Tom Gauld’s Mooncop is a much quieter, more playful treatment of human alienation and technological chilliness. The nameless title character is on an extended assignment to police the first lunar colony — but there’s nothing to police, since almost everyone has already given up and gone home to Earth. Gauld’s characters have no visible mouths, and dots for eyes. A few boxy buildings dot their desolate landscape; there’s a doughnut vending machine, a floating car that mostly works, a handful of settlers who’ve decided they’d probably be happier elsewhere, and various robots including a sort of audio-animatronic Neil Armstrong, endlessly narrating his lunar landing. Eventually, the lonely cop is assigned a therapy robot (“Don’t worry,” it says, “I’ve prepared a very relaxed treatment schedule for you”) who arrives without the right power adapter.
There’s something of Chris Ware’s bitter “Tales of Tomorrow” cartoons in Gauld’s deadpan compositions and precise geometric forms, but “Mooncop” steers clear of Ware’s fury. This is a light, rueful comedy, whose motor is the absence of anything happening. (It occasionally feints at offering the sort of adventure its premise suggests — an alarm goes off, or there’s a foreboding computer error — only to immediately resolve the problem.) There are long, lovely silent passages as characters cross the abandoned lunar plains, which are rendered with mannered crosshatching, the sky behind them a field of dark blue pricked with white-dot stars. Even when dreams don’t quite work out, the book suggests, it can still be possible to find beauty in them.