Brown launches the Big Ideas That Changed the World series with a graphic commemoration of the program that put boots on the moon.
Brown assumes the narrative voice of Rodman Law, a wisecracking professional daredevil who attempted to ride a rocket in 1913 (“Yeah, this oughta work”) and beat the odds by surviving the explosion. He opens with a capsule history of rocketry from ancient China to the Mercury and Gemini programs before recapping the Apollo missions. Keeping the tone light and offering nods as he goes to historical figures including Johann Schmidlap (“rhymes with ‘Fmidlap’ ”), “cranky loner” Robert Goddard, and mathematician Katherine Johnson, he focuses on technological advances that made space travel possible and on the awesome, sustained effort that brought President John F. Kennedy’s “Big Idea” to fruition, ending the narrative with our last visit to the moon. Aside from the numerous huge, raw explosions that punctuate his easy-to-follow sequential panels, the author uses restrained colors and loose, fluid modeling to give his mildly cartoonish depictions of figures and (then) cutting-edge technology an engagingly informal air. He doesn’t gloss over Laika’s sad fate or the ugly fact that Wernher von Braun built rockets for the Nazis with “concentration-camp prisoners.” Occasional interjections and a closing author’s note also signal Brown’s awareness that for this story, at least, his cast had to be almost exclusively white and male.
A frank, often funny appreciation of our space program’s high-water mark. (index, endnotes, resource lists) (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)