When we think of comic book science, we might imagine Dr. Doom’s malevolent machines, or the mysterious cosmic rays that gave the Fantastic Four their powers. But these graphic novels tell amazing science stories set in the real world—a world stranger and filled with more wonder than any superhero origin tale!
Comics and graphic novels are uniquely suited to tell complex science stories. Their blend of word and image makes it possible to zoom into microscopic detail, enter the chamber of a reactor, or take a voyage through a creative mind. All this week, we’re highlighting the ways in which comics have been used to tell stories of great discovery and innovation. Read along with us! Our recommendations will take you through the histories of atoms and space travel, and across the wilds to meet primates, beetles, and the origins of life itself.
This month at CHF, our book club is reading Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, written and illustrated by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. Trinity tells a story of incredible invention and terrifying consequence, moving from the battlefields of WWII to the desert laboratories of the Manhattan Project. J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists succeeded in harnesssing one of the most powerful forces known to humankind—but their discoveries brought doubt and fear in their wake. A powerful story of creation and destruction, Trinity chronicles the first tests of the atomic bomb, flashes of light that forever changed our world.
We also recommend:
Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler
Both entomologist and cartoonist, Jay Hosler weaves a “fantasy” adventure set in a remote ecosystem populated entirely by beetles. In the midst of this insect metropolis, one brave beetle sets out to discover scientific truth at any cost—are beetles alone in the universe? Or are they part of a great chain of existence? Funny and thrilling, with charmingly detailed illustrations, this book is perfect for the nature-lover (and even for the bug-averse!)
Meanwhile: Pick Any Path by Jason Shiga
An unusual visual experiment, Meanwhile tells an open-ended story that ends differently with every choice that the reader makes. It’s both an adventure tale and a lesson in quantum mechanics. With every choice, the universe becomes a multiverse of possibilities. Where will they lead? Success, or disaster? Only you can find the answers.
T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon
The space race was not only run by nations, but by people: hundreds of thousands of individuals who worked to realize the dream of space travel. T-Minus tells the story of the space race at a human scale, focusing on their challenges, goals and dreams. Moving between command centers and laboratories in Russia and the United States, the graphic novel focuses closely on technologies and processes, demonstrating the authors’ extensive research.
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
Atomic energy isn’t the only thing that causes fallout. As Radioactive proves, love can be a creative force—or a destructive one. Redniss sketches the love song of Marie and Pierre Curie in a powerful series of painterly illustrations, focusing on their shared work and marriage, and the struggles that followed Pierre’s early death. Both moving and thoroughly researched, it’s an experimental vision of these two great minds.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
It was once believed that humans were the only creatures that used tools. But after spending time in the jungle with wild chimpanzees, Jane Goodall knew that they were more like us than we could have imagined. Primates profiles the courageous lives and brilliant discoveries of three leading primatologists: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. The illustrations are lively and sometimes border on whimsical, capturing these scientists’ love for and fascination with the natural world.
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon
Meet Bloort-183! He’s an alien scientist tasked with understanding the evolution of life on earth. From the earliest primordial swamps to modern humanity, Evolution takes joy in unpacking the whys and hows of evolutionary biology. It’s crammed with more facts than a textbook, but the detailed illustrations and the humor of its alien narrators keep this a fun, delightful read.
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