Review - Astro Hustle #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Sorry about this, buddy."

Piracy has its rewards, but it also has its challenges. The same could be said for space exploration. Combine the two and you get something like Astro Hustle #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Jai Nitz, illustrated by Tom Reilly, colored by Ursula Decay and lettered by Crank!.

Chen Andalou, the black sheep of a prominent activist family, returns after being accidentally put in cryo-stasis for sixty years. Chen, a cosmic criminal, wakes up to find his younger brother is now the President of the Galaxy. Chen does what he knows best: he steals stuff and causes a problem.

Nitz writes Astro Hustle #1 as essentially two halves, both of which blend together quite beautifully into one whole. The first part really sets the stage for the latter, with the crew of Giraud Observatory playing as the set-up for the arrival of the Sinnematica, a long lost ship that just so happens to have the series protagonist in Chen. Nitz quickly switches gears about halfway through the book though and makes the story something of an intergalactic pirate adventure, providing context for the duration of the series. The dialogue is pretty entertaining throughout and very effective at establishing the characters, although Chen is defined very well by his legacy and how others react to him. The issue's pacing snowballs as the book progresses as Nitz leans into the growing sense of chaos that tends to follow Chen around.

The book wears its 70s/80s influences on its sleeve courtesy of Reilly's artwork that seemed to be done with a sticky note nearby that said "keep things groovy." All of the characters are aliens, yet somehow Reilly manages to infuse them with a sense of disco in their appearances that makes the book just feel like an homage to a bygone era of comics illustrators. Reilly keeps things clean and tidy with the panel layouts, largely sticking to grids that allow the action to move seamlessly from one to the next and that are emboldened by empty gutters. The settings are a great mix of technology and more Victorian times without becoming completely steampunk in appearance. Decay's colors are sufficiently retro enough in firmly placing the book in a hustle atmosphere.

Astro Hustle #1 is a freewheeling space pirate adventure that embraces fun. Chen is a man with a legacy he's being asked to live up to while also cutting his own path through life. The script by Nitz increases in tone as it progresses, offering quite a bombastic twist that really sets the series off in a great direction. Reilly's artwork is extremely well done and the perfect style for the book. Astro Hustle #1 is looking for bombast and adventure, ensuring that humor and entertainment aren't lost along the way.

Astro Hustle #1 is available now.