Russians on the Moon! is the first album of an alternate history bandes dessinées series entitled Jour J, or What If? in English. It depicts a successful Soviet lunar landing occurring before one by NASA.
Apollo 11 ends in disaster on 21 July 1969 when the LM is struck by a micrometeoroid during descent towards the lunar surface killing astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin. President Richard Nixon subsequently cancels the Apollo program thus giving the Soviet Union time to amend their Project L of which Sergei Korolev, having survived his surgery on 5 January 1966, is Chief Designer. Abandoning the N1, the L3 complex is instead assembled in orbit by successive launches of Proton rockets. Thus, at 2:00 GMT on 19 September 1969, Valentina Tereshkova lands an LK in the Sea of Fertility and, declaring "Long live the USSR, motherland of all the free stars of the galaxy," becomes the first person to walk on another world. Watching a televised broadcast of Tereshkova's EVA, President Nixon vows to restart the Apollo program and establish a permanently manned lunar base for the next twenty years.
In July 1979, astronaut Valeriane Smith at the American lunar station, Eagle, reports being ill to NASA. To prevent the outbreak of an unknown illness at Eagle, an emergency protocol is enacted calling for an immediate launch of a medical officer, namely Dr. Tom Lang, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, a Soviet test pilot, Sasha, who was imprisoned for commandeering and then crashing an experimental aircraft, is released due to intervention by Korolev as he is needed to fly a mission to the Soviet lunar station Galaktika. The political officer for Galaktika, Boris Popovitch, has been unreachable aside from delivering his regularly scheduled leading the Kremlin to believe he may be reporting under duress and that the Americans may have captured Galaktika. Accordingly, Sasha is flying Captain Evgeni Sashov of the Third Directorate of the KGB there to investigate.
Dr. Lang finds that Valeriane is not sick but in labor and seeing as the father is a cosmonaut, Dimitri Ivanovitch Babakin, they kept the pregnancy a secret from NASA. Dr. Lang needs adrenaline to assist Valeriane in the delivery and since none can be found at Eagle, Dimitri offers to return to Galaktika and get some from their medical supplies. Captain Frank Spotino, the other astronaut who landed at Eagle with Dr. Lang, stumbles upon a secret compartment in the base which houses several cosmonaut refugees hoping for political asylum in the United States. Captain Spotino pulls a gun on the apparent enemy group only to be knocked unconscious from behind by an American astronaut. Spotino is tied to a chair and put under watch but he breaks free, killing his captor in the process. He wires the section of Eagle housing the cosmonauts with C4 and detonates the charges killing 14 people, including 11 Soviets. While being confronted by Dr. Lang who heard the blast, Spotino is shot and killed by another astronaut.
Dimitri arrives at Galaktika and is confronted by Captain Sashov, armed with a TT-33, who has found the body of Popovitch in the otherwise abandoned lunar station. Sasha and Dimitri attempt to calm and disarm Captain Sashov but a struggle ensues in which Sashov is accidentally shot and killed. Dimitri explains that the same thing happened to Popovitch when he discovered the supposedly dissident behavior of the cosmonauts at Galatika. Following the rescue by Dimitri of two astronauts who, in 1977, became stranded when their LRV died leaving them without enough oxygen to return to Eagle by foot, the astronauts and cosmonauts moved beyond détente to a spirit of genuine friendship.
After the explosion on Eagle is witnessed on Earth by an observatory at Palo Alto, President Jimmy Carter and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev begin negotiations via the Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link which quickly devolve into an open war on the Moon. A Soviet orbital weapons platform, colloquially known as Dark Star and previously used to good effect in the Soviet-Afghan War, and American land-based ICBMs fire against Eagle and Galaktika respectively. Given the time it takes for the American and Soviet missiles to reach the Moon from Earth, the astronauts and cosmonauts begin boarding evacuation capsules. After a televised broadcast from Eagle announcing the first extraterrestrial human birth, Tom-Ivan Babakin-Smith, quickly dubbed the Star Child by newspapers, Dimitri gives the baby to Dr. Lang, having decided to stay with Valeriane as she is unstable and cannot be moved. Sasha, Dr. Lang, and Tom-Ivan take an escape capsule and leave Eagle moments before its destruction.
Dan Rather of CBS reports that their capsule was never recovered. The next year, 1980, crowds storm the Berlin Wall demanding passage in the name of the Star Child. When the Grenztruppen let them pass, the Wall collapses causing the collapse of the Eastern Bloc that same year. Later riots in London, Paris, Moscow, and Washington D.C., among other cities, lead to complete nuclear disarmament in the name of the Star Child. By 1989, Sasha and Dr. Lang, being rescued and secretly relocated by Vladimir Putin ,whom Sasha knew and called for help during the evacuation of Eagle, have settled on a beach and been raising Tom-Ivan.
First released in French in 2010 by Delcourt as Les Russes sur la Lune !, the album was then unofficially printed as a scanlation online under the literally translated series title of D-Day. An official translation by Christina Cox-De Ravel was released through Comixology by Delcourt's English-language imprint under the series banner of What If? on 1 March 2016. A German translation, Russen auf dem Mond!, was released on 26 April 2016 as part of the Der Tag X series published through Comixology and in hardcover by Panini Comics Deutschland.