|From what I could tell, "Astounding Space Thrills" tried to recapture the fast-and-loose science and sense of adventure that appeared in Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. However, something feels off with this comic...and unfortunately, it's captured the weaknesses of those old serials as well.
Art: The early strips don't have a significant difference in art from the latest ones, though a closer look does reveal more details-hair and facial features, for example, are given more attention now. And the backgrounds are highly detailed, which is a good thing-since we see so many outer space scenes and alien worlds, we need that variety. However, the early comics also made use of a lot of motion....which doesn't work that well. Occasionally it suggests something that a regular panel would have trouble with, but most of the time it adds a small effect at the expense of load time. The biggest problem with the art, though, was the format. This was one of the comics where using small panels was a bad idea. I understand that it might have been created for another format, but almost every panel feels crowded, and being a webcomic gives creators a chance to expand beyond the newspaper or comic book limitations. I'd really like to see "Astounding Space Thrills" take advantage of that.
Story: The stories are given to us in chunks-there's no overall archive. Even 'explanation' stories, such as 'The Shift', are given their own space. On the one hand, this lets us pick and choose the comics that sound interesting...on the other hand, some of the stories fall flat on their own-notably 'The Stonehenge Connection' and 'Argosy Smith vs. Mainstream.' As part of an overall story, these might have been enjoyable sidetrips, but they can't stand on their own. A much more serious problem with the story, though, is that the webcomic archives start in the middle. Argosy Smith makes repeated references to his past adventures-and even if these adventures haven't been told in some other format, it's frustrating to hear that he's already died as an off-hand comment.
Characters: Interesting, but they usually boil down to stereotypes. Argosy Smith is the dynamic hero, Petra Vaverchek is the unspoken love interest, Professor Vaverchek is the absent-minded but brilliant scientist. On the one hand, that fits the point of the strip-if it suddenly stopped to let a character's personality unfold, we'd lose a lot of the momentum. On the other hand, I believe that we could learn more about these characters without stopping to get right into their heads. So, I'm a little torn about this comic in regards to its characters. I am amused by the character of Theremin-he's also a stereotype (the useful sidekick), but I'm quite taken with his concept. Most sidekicks are aliens or older humans, and Theremin is both.
Writing: Breathless action! Harrowing chases! Shocking twists! In form, "Astounding Space Thrills" imitates the original space operas. But it feels...inauthentic. Everyone seems cheery, and even the villains are defanged in some way. There's no sense of urgency to it. That urgency was what kept old serials afloat-you didn't know what would happen next. Sure, the heroes might come out okay, but they always seemed to be about to die. Without it, the flaws start to open wide-rushed plotting, fights that get summarized instead of shown, and pseudo-science that can't stand up to a real physicist's analysis. On the last point, at least "Astounding Space Thrills" has an interesting explanation in 'The Shift', but that only gives us a reason for the pseudo-science...it doesn't make it entirely acceptable.
Overall: Hard to say. There's never a dull moment in "Astounding Space Thrills", but there are very few exciting ones, either. I don't want to suggest anything like killing off a character, but the comic needs a feel of...well, adventure. I understand that it's trying, but so far it's not working well enough. 6 out of 10.