We all know that Nasa has done some AMAZING stuff in its time: walking on the moon, the space shuttle, the Apollo 8 mission… The list is endless! Could traversing into the world of graphic novels be their biggest challenge yet? Let’s find out in their new interactive graphic novel First Woman: Nasa’s Promise to Humanity, Issue 1: Dream to Reality!
Publisher: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Writer: Brad Gann & Steven List
Artist: Brent Donoho with Kaitlin Reid
Price: FREE from NASA’s Website!
First Woman tells the story of fictional character Commander Callie Rodriguez, who acts as our protagonist and heroine. Accompanied by her robot sidekick RT, Callie has just one aim: to be the first woman on the moon, and she isn’t going to let anything get in her way.
Going into this completely blind, I was a little worried that this graphic novel would read more as an informative brochure about space, rather than anything very story-driven. Thankfully, I was proved wrong in the opening pages, in which RT’s ‘movie voice’ wittily narrates Callie’s lunchtime habits: ‘THEY SAID it couldn’t be done…THEY SAID there was no hope…But they DIDN’T KNOW HER! Now! CALLIE RODRIGUEZ… with SPINACH! KALE! And BROCCOLI! Together again…like you’ve NEVER seen them before!’. Immediately this little guy became an instant favourite, and the highlight of this short graphic novel.
Most of the story is told retrospectively, with Callie detailing how she became an astronaut despite many struggles involving sexism, school and her dad’s passing. I particularly enjoyed the art in these flashbacks, which became a lot more nuanced. We also get a peek into how RT was made! In the present day, our heroes Callie, RT and Dan set out from their lunar habitat for a routine mission, which predictably, doesn’t go as planned. Ending on a cliffhanger, we don’t actually get a lot of present-day story with this one, but I’m sure this will come in Issue #2.
An amusing point of contention which is a running gag throughout is RT’s dislike of Callie’s friend/possible romantic interest, Dan. Jealous of the time Dan is spending with Callie, RT offers multiple solutions for Dan’s disappearance, even trying to make Dan his own habitat so, quote, ‘he’ll never have to come to our habitat…ever’.
Admittedly, this book didn’t quite hit the spot for me as a stand-out graphic novel, but it definitely does what it set out to do: educate readers about space and encourage women that they can be anything they want to be! This is a particularly inspiring message for children, or adults with a specific interest in NASA and space, who feel that they may never achieve their dreams.
Something it does exceedingly well is incorporate in-app activities and AI to go along with the graphic novel, in their First Woman app. This is something so inventive and makes what may otherwise be a somewhat neutral story, unique. By scanning the QR codes throughout the book, you can explore 3D objects and environments in space, such as an astronaut suit and lunar crater. There’s also lots of extra information for those interested in learning more about First Woman and the Artemis mission, including informative videos, and a full audible reading of the book!
The facts at the end about all the women and people of colour who have made important contributions to NASA and our understanding of space was very poignant – as the first woman and person of colour will soon set foot on the moon, this message of achieving ‘firsts’ and milestones and making a difference couldn’t be more applicable. I’m looking forward to seeing what direction this graphic novel will go in in Issue #2!