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  • Rose Padilla

Rose Padilla Reviews Omar Morales's Latest Graphic Novel, Major Thomás!

Updated: Jul 8



Trusty sidekick? Check.

Tragic backstory? Check.

Exoplanetary battles, space colonialism, and robot-reptoid conflict with contemporary political parallels? Check plus and then some.


Major Thomás is the latest space adventure story from Omar Morales, following the line of Morales’ earlier comics like Moon Girl (2019) and The Lunar Ladies (2021). This time around, Morales and artist Serg Acuna craft a turbulent lost-in-space odyssey that channels Latinx Futurism through its protagonist, Thomás Muñoz.


Thomás, introduced as “the youngest American astronaut to reach space” in the year 2036, has just enough self doubt and anxiety to be as relatable as he is accomplished at a mere 25 years old. When his NASA mission into hyperspace goes awry, Thomás and his monkey-robot sidekick AL-3 find themselves stranded on exoplanet Wolf 1061c, where they get conscripted by sentient robots and fight giant, mineral-hoarding reptoids.


Visually, the journey into outer space is as expansive and picturesque as any Webb telescope image, the battles fast-paced and chaotic like a Star Wars: The Clone Wars shootout. The robot-reptoid war over natural resources implies a much longer history of space colonization and destruction. However, it is in the protagonist’s interpersonal relationships– earthly and otherwise– that Major Thomás truly finds its narrative footing.

Visually, the journey into outer space is as expansive and picturesque as any Webb telescope image, the battles fast-paced and chaotic like a Star Wars: The Clone Wars shootout.
Latino in front of space shuttle
Migrant Farmworker Roots to Astronaut

Flashbacks throughout Thomás’ outer space adventures reveal his humble beginnings as a child living on a crop farm in Salinas, California. For better or worse, the characters who shape Thomás’ formative years flirt with familiar archetypes: Amelia, Thomás’ mother, is a single parent and a farmhand with unflagging kindness, Catholic piety, and a terminal disease; Lisa, the spunky childhood friend-turned-novia, is singularly protective of Thomás and follows him from Salinas, to engineering school, to the far reaches of the galaxy; Manny, Lisa’s father, also works as a farmhand and is well-meaning enough but struggles with alcohol addiction; the racist, red-hatted, money-grubbing farm owner is named Dick for good measure while Rob, Dick’s son, is a blonde bully who simply can’t exist on the page without calling Thomás epithets like “brown boy” or harassing Lisa (unsuccessfully) into a relationship with him.


Major Thomás does not hesitate to dramatize these relationships to the fullest. Thomás wins a prestigious NASA scholarship and goes to the Halloween dance with Lisa, only for Rob to pick a fight and ruin the evening. Amelia passes away at home, leaving Thomás an orphan just as he begins a future away from the farm.


But if Thomás’ upbringing is a Cinderella story of brown youth persevering through adversity and tragedy with hard work and loving support systems, it also speaks true to the conditions affecting those youth and the families of farmhands. Roughly 2.4 million farm workers, many identifying as Hispanic or Mexican, support the multibillion agricultural industry of the United States in harsh working and housing conditions. Children of migrant workers often labor alongside family members, contributing to family income but facing decreased rates for high school graduation. Major Thomás, then, affords readers a closer look into the agricultural workforce, distilling the nebulousness of the industry into specific, sympathetic characters whose lives and aspirations go beyond the labor they provide.

But if Thomás’ upbringing is a Cinderella story of brown youth persevering through adversity and tragedy with hard work and loving support systems, it also speaks true to the conditions affecting those youth and the families of farmhands.

Speaking of labor, Thomás serving in the robot army in exchange for passage back to Earth is peak continuity for systematized labor. As part of the “pantheon of Latinx space travelers,” Thomás’ brown body works in service of NASA and for the rest of humanity, risking mortal danger and up to ten years of his life to find habitable planets.


On Wolf 1061c, that register of difference is even more pronounced when Thomás is surrounded by robots and giant lizards. It’s easy enough to root for Grand Admiral Gru and the robots over Randy and the reptoids at first glance—one side has a scrappy, lowrider biker squad, the other kicks (tailwhips?) furry little space Eevees.


robots in pirate gear and reptile using tail in battle
Grand Admiral Gru, motley crew of robots, and reptoid in battle

But Major Thomás presents a jaded view of both earth and outer space labor systems in general. It takes much rallying from Lisa, her father, and the Mojave Desert hippies to get NASA director Rosales to retrieve Thomás (astral projection is involved). Davis, a gray alien who Thomás befriends, secretly gives his own spaceship to Admiral Gru in order for Thomás and AL-3 to be sent home.


The story infuses a healthy level of skepticism towards the institutions that Thomás gives his life and labor towards, which can feel frustrating when Thomás himself, internally and externally, never really pushes against the institutions that use him while his friends and loved ones do.


Thomás gazes at robotic hand
Proof that robots should unionize: “You’ve had enough P.T.” after getting your hand blasted

As it is, Major Thomás deserves a space among the pop culture fictions that feature Latinx characters taking part in and shaping the frontiers of space exploration (shameless plug for 2022 film A Million Miles Away, an excellent biopic on José Hernandez’s journey from farm worker to engineer to astronaut). In science fiction imaginaries where extraterrestrial aliens are often the go-to metaphors for human classism, bigotry, and propensity for violence against each other, it’s always refreshing to read stories that tackle such topics from the position of the marginal individual—and the interpersonal relationships that sustain them through it all.


To Get Your Hands on a Copy

Keep Eyes Peeled for the Kickstarter Campaign that Drops

November 2024

@omorales81


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