Review: Apollo (SelfMadeHero)

For their follow up to the zany Last Driver and eclectic sci-fi anthology Adventures in Science, Chris Baker and Matt Fitch have opted for an equally out of this world subject – the Apollo moon landing in graphic novel form. Teaming up with veteran artist Mike Collins they look to tell the story of man’s first mission to the moon as only they can, but will it be out of this world or no go on lift off.

Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Writer: Chris Baker, Matt Fitch
Artist: Mike Collins
Price: £15.99 from Amazon

Just in case you aren’t familiar with this landmark moment in human history, Apollo follows three chaps called Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins (not the artist) as they become the first people to land on the moon. However, it’s more than just a dry and analytical look at the events as Fitch and Baker flesh out the story with cut scenes and flashbacks that look at the astronaut’s childhoods and home lives, giving their bravery an added personal depth. They also look at the political issues of the day – including Nixon complaining about how his legacy with always be associated with Kennedy and also how soldiers in Vietnam view the events – as well as the history of the Apollo missions and man’s attempts to push the boundaries of the world around us.
This is definitely one of those books where you feel the art and story are pulling in equal amounts, with Collins doing every bit as much of the ‘heavy lifting’ as Fitch and Baker here. His artwork throughout is exceptional, with a classic line that really makes the most of the subject matter and period. As does the superb vintage style colouring from Kris Carter, which uses a halftone pattern throughout to give it a newsprint texture. Collins clearly has a love and understanding of the subject and his artwork is more vibrant and detailed as a result. But this attention to detail is never done at the expense of the story.
The space craft and hardware are lovingly, and immaculately, recreated, and have a real heft and weight to them. While the faces of the astronauts are very faithful (see above), and with only a handful of very minor inconsistencies give the book a great balance between photo realism and expressive creativity. As with all space books there is the minor issue of the characters all looking the same when in their spacesuits but by developing the story away from the lunar capsule and focusing on other elements means this is not as problematic as it could be.
Alongside the technical expertise of all involved, the stand out pages for us have to be the series of dream like sequences that appear throughout. From the haunting skeletal faces of the late Apollo 1 crew in Armstrong’s dreams, to a Kirby-esque moon planet and an All American hippy who gives Collins a tripped out history lesson, these pages come as quite the surprise on first reading and in doing so give the book a more fantastical depth to it than you might expect. It also feels more like the kind of edginess that we are used to from Fitch and Bakers other work like Reddin, and although it jars at first, makes the book that little bit more interesting thanks to their inclusion.
Apollo is clearly a labour of love for all involved and it shows on every page. An intelligently written and emotionally thoughtful telling of this story that looks at the human cost of space travel and the impact that it had and still has on the world. But which is told from a variety of unique and often unfamiliar perspectives, that makes it more than just a dry historical reenactment. So when this unique approach to the story is paired up with some superb art from Collins it means that Apollo is a truly out of this world read.