Mooncop by Tom Gauld – A Book Review

I discovered Mooncop, published by Drawn & Quarterly, from NPR Book Concierge’s guide to great 2016 reads.  Luckily enough, my local library had a copy available.

Mooncop is a brief read, one that you could probably wrap up in a single sitting.  The concept is that a single moon cop patrols a lone colony on the moon.  This colony is sparsely populated, and the moon cop has virtually nothing to do.  The few citizens left in the colony seem to be leaving due to reassignment or simply yearning greener pastures.  It is a broken-down place, not at all the sort of wondrous settlement we imagine when thinking about the future.

We meet the moon cop well into his career.  He seems to be a staple of the community and well known amongst his fellow colonists.  However, the moon cop can’t help but notice that things are quite as boisterous as in the past, nor are things working quite as well.  In fact, the moon cop soon realizes that the colony’s decrepit machinery is being redistributed or else altogether discontinued.  Not long after that, he finds that more and more people are leaving, and the moon cop quickly suspects that he may very well be the last person on the satellite.

It’s possible to take Mooncop completely at face value.  There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but that may be a disservice and will certainly prove dissatisfying.  Taken literally, the humor within the book may garner a grin or a chuckle.  When read ironically, though, I think it achieves a more fulfilling sort of comedy.  It certainly seems as though Tom Gauld is making fun of ridiculous trends in technology – trends that offer no more than mere amusement that will surely wear off as time passes.  After all, a lunar colony has been settled on the moon, yet it seems to be doing nothing particularly relevant or meaningful and so, as a result, people leave.  The colony lacks purpose, direction, or benefit to its citizens.  Consequently, the inhabitants soon lose their sense of purpose, direction, and any feeling of achievement.  Like so many cases in the past, it aroused great interest only to eventually prove itself nothing more than a novelty.

The great irony is that by having nothing to do and by doing nothing, the moon cop reaches incredibly significant solution rates.  He is, statistically, perhaps the greatest police officer in the history of mankind.  Once again, I think maybe Gauld is commenting on the easy routine many of us fall into in regards to our career.  Instead of searching for new challenges and seeking out interesting, dynamic opportunities, we stick with what we know, we keep doing what we do well, even if that isn’t really doing very much at all.

Ironic humor also derives from the few people on the moon being replaced by machines.  Even a lunar colony suffers from the same fate as America small towns, and, like these small towns, the lunar colony eventually dries up.  The driving force of any colony should be to make sure its population thrives, especially one where no human has ever previously survived.  But, the lunar colony is no exception to commerce, and so thus people are replaced when it’s more economically advantageous.

It’s not all dry, ironic humor, though.  The book, to me, ends on a rather positive note.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it eventually seems to be stating that sometimes happiness can come from an unexpected place even while enduring a hopeless environment.  Sometimes people gain contentment by simply accepting their situation and the people around them and celebrating the positives that exist, no matter how meager.

If Gauld ever reads this, I hope I’m not reaching too far.  English majors, am I right?

There are no other credits given in this book beyond Tom Gauld, so I’m assuming he wrote, drew, inked, and colored this graphic novel.  The art is surprisingly simple.  The people are not much more than stick figures.  Each panel is essentially a horizontal view, much like what you would experience with a basic newspaper comic strip.  The colors throughout are grey, white, and blue, which actually makes for an interesting visual.  What I particularly enjoyed most about Gauld’s art is the line work and crosshatching he utilized to achieve depth.  He must be an incredibly patient man to devote so much time and effort to each panel’s depth, but it really sets the book apart.  Just take a look at the cover and you’ll see it.

I recommend Mooncop to those interested in the medium.  It’s an unusual work worthy of study.  The art, the humor, the social commentary, the overall brevity – they are all unique, especially when compared to what else is being published in the industry.  I’m not sure how much Mooncop would appeal to a casual reader, however.  If read without contemplation, it would probably strike the reader as rather simplistic and unfulfilling.

Image result for mooncop tom gauld

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