Astronauts of the Future Vol. 1

Written by Lewis Trondheim
Art by Manu Larcenet
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

Audiences in general seem obsessed with “the twist”. You know, that singular moment where everything’s turned upside down and you discover what’s really going on. In that case, Lewis Trondheim and Manu Larcenet’s Astronauts of the Future should delight just about everyone who reads it… not just because of the cute art or the fun story, but because Astronauts of the Future has more twists than a bag of french crullers.

Martina and Gilbert are two kids who are trying to discover the truth behind a massive conspiracy. The only problem is, they aren’t sure whose conspiracy theory is correct. Martina says that the world is full of robots pretending to be human, while Gilbert insists that they’re really surrounded by aliens pretending to be human. When the two start searching for answers, even they will be surprised with what’s going on around them.

Trondheim’s writing in Astronauts of the Future is in fine form as always; it’s a perfect mix of humor and drama as the story begins its unique journey. What I think impressed me so much from the start is how the series of events in Astronauts of the Future is perfectly logical from one decision to the next by Martina and Gilbert, but at the same time it goes in ways you’d never expect. As the two of them try to expose the secrets that surround them, they think and act like children, and that drives the story in very different ways than if they were adults. As unpredictable as their actions are, though, it’s the overall plot which I think will really surprise a lot of readers. Trondheim wisely doesn’t leave the story to just a single twist to keep the reader’s interest, instead packing a lot of surprises throughout the story. It’s nice because it keeps you from getting too complacent as a reader, and some of the twists are genuinely surprising in the subject matter they deal with. Trondheim’s last big revelation in this volume, for instance, does more than just shock, but also says a lot about some of the characters of the series and what their moral standing is really like. It’ll stop and make you think, and that’s always a good thing.

I adore Larcenet’s art in Astronauts of the Future, with a loose, almost scribbly style that looks like a (very talented) kid drew the book. From the big tufts of hair sticking off of their heads to the little dots for eyes, Larcenet draws the characters of Astronauts of the Future as cute little kids. It’s a great way to put the reader’s mind at ease and remind you that they’re just kids with crazy theories, right? When the second half of Astronauts of the Future gets some positively grim moments, his art is a shocking contrast to the events of the story. This disconnect actually worked well for me because it really emphasizes just what’s entered their relatively innocent little world, and makes the story a bit unsettling.

Astronauts of the Future Vol. 1 is a reprinting/collecting of the first two volumes of the French series Les Cosmonautes du Futur. There are only three volumes of Les Cosmonautes du Futur, which means we have to wait until a fourth volume is published until we get a follow-up. After you’ve read Astronauts of the Future Vol. 1, you’ll join me in really hoping that Trondheim and Larcenet collaborate on that fourth French volume soon, because you’ll also be dying to find out what happens next. This is a great read from start to finish.

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