By Zack Quaintance — Astro Hustle #1 from writer Jai Nitz, artist Tom Reilly, colorist Ursula Decay, letterer Crank!, and publisher Dark Horse Comics is the latest entry in already-crowded science fiction comicbook market. It’s a cosmic story, rather than the sort of sci-fi that hems closer to near-future or body horror or any other number of relatively more feasible concept. Within the broader segment of space-faring sci-fi comics, it’s more of the madcap variety, versus something more realistic, like, say Relay, a favorite of ours around these parts.
What’s perhaps most noticeable about this comic from the cover art on is the lush and vibrant color-palette deployed by Ursula Decay over Tom Reilly’s linework. This series is only four issues, so it may be around long enough to carve out this title, but if I had to guess, I’d say there’s a somewhat significant change that among its sci-fi comic breathern, Astro Hustle #1 could come to be known as the colorful one, at least as it pertains to the artwork.
The story is perhaps another matter. The sense of humor and the pacing of the action are both perhaps more like Wasted Space (another major sci-fi comic favorite of this website’s) than anything else on the shelves, although Astro Hustle lacks the philosophical bend of that book. One of the more distinctive story interests in Astro Hustle is a definite and apparent interest in being sexy, although Lion Forge’s Infinity 8 probably lays a more direct claim to the title of sexiest sci-fi modern sci-fi book (jeez, there are a lot of sci-fi comics!). Indeed, right on the first page this comic has major shot of booty and one lover summoning another (both of them scantily clad) to bed. It doesn’t work out well for them, but it does set a bit of a tone.
The final quality that works to set Astro Hustle apart somewhat from the horde of sci-fi competition is a 17th or 18th century aesthetic, distinct and shinier than the one to be found in the soon-to-conclude Cemetary Beach (seriously, there are a ton of sci-fi comics these days...and all the ones we’ve named here have launched within the past 12 months!). I thought the character and vessel designs in this book were among the top-tier most imaginative, so much so that I intend to finish the rest of this series based on the merits of the visuals alone. They’re interesting and eclectic, and I really don’t think I can get enough of them.
Anyway, so those are the elements I found (relatively) unique to Astro Hustle. The question for a review then becomes, how well do they all come together? And, perhaps more importantly, is this comic worth picking up amid the sea of other science fiction titles vying for consumer dollars and the all-important free reading time? For the first question, the seemingly-disparate elements at work in Astro Hustle do cohere nicely. Nitz’s script is confident in the way it calls for them all to exist in the same world together—the pirates and space lovers and oppressive robots—portraying it all in a way that never once begs a question about whether they can or should all exist. It’s effective.
As for the second question, well, I think it depends. I’ll be reading the entirety of this series (to be above aboard, I’ve read Astro Hustle #2 and Astro Hustle #3, and the series keeps improving), and I have no issue recommending it in full to someone looking for a fairly uncomplicated space opera romp. The introduction to the book’s protagonist is a little less than ideal (it comes almost halfway through the first issue), but once you get yourself oriented within this world, it’s hard not to find it charming.
Overall: Astro Hustle #1 is yet another solid entry in an already-crowded sci-fi comics market. Colorful and kinetic and even a little bit sexy, this book should offer a great time to folks in search of a relatively uncomplicated space opera romp. 8.0/10
Astro Hustle #1
Writer: Jai Nitz
Artist: Tom Reilly
Colorist: Ursula Decay
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.