As you flip through the pages of Astro Hustle #1, it’s hard to avoid hearing the opening strains of Meco’s disco-drenched reworking of John Williams’ Star Wars score in your head.
Chen Andalou, an intergalactic rogue from a prominent family, wakes up after sixty years in hyper-sleep. Political intrigue, space pirates, jailbreaks, and more ensue in the opening chapter of Dark Horse’s new space opera adventure.
Writer Jai Nitz throws everything at the wall in Astro Hustle #1. The book perfectly encapsulates the space opera vibe, borrowing elements of Flash Gordon, westerns, Barbarella, and Errol Flynn. It would be easy to lean on those influences and put out a cheap homage to nostalgia. Beyond the aesthetic, though, are the roots of an interesting and compelling tale.
This first issue doesn’t give us much in the way of backstory. Instead, Nitz throws us into the action, revealing the world our characters inhabit through the narrative in piecemeal fashion. The writer lets genre tropes fill in the blank spaces, with the reader to pick up on the context. However, he does so in a self-aware manner that showcases a genuine love for his sources.
We learn Chen is wanted for a laundry list of crimes, but not much yet beyond that. Astro Hustle #1 offers narrative threads, though, provided mostly through the character’s narration that will shape the story in upcoming issues.
The narrative’s only real weakness is a tendency to establish characters, only for them to drop off the map. You get invested in several characters, and then watch them die pages later. This trick can work once, but starts to feel emotionally-manipulative after repeat instances. Overall, though, you’ll find many more hits than misses from a storytelling standpoint.
Tom Reilly’s artwork is a visual delight in Astro Hustle #1. He draws on classic Raygun Gothic designs in his world building, while throwing in elements borrowed from sources as divergent as pirate lore and 19th Century British imperialism. From scantily-clad green women with antennae to colonial police uniforms, the synthesis is vital to the book’s aesthetic.
Reilly employs heavy inks throughout the book. While the style gives everything a more substantial presence, it comes at the expense of detail in some panels. It’s a stylistic choice, though, and is not often a problem. Panels here and there can be a bit difficult to grasp at first glance. However, the fact that the book is well-laid out means you never feel lost.
The colors from artist Ursula Decay are superbly vibrant throughout Astro Hustle #1. Rather than stick to a consistent palette, she hops from one color scheme to the next constantly. Yes, the colors are intense, and can feel a little overwhelming in some panels. But then, that’s part of the vibe, isn’t it?
Astro Hustle #1 is a narrative-driven work, inviting readers into an expansive world, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Highly recommended.