Review: ‘Science Comics: The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine’
Science Comics: The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine
Written by Tory Woollcott, Illustrated by Alex Graudins
First Second, $12.99 (paperback), $19.99 (hardcover)
The Science Comics line is a wonderful marker for quality educational comics, and who better to teach about The Brain than a mad scientist?
Fahama is helping her crazily determined younger sister sell cookies when she stumbles into the lair of Dr. Cerebrum, an ambulatory brain in a jar. To keep him from removing her head, she asks him questions, learning about
- the history of brain science
- the evolution and structure of neurons
- the system of electrical communication involving synapses and action potential
- the makeup of the nervous system
- the parts of the brain itself
- how senses, such as sight and touch, work
The exaggerated humor keeps the situation (which could be quite scary) light-hearted. There’s a lot of information here, but cutting back and forth to the sister’s search for Fahama sections it nicely. Graudins does a terrific job (particularly since this is her first book) drawing both the characters and the cells, giving everything personality.
The educational material can seem overwhelming, with so many specialized terms and structures, but it’s livened up by various pop culture references, such as a Star Trek-like spaceship crew or the bad guy’s zombie butler.
The final section, on language, communication, and memory, including smart study habits, is outstanding, providing a high note to end on with the content most relevant to many readers. The encouraging message about different kinds of intelligence and the exhortation to “Don’t ever underestimate your intelligence or the intelligence of those around you!” is welcome.
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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