by Matt Fitch, Chris Baker, and Mike Collins
hardcover, 176 pp., illus.
Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight
by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
Hill and Wang, 2019
paperback, 256 pp., illus.
The upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 has generated recollections and reexaminations of the mission across a wide range of media. That includes documentaries, television shows, and traditional nonfiction books. Not to be left out, though, are graphic novels, which offer their own unique examinations of the mission through a mix of text and illustrations for adults.
Apollo was early to the anniversary race, published nearly a year ago. The graphic novel, by writers Matt Fitch and Chris Baker and illustrator Mike Collins (no relation to Apollo 11’s Michael Collins), follows the Apollo 11 mission from launch to landing. But this is not a straightforward recounting of the mission: the authors include flashbacks and passages with others, including Armstrong’s wife Janet and President Nixon.
The authors try to inject some psychological drama of sorts into their account. Armstrong is reminded of the death of his young daughter years earlier, and Aldrin his strained relationship with his father. For Collins, they contrive a meeting with the “Spirit of America,” in the form of a man dressed like a hippie, in a dream with Collins while he orbits the Moon alone to enforce the importance of nailing the docking with the lunar module when it returns from the lunar surface. It is… odd.
There’s no such psychoanalysis or dream sequences in Moonbound. It, too, tells the story of Apollo 11, but starts immediately with the landing of the Eagle on the lunar surface. From there, chapters alternate between the mission itself and the history of spaceflight leading up to it. It’s a straightforward and, at times, critical review of that history, including von Braun’s work with the Nazis and the limited roles for women and minorities in the race to the Moon.
While Apollo has an illustrator named Mike Collins, Moonbound has Apollo 11’s Michael Collins, who contributes a brief forward. “I know of no other book about Apollo 11 that is more enjoyable,” he writes. And the book is enjoyable, although there are a few factual oversights, like misplacing the location of NASA centers and suggesting Kennedy made his announcement about landing men on the Moon by the end of the decade in his September 1962 speech at Rice University, and not more than 15 months earlier before Congress.
Neither book offers new insights into Apollo 11 for those already at least somewhat familiar with the mission, but that’s not the goal of these books. Instead, they provide alternative ways of telling the story of the mission, and of the history of spaceflight leading up to them, in new ways to reach new audiences.
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