Writer(s): Chris Baker, Matt Fitch
Artwork: Mike Collins
Release Date: 12th June 2018
APOLLO is the latest release from London-based publisher SelfMadeHero, and sees writers Matt Fitch and Chris Baker (of Dead Canary Comics fame) teaming up with prolific artist Mike Collins to provide a refreshing new perspective on the Apollo 11 mission almost 50 years after Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins made their “one giant leap for mankind”.
The exhaustive research which has gone into making the book is readily apparent throughout, and clearly runs far deeper than Fitch and Baker simply throwing in some authentic-sounding NASA lingo every now and again. There’s an impressive level of authenticity on display here, blending first-hand accounts, official documents and recordings to give the story a fact-based framework to hang its compelling, character-focused narrative on.
There’s also a real feeling of depth here that these kind of non-fiction books can sometimes lack. APOLLO is far more than merely a rote delivery of facts, figures and well-worn moments, and the way the co-writers show the differences (and similarities) between the three astronauts adds some much-needed nuance to a story we’ve all likely heard a hundred times before.
That said, as strong as the Dead Canary twosome’s narrative approach undoubtedly is, this feels very much like the Mike Collins show. The Judge Dredd and Doctot Who artist does a stellar job throughout, as you might expect from someone with such an impressive track record, with some striking visual flourishes and a realistic depiction of the key players that thankfully doesn’t devolve into lazy photo referencing.
There’s some genuinely powerful imagery along the way, from the tense launch to the landing to the iconic “one small step for man” moment itself. It’s a fantastic visual package, with creative panel layouts and a wonderful use of the comic medium to deliver key storyline beats like the blurring between reality and flashbacks or fantasies. That said, some of the choices – the bandana-wearing “Spirit of America”, for instance – feel a little heavy-handed as part of what is otherwise a fairly measured book.
All good sci-fi (or should that be sci-fa?) stories typically include some sort of obstacle to be overcome, and while any sense of tension here is removed by the familiarity we all have with the first moon landing, the inner thoughts of the characters help add a surprising amount of energy and emotion into the tense moments of a mission which, let’s be honest, we all know isn’t really in any jeopardy.
At the end of the day, while APOLLO doesn’t necessary provide any additional insight into the iconic moon landing itself, it does frame it from a more personal perspective, showing us the various fears, excitement and doubts of the three astronauts. As such, the creators deserve a huge amount of credit for such a considered, creative approach- an approach which keeps this well-worn story feeling fresh and exciting.
You can find out more about the creative team – as well as where to get your hands on a copy of the book itself – on the Official SelfMadeHero Website.