Human beings have not found another planet to colonize just yet, but we certainly are trying. NASA is hard at work sending rovers to other planets in search of hospitable environments. However, what would happen if the nearest hospitable planet were right in our own backyard? What if the moon itself was humanity’s most promising candidate for expanding civilization beyond Earth?
Tom Gauld imagines such a reality in his new graphic novel Mooncop from Drawn & Quarterly. The comic chronicles the daily routine of the last police officer on the moon. In this alternate future, the Space Shuttle program continued on (instead of ending as it did in 2011), sending groups of adventurous citizens to a lunar colony. All good things must come to an end sooner or later, though, as the moon’s lone officer starts to realize. The once vibrant lunar colony is now more akin to a small town. As the officer goes about his daily rounds, he sees more and more citizens leaving to return back to life on Earth. Existence on the tiny celestial body grows quieter as each day passes. Since no one is around to commit any crimes, our hero maintains a 100% crime-solution rate on the moon. While that looks good on paper, it makes for quite a dull day-to-day.
Mooncop manages to balance out moments of wonderful melancholy with dry wit. The officer is reduced to spending his time tackling minor infractions on the lunar surface. A girl who wanders off on her way home, a lost dog who goes off his leash, an automaton who strays far away from its rightful place at the Museum of the Moon. As more and more of the officer’s neighbors move away, his superiors back on Earth send him a no-nonsense therapy robot for support that inevitably breaks down. While Mooncop has an undercurrent of loneliness throughout it, there’s also a hopefulness present. The cop encounters a new face on the lunar colony, a woman working the counter at the new Lunar Donuts cafe. They banter back and forth, bonding over their mundane work routines. The moon colony may be declining, but friendships are still possible on the nearly empty lunar surface.
The graphic novel’s subtle, thoughtful meditation on humanity isn’t the only reason readers will love it. Mooncop’s artwork is also visually outstanding. Gauld (known for his cartoons in The Guardian and New Scientist) uses his distinct style of line work to create the world of the lunar colony. His vision of the future looks familiar, a cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. The R2-D2-like robots and domed space module designs are a lovely throwback to the look of classic sci-fi films and TV shows.
At its heart, Mooncop provides an optimistic, rich metaphor for life. In the loneliest of places, there is always the possibility and hope of connecting with another. Tom Gauld’s graphic novel give us a fun, clever meditation on what it means to be human.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 space burritos. (They were all out of Lunar Donuts.)