Space Academy 123 is funny and easy to read. It is beautiful to look at and read. The characters are alive, and the story is exciting. The theme is deep. It doesn't pretend to be high art, but it is a marvelous work of art. Without any pretension, it is accomplished in its form and contents. Most of all, it is funny, easy to digest, and enjoyable.
Anyone interested in art comics knows how singular Zacchilli's art is. When Space Academy 123 was serialized on Instagram, the style looked a bit simpler than usual -- which I did not have any complaint against because it was a free daily comic. However, seeing the art bigger and in more detail on a printed page, I realized the subtlety of each mark Zacchilli draws. Because there are fewer lines in the background than usual, you can see how each line makes a huge difference. Zacchilli's lines in her previous work, combined in thousands, felt like a huge torrent. Now each different shade of mark builds a subtle texture that elevates the work. Combined with Zacchilli’s distinct doodle-ish style of drawing and scribbling-style of handwriting, these seemingly random textures perfectly translate the youthful expressive energy and whirlwind of Space Academy 123’s characters and happenings. The paper stock of the book is similar to a newspaper or cheap manga paper, but is more expensive and durable — this adds to the synergy, too.
While I liked the original strip on Instagram, putting them all together as a book creates more magical and powerful energy than reading the original strip one by one. Even the paper stock has an incredible texture that makes you touch the book again and again and love the book as an object. Even more appealing, the strips are funny and the characters are lovable. You want to finish the book as soon as possible because it is so riveting, but at the same time, you do not want it to finish because you want to experience it more. You need to literally grip this book with your hands to appreciate its power.
Space Academy 123 features several characters around the school, one of many Space Academies. There is also Space Academy 122, Space Academy 123, Space Academy 124, etc. We meet robot teachers, human teachers, students, and a wise computer. The structure of each page's narrative (or joke), and the characters' facial expressions and behavior show that Zacchilli is influenced by manga. But this does not mean that the work sticks to the formula like a lot of mainstream manga. Almost every page is laugh-out-loud funny or moving while telling a fresh story. Zachilli’s storytelling is just like her exceptionally unique style. It is influenced by both manga and alternative/art comics, but Zachilli knows what make each of them compelling, and brilliantly incorporates only the best parts from each of them.