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Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman is a collection of Roman's webcomic Astronaut Elementary.  It's a wonderfully produced book with a great cover featuring Roman's art set off by a metallic silver cover.  The book doesn't change the structure of the webcomic -- a series of short stories, each told from the perspective of different characters at Astronaut Academy.  The stories build together to form an overarching plot for the book yet still retain their own element of closure.

Roman has a cheerfully cartoonish style of art with just a touch of manga influence.  Just the character designs in this book alone are fun but Roman crafts a number of interesting personalities to round out the cast -- from the former space hero turned student Hakata Soy to introspective space walker Doug Hiro to new teacher Senor Panda (still not extinct!).  

Although the setting is science fiction, it's really very much a story about elementary school and focuses most of its attention on new student Hakata Soy who just wants to fit into a new school.  Other characters have their own challenges -- all of which should be relatable to middle school children (or evoke memories in non-school age folks).  Miyumi San has a best friend/enemy relationship with rich girl Maribele Mellonbelly; Tak Offsky is a tough jock who misses his family but doesn't want to face his feelings; and Cybert, well, robots have special problems I guess.  There's even more characters, each of which get their own first person story in the book.  

Roman's writing incorporates a mix of slapsticky jokes with some low key sarcasm and irony along with quirky linguistic speech patterns to add to the visual humor of the book. This book definitely has a lot of laughs and smiles within.  He also gives his characters real emotions though -- largely tied to putting them in very universal situations (despite the outer space setting) for grade school kids: new kid at school, loner, jock, first crush, rivalries, etc.  

There's an excerpt of the new book at the website of publisher First Second.  There's also news from Roman that he's working on a sequel already, to be titled Astronaut Academy: Re-entry.  In a recent interview, Roman reveals that he is currently a quarter of the way through drawing Book 2 and even has an outline written for a third book.

And Roman and friends put together a very cool promo for the book which makes one imagine this could be a pretty cool animated series too: