Written by Emmanuel Guibert
Art by Joann Sfar
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books
It’s hard to market a series of short stories. There are a handful of regular anthologies being published, butt getting a single slot for a short story there can be difficult, let alone multiple installments. That was one of the initial attractions of Sardine in Outer Space 2 for me, interestingly enough; when I opened up the book and discovered that it wasn’t a single long story but twelve 10-page stories, I was intrigued. Thankfully, Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar didn’t disappoint.
Sardine is a space pirate, traveling in a spaceship with her uncle Captain Yellow Shoulder and cousin Little Louie. Together, they’re going to stop as many of the sinister schemes of Supermuscleman (unfortunately the chief executive dictator of the universe) and Doc Hrok (Supermuscleman’s mad scientist), and have a lot of fun in the process. And if fun means landing on a comet inhabited by carpet salesmen, flying through the Milky Way in a refrigerator to rescue stolen dairy products, or trying to avoid getting stung by the dreaded Cha-Cha fly, the more the merrier!
I’ve yet to actually read the first Sardine in Outer Space volume, but thanks to Guibert’s writing that doesn’t really matter. He quickly lays out all the information you really need to know; we’re introduced to our heroes, the villains are made clear (and how can you not love one named Supermuscleman?), and then the book hits the ground running. Each story stands well on its own, giving the reader a little thrill and jolt of fun that you can enjoy in a single sitting. Guibert keeps the details of the stories variable; sometimes they’re targeting Supermuscleman, other times it’s just a random adventure that seems to find them. Whatever the cause, the one thing that remains a constant is that Guibert likes to insert all sorts of craziness and fun into the stories. Lighthouses in space that can create shadow puppets on planetary surfaces, comets completely covered in carpeting, or an alien flea circus, all are introduced with an almost matter-of-factly manner by Guibert. Nothing’s too odd or out of the ordinary here, and while you always know that Sardine and her relatives will save the day, it’s the ways in which they do so that always keep you guessing.
Sfar’s art is appropriately cute in Sardine in Outer Space 2; it’s hard not to love art with a little girl whose gigantic floppy hat has a cat riding around on top of it, even as she continues to grin away. I think that’s in some way one of the most noticeable things about Sardine in Outer Space 2, is that Sfar’s characters are almost always smiling. It’s a subtle but nice touch, because it gives the art a certain level of joy about it. This certainly helps when Sfar’s bringing Guibert’s crazy ideas to life; all that really matters isn’t how probable any of these ideas are (hint: none) but how fun they are when you read about them. When you look at a group of eight-legged aliens bringing forth the Book of Sacred Samples (showcasing the lovely carpet options, of course), it’s hard not to just start laughing.
Sardine in Outer Space 2 is just a real joy to read. I’d seen Sfar’s humor on display before in books like Dungeon and his Little Vampire series, but his teaming with Guibert is a great match of talent. The best thing? A day or two after I’d read all the stories in Sardine in Outer Space 2, I went back and read them all again and they were still just as much fun a second time. I’ve gotten so much enjoyment out of Sardine in Outer Space 2 that I’m clearly going to have to go buy the first volume before too long. More Sardine, please.