After Tom Gauld’s wry take on throwing stones back in the good book days with Goliath, the popular British artist cocks an eye at that giant rock revolving Earth in his latest effort, Mooncop.
This anti-thriller-sci-fi—its humour as dry as lunar dust—reimagines life on the moon as even more mundane and routine than on our planet—now more than 384,000 kilometres away. Gauld—also author of the comic-strip collection You’re Just Jealous Of My Jetpack—takes us on patrol with a police officer hovercrafting or trudging around Earth’s satellite. There’s no crime to report, so his “crime solution rate” is 100 percent. His stackable-cube apartment complex loses more cubes as more people return to Earth. The dark blue sky’s starting to reflect this mooncop’s mood—headquarters even sends him a therapist (a robot, soon on the fritz, leading to the policeman shipping him back and the book’s best line: “I’ll get you a box to put your therapist in.”) Machines break down and we wonder if this mooncop, one of the last humans on this obsolete colony, will soon break down, too. In their domed helmets and spacesuits, after all, the people here seem as much machine as flesh and blood.
Gauld plays close-ups off against alien vistas or splash pages of the vast, cratered landscape and the immense, star-dotted sky. Pitting existentialist contemplation against droll situation-comedy, he offers a planet that’s a hollow reflection of our own: cars drifting around, food services or counselling services reduced to robotic responses, and people bubbled off in their own protective outfits. A girl wanders away out of boredom or teen malaise; a dog gets lost; the automaton of Neil Armstrong somehow escapes from the Museum of the Moon—which is being moved back down there, to Beijing.
The only mystery—seemingly unsolvable—is what humans are still doing in this place: “Living on the moon. Whatever were we thinking? It seems rather silly now.” Nearly beat, this cop on his beat, and Mooncop itself, finds a quiet little pick-me-up at the end—a twinkle of hope, in a home away from home that’s eerily distant, so far and so adrift from where we belong.