Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Vol. 1, edited by Hope Nicholson

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection 
Volume 1
Edited by Hope Nicholson
176 pages, graphic fiction, speculative

Many many thanks to Alternative History Comics for providing a review copy, and to my mom for sending it to India for my birthday! 

I have been meaning to add some graphic novels/comics to my blog for a while now (though I confess I’m a complete newbie to the genre!). When I saw this one advertised online, I knew that I had to review it. Why? Because my research area is Indigeneity, and I have been wanting to focus on Indigenous literature. So this is the first of hopefully many posts about Indigenous literature and movies, broadly defined.

Moonshot is a collection of short graphic stories, products of collaborations between indigenous writers and industry-leading illustrators. The illustrations are in a wide range of styles, and, like any anthology, the quality of the stories themselves vary to some degree - although overall this collection is a very high quality work. 

Vision Quest: Echo

Written and illustrated by David Mack, this excerpt from a Marvel superhero comic (Daredevil Vision Quest series) concerns Echo, a deaf Cherokee girl who has the power to mimic anything she sees. In this section, she remembers her childhood, illustrated in a beautiful scrapbook-like format filled with layers of the child-Echo's drawings and Indian sign language. This story is easily the most beautiful selection in this book, and made me want to track down the original comic. 


Written by David Robertson, illustrated by Haiwei Hou. A Cree story of how the big dipper came to be, this tale describes the actions of the fisher Ochek, who set out to end the eternal winter by bringing the sun. The illustrations are angular and obviously created on a computer, which I was not so excited about. 

Coyote and the Pebbles

Written by Dayton Edmonds, illustrated by Micah Farritor. A legend of how the stars and constellations came to be, told in beautifully atmospheric, sketchy artwork. For some reason, all of the animals in this story have a human form that they can turn into at will. While I enjoyed the clever ways the human forms were made to resemble their normal animal form (such as coyote's whisker tattoos!), I didn't quite understand why this shape-shifting was necessary. 

The Qallupiluk: Forgiven 

Written by Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsely, illustrated by menton3. The Qallupiluk is a legendary creature of the Inuit, said to be shape-shifters that live in the ocean and are drawn to young people, who they want to capture if they come close to ice floes. This story describes a Qallupiluk's attempt to capture a small Inuit child, from the perspective of the creature. It is accompanied by appropriately horror-filled illustrations of the spiny human-shaped creature amidst the ice. As a story, this was probably my favorite of all those in this volume. 

Ue-Pucase: Water Master

Written by Arigon Starr, illustrated by David Cutler. Based on a Muscogee Cree folktale, this futuristic story follows a space salvager who takes a young friend with him on a run, to bad results. While I liked the science fiction-heavy illustrations (and the fact that these were Native Americans wearing spacesuits, flying spaceships!!!!), the writing seemed immature and a bit forced. 

The Observing

Written by Elizabeth LaPensee, illustrated by Gregory Chomichuk
The original version is told across the Pacific Northwest and traces out the experience of a hunter encountering Star People as they visit to observe the people during a hunt. This version is told as a visual narrative using Indigenous steampunk... How these beings come to observe us from their place of origin is protected knowledge and it is with great care that this story is shared. There are only a few accounts of the Star People, so this version serves as a true account of a traditional story that has not been seen before. 
This story is told without words, and I am not quite sure what is going on. This is probably the point, since it is a protected story and should not be accessed by outsiders. I would be interested to hear other people's interpretations, because I didn't understand it.

Strike and Bolt 

Written by Michael Sheyahshe, illustrated by George Freeman. A futuristic, superhero version of a traditional Hasinai story about the brothers Thunder and Lightning. When their mother goes missing during a scientific investigation, Strike and Bolt must use their powers to find her. I enjoyed this one; it felt like a superhero story. 


Written by Tony Romito, illustrated by Jeremy D. Mohler. An Inuit hunter is out searching for food when he encounters a polar bear eating a seal - and then both the human and the bear become caught in a fight between two supernatural beings. The powers and identities of these beings are not defined; we are given about as much information about these events as the characters are. All we know is that there is some kind of supernatural power at work, and we don't want to get in its way. All the same, I am curious about who these people are...


Written by Ian Ross and Lovern Kindzierski, illustrated by Adam Gorham, colours by Peter Dawes. Roland, an Anishinaabe man, is in the Manitoba Museum in Winnepeg, staring at a display, when he suddenly sees the head of a diorama figure move. The lights go out, and he is trapped inside the museum with the crazed, grave-desecrating museum director. A spooky horror story that also touches on the serious concerns about the desecration of Native artifacts - loved it! 

Tlicho Naowo

Written by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Nicholas Burns. This tells about a holiday celebrated by the Tlicho, a First Nation people from the Northwest Territories, who traditionally rely on the caribou for food. The holiday, Tlicho Naowo, shows respect to both the people's ancestors and the spirits of the caribou. This is a great ethnographic depiction of an important holiday and the ways it is still celebrated, amidst cultural changes represented by its overlap with Halloween. 


Written by Todd Houseman, illustrated by Ben Shannon. In a post-apocalyptic setting, a grandmother listens to her grandson tell a traditional story around a campfire. I enjoyed the focus on the power of storytelling as a way to continue knowledge of the past. The post-apocalyptic setting wasn't necessary, but it did give a feeling that the native traditions will continue onward, even after the civilization that we know ends. This directly confronts the long-standing narrative about how indigenous peoples are dying out. I especially liked the beautiful jewel tones of the illustrations in this one. 

First Hunt

Written by Jay and Joel Odjick, illustrated by Jay Odjick. A young boy goes on his first hunt to bring back food for the winter. In the process, he confronts his fear of hunger, failure, and wolves. Again, this is a good ethnographic/historical piece depicting the importance of the hunt for the Kitigan Zibi Algonquin community. 

Copper Heart

Written by Elizabeth LaPensee, illustrated by Claude St. Aubin, colours by Andy Stanleigh. A story that combines the historical context of copper mining in Michigan in 1905 with the legend of the Memegwesiwag, a supernatural creature that will trade copper for medicine. When a young boy from the Anishinaabeg community steals some copper from the mine, his sister risks her health to hide it with the Memegwesiwag. She falls ill from the cold, and her brother has to overcome his disbelief to get medicine for her. This story is good from both a historical standpoint - it depicts a little-known part of the history of Native Americans during the early part of the last century - and from an artistic standpoint. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful, depicting the bleakness of the winter and poverty of the camps. 

I highly recommend this beautiful comics collection. Even if, like me, you have no background in comics, you will enjoy the diverse stories, gorgeous artwork, and high-quality writing. And, most importantly, you will be supporting the inclusion of fantastic Native American writers in graphic literature. 

I am eagerly looking forward to the next volume of this collection. 

Moonshot can be purchased directly from the publisher or from Amazon

Further Reading: 

"20 Native American Authors You Need to Read" from Open Education Database
"Aboriginal Comics You Should be Reading" by Ardo Omer from Panels
"Native Steampunk: The path without end," from ABTEC (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace)
Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy

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