Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice
What if the great drive to be the first nation in space wasn't the race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s but between France and Germany in the 1860s? That's the premise of this graphic novel. Frenchman Archibald Dulac's wife conducts an experiment to find aether, the supposed matter that exists in space between the earth's atmosphere and other celestial objects. The book assumes aether is real, though the wife has to go extremely high in a hot air balloon to find it. Her latest attempt goes awry. She does discover aether but the balloon goes out of control and explodes at 13000 meters. Her journal falls back to earth. Archibald doesn't find it but does continue his research into aether. Someone in Bavaria sends Archibald an urgent message with a train ticket, claiming they have the journal and need help. At the train station, someone tries to hijack Archibald, whose son has come along to say goodbye. Archibald and son barely escape to Bavaria. When they arrive, they discover people already working on flying machines that will enable trips to the moon and Mars. But is there a spy among the scientists?
The story is an interesting "what if" scenario with just a flavoring of steam punk aesthetic and ideas. The water color art goes well with the old time setting. Too bad the next installment is coming out next year! The story just barely got going but I enjoyed it a lot.