I can only really think of one thing that is harder than middle school: middle school in space as a former member of a galactic superhero squad. Which is exactly what Hakata Soy is facing when he breaks from his group of galactic defenders, the Meta-Team, to attend the prestigious Astronaut Academy. Forced to make an effort to conceal his heroic past, Hakata has to blend in with the decidedly eccentric students of Astronaut Academy. It is, of course, an understatement to say that mayhem ensues.
Dave Roman's Astronaut Academy is a brilliant piece of quasi-parody, smashing together references to various video games and anime (particularly the older U.S. incarnations of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) with the best kind of humor style for anything remotely parodical in nature: humor that doesn't require foreknowledge of what's being parodied. Sure, having seen an episode of Power Rangers makes the adventures of Hakata Soy and his Meta-Team make more sense (and knowing about Gatchaman makes their arch-villains the Gotcha Birds infinitely more amusing), but it takes place in a school that values Fire as a core study along with the Three Rs, and offers classes in Dinosaur Driving and Wearing Cute Hats, so it's really more of a bonus than a necessity.
Most of the humor is conveyed through a highly idiosyncratic dialogue style (which Roman explains as his attempt at emulating the broken diction of 80s and 90s anime dubs); sentences often offer unnecessary exposition and often feature hilariously creative clause order (my particular favorite, from Maribelle Mellonbelly's intro chapter: "That boy at the table, who I have never seen before is so handsome in a way that makes me ask OUTLOUD, who could he be?"). It's an excellent model for getting creative with English without violating its rules too much, something I always enjoyed as a child.
Best of all, Dave Roman has kept the original webcomic online; First Second made some modifications during the publishing process (notably changing the name from Astronaut Elementary to Astronaut Academy) but everything else remains intact. If you've got kids that spend a little too much time playing games, but not quite enough time reading, it's a pretty safe bet that Astronaut Academy is up their alley.
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