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Review: Space Mountain: A Graphic Novel

Space Mountain
Written by Bryan Q. Miller. Illustrated by Kelley Jones
Disney Press/Disney Comics, 2014

Anyone who’s ever been to a Disney Park knows of Tomorrowland’s famous roller coaster called Space Mountain. The dark, space-themed roller coaster, which is housed in a signature large white domed structure, sends passengers on a voyage through space. It has been one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park since it opened in 1975, as well as at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. Now Disney Comics proudly presents a graphic novel treatment of the roller coaster that is full of fun, imagination, time travel, paradoxes, and a lot of promise for future installments.

The story begins in a netherworld in space called the Forbidden Time—a netherworld where all times coexist. Queen Paradox the all-witch is the ruler of the realm where she rules and knows all. When a crashed rocket from space arrives, she awaits to tell the recovered pilot the story that is about to unfold—a tale from the year 2125 near the Cygnus X-1 Colony in space. The colony is located close a black hole where the space station called Space Mountain resides. Space Mountain is the home for the Visionarium—a living museum that allows people to study the past on Earth safely thanks to technology deposited in the past. Think of it as a live feed into the past. On board Space Mountain are a group of explorers led by Captain Benjamin Cole, pilot of the Moonliner 7, which uses the black hole as a slingshot to travel backwards and forwards in time.

During a routine visit to the Visionarium, we’re introduced to Stella Macri and Tommy Ford, students from the nearby Magellan Science Academy, no 48. Stella is book smart and punctual, and she knows everything about the Space Mountain program. Even though she’s only 12, she’s still one of the smartest people on the mission. Tommy is the opposite of Stella: an eleven-year old, good-hearted troublemaker, he loves to tinker with robots and technology, and he’s a quick thinker in a jam. When Stella and Tommy win in a raffle drawing to go forward in time 24 hours to “Tomorrowland” with Captain Cole and the Moonliner 7 crew, their quick trip forward one day in time accidentally lands them in a fractured timeline where humanity on the space colony has been defeated and their loved ones are all gone. Now they, along with their flying saucer-shaped robot companion named Artie, are all that remains to help save the Moonliner 7 crew, who have been sent back in time throughout Earth’s history and repair the fractured timeline.

I don’t want to spoil some of the fun of the book, but there are a few unexpected plot/character twists that unfold that have a lot of promising payoff in further editions of this series. Though some of the science behind the adventure in the book can be a little dodgy (like how the cast survive millions of years frozen in stasis thanks to Artie the robot without aging a day), the main goal of the book isn’t to be scientifically accurate but to entertain—like the roller coaster that inspired it. Overall, the book has a lot of imagination and creativity that will have readers waiting for the next volume to come out.

As a Disney fan myself, I spotted a lot of clever allusions to Disney Parks in the book. The X-1 Colony is a nod to the old Disney ride “Space Station X-1.” The Astro Orbiter/Orbitron, the rocket ride that greets visitors at the entrance to Tomorrowland, is featured in the books, and even the retro-looking rockets for the ride make cameos. The rocket ship Moonliner 7 is also based on the original display at Tomorrowland from 1955-1967. Even the pirates in the book make a quick nod to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. Fun stuff.

Bryan Q. Miller’s story is filled with a lot of fun speculative fiction about how to see the past without getting injured, via the Visionarium. Of course, the Moonliner 7’s crew are the ones who are almost getting killed in the process setting up the temporal tachyon anchors so visitors of Space Mountain can see the past, and in the process, their near-death situations are fun to read. My only gripe is that there’s just not enough time to properly flesh out all the secondary characters in one book. Here’s hoping to see more of the Moonliner’s crew of Captain Cole, medic Diana DeSoto and professor of temporal studies Tyson Renard in future stories.

Kelley Jones’s artwork is also a great compliment to the book. He’s been a fan favorite for decades with his signature art style of heavy inks on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and DC Comics’ Batman books in the 1990s. Jones helps to make the villains of the book look much more menacing than real life. Queen Paradox as well as Anne Krell, the administrator of Space Mountain who has a duplicitous air about her that is perfectly creepy.

Also included in the back of the book is a sample of how the graphic novel was made, which is great to include. Readers may not know of the step by step process by which artist Kelley Jones translates a script by Bryan Q. Miller to the finished product, and it’s fascinating to see the creative process.

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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