This is one terrifically fun graphic novel. Each chapter introduces or follows a character, so it is full of mini-narratives that add up to one big story. At Astronaut Academy you can take classes such as Advanced Heart Studies, Anti-Gravity Gymnastics, Wearing Cute Hats, Fire Throwing, Run-On Sentences, and Locker. And the classes are taught by an Elf, a bunny, and a Panda (who may be a double agent). This may just be the best school ever.
The students (full cast here) are a varied and motley bunch, and they are all effected when a cute, brooding new student enrolls. Hakata Soy is a former space hero who is being stalked by some old enemies. Aside from that, two rivals, Miyumi San and Maribelle Melonbelly, also are striving against each other for his attention.
Dave Roman created this great romp, which was originally published online as Astronaut Elementary. He has created a number of other webcomics, including the Harvey Award nominated Quicken Forbidden and Agnes Quill. He won the 2005 Web Cartoonists' Choice Award for Best New Character Design for his work on AE. Roman talks about working on this trade release in this interview with The Stumptown Press. This interview with the School Library Journal is also quite informative.
This book is silly in the best sense of the word, with multiple jokes on every page. Former teen librarian Snow Wildsmith wrote that "Astronaut Academy won’t appeal to everyone, but for the right reader it will speak volumes about the struggles with identity and place which middle school and early high school aged kids feel so keenly." Publishers Weekly called the book "zany and cute." Xaviar Xerexes found this a "wonderfully produced book" that mixes slapstick and sarcasm.
An excerpt, video preview, discussion guide, and more are available here from the book's publisher First Second. Much of this book is also available here as a webcomic.
A sequel, Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry is slated to appear, as detailed in this interview with John Hogan.
A big Thank You to Gina for the review copy!