Graphic novel review: Astronaut Down by James Patrick and Rubine

(courtesy AFTERSHOCK)

Staring down the existential barrel of oblivion as we currently are, thanks to an epidemic, climate change, AI, encroaching fascism and a thousand other malodorous life-ending ailments, we have become well used to storytelling that inhabits a future apocalyptic/dystopian storytelling landscape.

Usually these stories operate as a weird kind of “it could be worse, much worse” therapy, a way to mitigate the dread of the current moment by imagining just how bad things could get, and we live our worst vicariously through films, books, TV series and, in this instance, graphic novels, comforted by the fact that we can always put down the narrative darkness we hold in our hands and walk away.

Many of these damn near ubiquitous stories are content to leave us awash in scary prospects and epic thrills and spills, eschewing any real kind of emotional resonance because, it’s likely reasoning, all that fear and dread is emotion enough.

But the really good occupants of the genre, such as Astronaut Down by James Patrick and Rubine don’t just take us to some very dark places but take us there in the company of characters who really get to the heart of what these sort of damning turns in the evolutionary road could mean for us.

In short, they inject a tremendous dose of humanity in proceedings which far from being surplus to requirements in stories rife with heightened emotion (mostly our own) actually accentuate the impact of the tales and why we fear what might come rather perilously just down the road.

Astronaut Down is full to the brim with humanity writ large and emotions hitting hard, with the story focusing on a world where a quantum physical cancer is besieging all the Earths of the multiverse, but one in particular where a beleaguered human race is down to just 20 or so cities worldwide, all of them sheltering behind barriers which might be powerful but which eventually buckle under the weight of the malignancy, likened to a cancer, which is pushing from without.

With the world losing city after city and humanity down to a rump population all too aware today could be their last, it’s up to an audacious plan to send astronauts into alternate realities, some of whom have decisively beaten the scourge, and get a precious equation which this Earth’s scientists feel is the missing element that will prove instrumental in saving our world.

(courtesy AFTERSHOCK)

The hero leading the charge, though not without some serious reservations and lingering grief issues, is Douglas Spitzer, the one person it’s felt who will be able to deliver on a mission that is, for all intents and purposes, a suicide mission.

He, and the two astronauts who go with him – their consciousnesses are projected into these realities where they inhabit the bodies of their alternate counterparts whose souls, unfortunately, are wiped out in the act – will give their lives for the greater good, hopefully saving humanity , well our reality’s version of it anyway, in the process.

But while the science is reasonably sound and the desperate will is there, just how stable is Douglas and can he deliver on the huge pressures placed upon him?

Ah, that is the billion-dollar question in Astronaut Down which explores just how curiously contrary we can be when it comes to existential crises; the story not only looks at the immediate threat, which is analogous to climate change which is right now making its actual presence very much felt, but how people deal with it from those committed to finding a solution to the extremists, religious and otherwise, who think there are other wacky solutions lying in wait.

It does an exemplary job of cutting right to the heart of how the very humanity we are trying to save can be both saviour and damning executioner, depending on who you listen to, with the art of Rubine beuatifully capturing the agony and ecstasy of a story that could be everything but which might, in the end, be nothing.

Astronaut Down is a extraordinarily good blending of thoughtfully epic storytelling and artwork, with the two coming together to really punch through the emotional walls, showing us sorrow and heartbreak, blindingly imaginative world-building and exuberant hope in easy measure.

Rubine easily evokes the varying alternate realities that Patrick summons up, evoking their differences while underlining how shared the connective humanity is and why we are never in these situations alone and that we must work together, not apart, if we’re going to come to a workable solution.

Of course, those nice sentiments can’t compete with the stupidity of certain segments of the populations and so, while Astronaut Down celebrates what can happen when we all pitch in, it’s all too aware that we could also doom ourselves by our division.

Still, we are nothing if not eternally optimistic and you can only hope that the better angels of our nature will triumph and that we can avert the kind of horror scenario facing Spitzer’s world; if not, the fight will be tough, it will be long and it will all come down to our humanity which may damn us or elevate us, with no guarantee on which will prevail (though Astronaut Down has its hopes it will be the latter, sage though it is in its outlook).

(courtesy AFTERSHOCK)

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.