything from the results of a single battle to a world wide global conflict are retold with a different ending. WWII is a frequent source of alternate history, but every battle from the American Revolution to Roman conquests of Europe have had their alternate history moment to shine.
Comic books have explored alternate realities almost from their very inception. Heck, most comics themselves are about alternative realities filled with super powered being and alternate histories where secret forces control the very nature of reality itself. The visual storytelling method perfectly fits this kind of tale, and allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in their alternative worlds.
Which takes us to this weeks book, Astronaut Down from AfterShock Comics, an exciting new take on parallel worlds and what it would take to get us there. Does this book deserve a place on the shelf next to the other great works in this genre, or should we all be dreaming of a work where this story doesn’t exist? Well lets crack into this book together and find out!
Here’s the blurb:
Douglas Spitzer wants to be one of the “astronauts” selected for the crucial Mission Politzer. And just like astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride, Douglas is brave, adaptable, and self-sacrificing. He’s one of the program’s best candidates.
But if he qualifies, Douglas won’t be traveling through space; he’ll be launched into alternate realities on a desperate mission to save Earth from a horrific crisis that has our world on the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, it’s a mission where everything will go wrong, where Douglas’s training and very humanity will be put to the test, and where a deep-seeded secret could sabotage everything.
Writer James Patrick (KAIJU SCORE, CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT) and artist Rubine (SEARCH FOR HU) lead us on a perilous undertaking to save the planet from total destruction!
One well known aspect of alternative reality fiction I have not brought up yet is its reliance on contrivance to travel to other worlds. Be it a transporter accident, lightning strike, or magical doorway, it’s a pretty common trope in these stories that the journey there and back again is harder than one might think, but at least that journey is usually a two way street.
That’s not the case in Astronaut Down. Our intrepid explorers are taking this journey one way, with the knowledge going in that the very act of travelling to another world can, and will, result in their deaths.
So why are they so eager and excited to go?
Well, that get’s us to the heart of this series. See, the Earth we start on is in bad shape, with most of the world’s population trapped inside a handful of walled cities, desperately hoping that they’ll be able to hold off a mysterious quantum ooze that has covered the majority of the planet. Earth is dying, and these quantum astronauts are the only hope humanity has to survive. Their goal is to send their consciousnesses to other realities, and then send a signal back in order to…
See, that’s just it. We don’t know yet what the plan is. All we know is that they are desperately trying to send these astronauts’ minds into their parallel counterpart’s bodies, something that will definitely kill the astronauts, and may very well kill the hosts, in order to do something that will somehow fix the world. What that is, or how it will work is still to be seen, but right now it’s anyone’s guess what actually needs to be done, or if what they are attempting to do is even possible.
And so far, I am really digging Astronaut Down. Oh sure, I still have a ton of questions and I really do hope that they get answered, but honestly, the premise alone is really interesting. There are a lot of good ideas at work here, and the premise does a nice job of breathing some new life into this genre. The art is solid, the writing is interesting, and there is just enough social commentary to make it relevant without it also feeling too dated.
A solid first issue with a lot of potential, Astronaut Down is a great new take on a classic genre. Make sure to tell your LCS to pull you a copy, and let me know what you think about it, in this world or any other!
Until next time, stay safe!