Review: ‘Jim McClain’s Solution Squad’
Jim McClain’s Solution Squad
Written by Jim McClain, art by various
Solution Squad LLC, $19.99
For grades 4-6
Jim McClain, a middle school math teacher, loves comics, so he made his own super-team to teach mathematical concepts. The first comic story introduces the team members:
- La Calculadora – fast computation and team leader
- Absolutia – changes temperature to demonstrate absolute value
- Equality – duplicates the abilities of others
- The Ordered Pair twins – Abscissa (runs fast horizontally) and Ordinate (flies and dives vertically)
- Radical – a time-lost kid from the 80s who surfs invisible triangles
They travel in the Coordinate Plane.
While the educational nature of the comics always comes first, making the exposition somewhat clunky and the pages dialogue-driven, the team has a lot to recommend it, starting with its diverse makeup. There’s only one white guy, and most of the members are female, a pleasant change from traditional superhero comics.
The art is competent, not flashy, with basic staging and simple layouts, making it easy to follow the story. Their villain, the Poser, sets them math riddles that they have to solve to defuse a bomb, and they use a prime number sieve to figure out a simple code.
In another story, the Reverse-Engineer uses ghost trains to steal cargo, making for a real-life train problem as the team has to figure out when two trains will meet. The third pits the team against the Confectioneer, who fights them with candy.
There are lots of extras in this volume, including a text story, cosplay pictures of the characters, a sample lesson plan (with information on how to buy more), and profile pages that give the characters’ origins. The book opens with several pages on how to read comics, complete with explaining specialized terms like “gutters”.
I believe McClain when he says kids love the characters. This volume seems to me to have more superheroing than math in it, but I’m not being exposed to these characters, and the concepts they represent, for the first time. It’s certainly inspirational to teachers who want to find creative ways to keep students interested.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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