cover image The Eternaut 1969

The Eternaut 1969

Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Alberto Breccia, trans. from the Spanish by Erica Mena. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-68396-352-3

Offering pulpy, fast-paced thrills and chills, this first translation of Oesterheld’s 1969 sci-fi adventure is buoyed by sociopolitical underpinnings that resonate today. Oesterheld’s story originally appeared as a comic strip in Argentina in the 1950s, and then again in 1969, when it was rereleased featuring updated, expressionistic art by Breccia seen here. The narrator, Juan Salvo, tells of a catastrophe that befalls Buenos Aires one night, when a deadly snowlike substance wipes out most of the populace and traps Salvo with loved ones indoors. Innovating homemade protective gear, they venture outside to discover aliens have invaded, causing widespread destruction. Salvo details how he and his compadres attempt to survive and defeat the interlopers. While the dialogue is often silly (one character informs Salvo of a “terror gland” implant), Oesterheld alludes pointedly to the real-life exploitation of Argentina by more powerful nations, as when Salvo discovers that world leaders have offered up South America as a sacrifice to the aliens to spare their nations from attack. Meanwhile, the physical isolation and protective gear worn to avoid contamination presciently echoes life in the age of Covid-19. These nuances lend gravitas to what would otherwise remain a standard alien invasion story, though its appeal will still be primarily to genre fans. (Nov.)