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Apollo (2018)

by Matt Fitch

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In 1969, humankind set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins carried the fire for all the world. Backed by the brightest minds in engineering and science, the three boarded a rocket and flew through the void--just to know that we could. In Apollo, Matt Fitch, Chris Baker, and Mike Collins unpack the urban legends, the gossip, and the speculation to reveal a remarkable true story about life, death, dreams, and the reality of humanity's greatest exploratory achievement.  … (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
21 July 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of that ‘one small step’ by Neil Armstrong onto the surface of the Moon. There should be dancing in the streets but there will be plenty of commemorative books and television documentaries. SelfMadeHero, publishers of many interesting works, have got in early with this book. ‘Apollo’ is written by the team of Matt Fitch and Chris Baker and beautifully illustrated by Mike Collins, the artist not the astronaut. They have done a good job. Actually, it’s brilliant. Buy it now.

The story starts with the launch from Cape Kennedy on 16 July 1969 and takes the reader through to the final approach back to Earth. Captions give the exact time of events thus: ‘Mission Time: 00:03:12:54, Distance from Earth: 8,213 miles.’ Other captions explain the acronyms in the dialogue: C.M.P.: Command Module Pilot: C.S.M.: Command Service Module. The facts are exact but this is more than a dry, factual account.

The press release states that the story is ‘supported by extensive research from books, official documents and recordings’ and presumably that includes the non-technical stuff. The astronauts were men and so were their families back home. We are shown Mrs Janet Armstrong putting on a brave face. In flashbacks, we see Buzz Aldrin’s difficult relationship with his father as well as his strong desire to be the first man on the Moon.

In a dream sequence, while isolated in orbit, pilot Mike Collins passes over the dark side of the Moon and sees a cheerful, smiling face. It looks like Ego the Living Planet in the old ‘Thor’ comics. There’s also a few pages of President Richard Nixon, focused on his principal concern, President Richard Nixon and how he looks on television. On the bright side, the ‘Apollo’ story does show that the USA can accomplish great things even when there’s a dud in the Whitehouse.

Ironically, the creative team are all British which at least proves that the Moon landing was an event for all mankind, as was frequently said at the time. It also means that while there’s great enthusiasm for the project, it shines from every panel, it’s unencumbered with the gung-ho American patriotism that a native writer and artist might have felt and who could blame them?

No doubt rightly stuffed yanks galore will be making their own contribution to the celebrations next year but I think the story here benefits from not being too nationalistic. On page 41, there’s a lovely panel showing the globe as seen from the Moon rocket which quietly clarifies the fact that we all live on the same world, though it won’t please any flat-earthers out there.

Via the silver screen and CGI, we have grown accustomed to watching men whiz between stars and fight battles across the galaxy. Although pure fantasy, this might make us blasé about space travel. The odd thing is that, while the fantasy has blossomed, the reality barely limps along. This fine book is a record of reality.

I thought as a nine-year-old and I still think now that putting a man on the Moon was the greatest thing the human race has ever accomplished. I told that to someone once and he looked at me as if I was mad. I guess he didn’t grow up reading optimistic 1940s Science Fiction. Perhaps the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing will rekindle efforts to make dreams come true and we’ll see a man on Mars before my time on Earth is done. I sure hope so.

Eamonn Murphy ( )
  bigfootmurf | May 13, 2020 |
A brief but expressive telling of how the first moon landing intersected with the personal lives of the astronauts and with the American psyche. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for a grounded historical account given its heavy use of metaphor, flashback and juxtaposition but I’m well versed on the myth and went with the dreamlike flow of the story. Best read in a single comfortable sitting. ( )
  sockatume | Jun 15, 2019 |
Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, so expect shitloads of books and TV programmes and documentaries on the subject. There were more than enough for the fortieth anniversary back in 2009. And given how extensively documented Apollo 11, and the entire Apollo programme, was, and has been, documented, you wouldn’t think more books on it were needed… Except when Neil Armstrong died six years ago it was pretty obvious most millennials hadn’t a fucking clue he was. (I suspect this year’s biopic, First Man, will change that, however.) Among all the books we can expect for next year, I would not have thought a graphic novel depiction of the mission was, er, missing. But that’s what Apollo is. And, to be fair, they do a good job. Where necessary they stick to the technical dialogue, but there are a couple of flights of fancy thrown in as well, just to keep it from being dull. I didn’t detect any errors, so Finch, the author, and Baker, the artist, have clearly done their research. (And surely a colourist called Mike Collins can’t be a coincidence?) All things considered, this is not a bad addition to the huge body of work about Apollo 11. ( )
  iansales | Sep 18, 2018 |
A decent but still disappointing retelling of the first manned moon landing. My main objection is the repeated use of dream sequences and hallucinations, a personal pet peeve of mine, I admit, that may not turn off other readers nearly as much.

The art is okay, though telling the astronauts apart in their spacesuits is often impossible without memorizing the seating order or seeing big name labels on their chests. I don't really understand the use of tone throughout to give everything a grainy look. Was this originally intended for black and white production or were the creators invoking the Ben-Day dots printing process of 1960s comic books? Regardless, it just served to make the pages look unnecessarily murky.

I was put off by a fake-out simulation scene that seems to throw a bone to moon landing hoax conspiracy theorists.

More egregiously, I was saddened by the typo in astronaut Gus Grissom's name in the end matter: "Grissolm." That's just highly regrettable copy editing.

Frankly, the highlight of the book was the closing excerpt from John F. Kennedy's famous speech. "We choose to go to the Moon!" That sentence pulled up more emotions in me than anything else in the book. ( )
  villemezbrown | Sep 16, 2018 |
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In 1969, humankind set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins carried the fire for all the world. Backed by the brightest minds in engineering and science, the three boarded a rocket and flew through the void--just to know that we could. In Apollo, Matt Fitch, Chris Baker, and Mike Collins unpack the urban legends, the gossip, and the speculation to reveal a remarkable true story about life, death, dreams, and the reality of humanity's greatest exploratory achievement.  

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