The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Book Corner: Don’t Tug On That; You Never Know What It Might Be Attached To

Which is to say, Dr Buckaroo Banzai and Dr Sidney Zweibel are in the house and our topic is The Brain, the latest in the Science Comics series from :01 Books (who kindly sent me a review copy), written by Tory Woollcott and illustrated by Alex Graudins. What, you thought I was going to go with a zombie reference to braaaains or something? You wound me.

Let’s get one sad bit of business out of the way. Because of printing lead times, it was true when the book went to press that, as her bio says, that Woollcott [lived] with her husband, Kean Soo, and her minor internet celebrity dog, Reginald Barkley. Sadly, Barkley died before he could see himself immortalized in at least two cameo appearances in the book, and though Woollcott and Soo are now happy with Oliver Crumbwell, he is missed by all. RIP, Barkley.

Okay, onwards. Requisite reminder that there may be spoilers ahead.

Woollcott and Graudins weave a story of two sisters: Nour, who’s selling cookies for her Girl Scouts/Girl Guides analogue, Woodland Adventure, and who is absolutely ruthless in her pursuit of the Junior Vice President Of Marketing And Sales merit badge. She will see her enemies driven before her in her quest for all the badges! She even lets out a wild, 7-to-9 year old MWAHAHAHAHA recounting her destruction of the upstarts in Troop 12. ALL HAIL AND FEAR NOUR.

And then there’s her much more grounded older sister, Fahama; she’s got better things to do than help her kid sister sell cookies (even if Dad made them, even if they’re delicious), but Nour mentioned that the JVPOSAM merit badge comes with a video game system, and that’s up Fahama’s alley, so she’s in. Then, on page four, she rings the doorbell of a creepy old mansion, a trapdoor opens, and she finds herself the “guest” of a deranged brain-in-a-jar mad scientist who very much wants to remove hers. Her brain, that is.

Dr Cerebrum looks way too handy with the hacksaw, so Fahama borrows a trick from Scheherazade and starts delays her fate. Tell me about brain science! What are the evolutionary structures? What’s with all the wrinkles, and what functions take place in what part of the brain? How do neurons communicate? What about memory, and sensory processing, and executive function, and types of intelligence?

It’s a lot to take in, but Woollcott and Graudins dole it out in easily-digestible, bite-size chunks so that a reasonably motivated kid will retain the details. It helps that Graudins has created characters for the cellular actors in the brain’s activity, which visually relate their function and tie back the narration. Hey, it’s almost like they use several kinds of learning prompts and stimulate different kinds of intelligence in teaching you about learning styles and kinds of intelligence! Pretty sneaky, Sis!

Speaking of Sis, Nour’s a ninja. She tells her parents that she suspects her sister is in deadly danger (from a rival WA troop, naturally) and sets out to rescue her; they humor her game, never knowing what a force of nature they’ve unleashed on an unsuspecting world. She might have the wrong idea about why Fahama needs rescuing, and what dangers exist in the world¹, but when she finds the creepy mansion with the creepy braintaorium in the creepy basement, she’s more than ready to unleash some sister-saving whoopass. Don’t cross Nour, man.

The only thing I’d want from The Brain is the same thing I’d want from most of the Science Comics — pronunciation guides in the text. It’s a bit unreasonable to expect a kid (or even an adult without prior experience in a field) to know how to pronounce diencephalon or inhibatory neurotransmitters. There’s a lot of vocabulary in this one, and an editorial shift would make it easier to keep track of.

Science Comics: The Brain, by Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins, hits stores everywhere on 16 October. You can give it to anybody you want to make smarter, or possibly give advice on how to destroy all who cross them. (Hail Nour).


Spam of the day:

NBC BREAKING ANNOUNCEMENT:
Gwyneth Paltrow

Nope. This is something about Goop or some idiotic, nonscientific drivel that coincidentally makes her a lot of money. Get bent.

_______________
¹ Nour fears no rival troop, but don’t make her deal with clowns.

_______________

Noteworthy

Three things. One’s going to hurt.

  • Saturday! John Allison, your British friend if you don’t have another one, has reached a milestone that damn few creators have:

    On Saturday it’s 20 years, since I put my first comic online. I’ve written/written and drawn approx:
    1200pp Giant Days
    1200pp Bad Machinery
    1800pp assorted Scary Go Round/minis
    132pp By Night
    1000pp Bobbins

    They weren’t all winners but I’ve tried my best.

    Aside from that 132 pages of By Night (available one Wednesday a month from BOOM! Studios, courtesy of your favorite local comic shop), that’s about 5200 pages of delightful weirdness in the Tackleverse, a single, sprawling story matched only by the most dedicated veterans (8700 pages of Lone Wolf And Cub over 28 volumes; I’m guessing about 5500 pages of its spiritual successor, Usagi Yojimbo), the most insane (6000 pages of Cerebus over 300 issues), or David Willis (I’m not sure even he knows how many pages of Walkyverse comics there are).

    More importantly: Allison is one of about three creators¹ that continually gets better; issue after issue, I love Giant Days more and more. Give By Night more than its intended 12-issue run and I’m certain I’d say the same. Even more importantly, the vast majority of those stories are free for you to read, right now. If you start now, you can probably be jussst caught up in time for the shindig on Saturday, if you don’t eat, sleep, or attend to other bodily imperatives. Get crackin’.

  • Before long, there’s likely going to be a fourth name on the always gets better list, and you’ll know who it is from three words:

    Sluggo is lit.

    The news hit like a cannonball yesterday: Olivia Jaimes is coming to CXC next weekend, and we have Tom “The Spurge” Spurgeon to thank for it:

    Jaimes will participate in one public panel on Sunday at 3:30 PM, and a pair of non-public events designed to mark the historical moment of the cartoonist’s initial success. Cell phones and recording devices will be collected at the door of Jaimes’ Sunday event and returned to their owners afterwards.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such subterfuge, or perhaps skullduggery in comics before. Exciting! Do give Ms Jaimes my regards, and remember: whoever decides to blow her anonymity will go to the Special Hell.

  • It was not quite two years ago that Kate Beaton first shared the news with us: her sister Becky, a year older and fixture in Kate’s entire life, had cancer. She fought, and she got better, until she didn’t. She fought the metastasis, fought for life, and until the end she fought the indifference and disregard of the medical establishment.

    With her sisters and Becky’s fiance, Kate’s written a remembrance of Becky that will make you furious. It details the delays she had in her initial diagnosis, delays that cost her time, delays that cost her options. Even worse, as an immediately-post-treatment patient when things started not feeling right, her oncologists disregarded her reports² and delayed recognizing that her cancer had spread; I’m no doctor, but I’m absolutely willing to believe that between the first set of doctors and the second, they cost Becky her life.

    Becky’s plan for the rest of her life was to advocate for cancer patients, to teach them how to manage doctors that disregard them, to share her hard-won knowledge; thanks to doctors that don’t listen to patients — particularly women, particularly young, seemingly healthy women — she never got the chance. So Kate, and her sisters, and Becky’s fiance have done this bit of it for her. I won’t be surprised to more of it in the future.

    Becky’s beyond all but our memory, but let that memory drive you. She can’t advocate for patients to their doctors, but it’s something we can do for her. I hope you never have to, that an ugly diagnosis and a painful fight never comes for your and yours. But should it come, think of Becky, dig down deep, and let those doctors know that you aren’t going to allow them to be indifferent.


Spam of the day:
Spammers don’t get to share the page with Becky.

_______________
¹ Ryan North on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is another, and while Meredith Gran isn’t doing a regular strip now, she definitely falls into the category.

For reference, Stan Sakai is not one of the three, because there is no better he can get. He’s reached the pinnacle of the form.

² I have never wanted to slap another living human as much as when I read Becky’s first doctor was so bad, a year later their medical license was suspended, and that she was never able to obtain her records from that time.

Then, a scant six paragraphs later, when she was trying to get her oncologists to pay attention to a leg swollen with what would prove to be more cancer, one of them added a note in her file: Rebecca continues to be paranoid. I hope those words hang on the conscience of that dismissive alleged professional for the rest of their life.

Fleen Book Corner: Electric Margaloo

That is to say, The Creepy Case Files Of Margo Maloo book two: The Monster Mall by Drew Weing. There’s something great about Margo Maloo (the webcomic) and Margo Maloo (the character). The webcomic is great because it’s breezy, fun, and the sort of low-grade creepy that kids can enjoy without getting nightmares. It’s the Ahhhh, that’s so cool end of the scale instead of the Can’t sleep ever again end of the scale. The character is great because Margo defends the kids of Echo City from monsters not by force, but by words. She’s not a Monster Slayer, she’s a Monster Mediator.

And she knows a lot more than she’s letting on to Charles, the POV character, new to Echo City, unused to its ways, prone to taking the subway the wrong way for three stops, and desperately trying to turn himself into a blogging force of nature re: the supernatural. He’s essentially the three nerds from The X-Files as a pre-teen, and he’s easy to identify with¹.

He and Margo (according to Charles, they’re partners; according to Margo, he’s her assistant²) are wondering why there’s so many more interactions between kids and monsters these days; she’s desperate to keep the whole thing from blowing up into open warfare between the humans and monsters, and he just wants to learn and share as much as he can. Margo’s willing to go along with his idea of a kids-only blog to talk about monsters in ways that will keep the peace, but there’s cards she’s playing close to her chest.

In particular: how does a kid barely older than Charles have the run of the city? Where did she learn all her lore? How long has she been mediating, given every kid in Echo knows rumors of her, and half the monsters are terrified of crossing her? What happened to the older generations of monsters that caused at least some of their children to turn away from their habits? Why does she live in a spooky old house with doting (and possibly exhibiting Alzheimer’s symptoms) uncle (or, more likely, grand-uncle), but no parents? Who wrote all of her casefile entries back before she was born, and why are things changing?

And, crucially: Who is trying to provoke things between the various residents of Echo City?

The other thing that’s great about the Margo Maloo stories is how Echo City feels like a living place. The endpapers in the print collections are a subway map³, story arcs take place in different parts of town, with Margo telling Charles where to meet her, and generally a couple of panels of him in transit. It’s lived in, it’s a place of change, each neighborhood feels consistent to itself. It’s a tough think to pull off, and Weing does it with easy.

The Creepy Case Files Of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall is available in bookstores everywhere, and is a darn run read for everybody able to read on their own and sustain their attention over 100 pages or so. We at Fleen thank :01 Books for the review copy.

_______________

While we’re here, I want to thank :01 Books for something else; the inside back cover for a number of their Summer/Fall 2018 releases (mostly books for older teens and up) have a nice feature that I’ve not seen elsewhere. There’s a decision tree printed that helps readers find other books that they’d like, depending on topic and treatment.

Want adventure (historical)? Try Delilah Dirk. Want adventure (apocalyptic)? Spill Zone or Last Pick are what you need. Mostly the recommendations are in the current releases, but you’ve also got some classics (American Born Chinese, the book that made the imprint) and some future titles (Kiss Number 8, coming next year).

It’s a great tool for discovery and promotion, and more publishers should use it. For that matter, it would be great to see a similar bookfinder for (age-appropriate) titles in the younger target audiences (okay, probably not the big picture books for beginning readers, but everything above that).


Spam of the day:

Rachael is my name though

Yes, and? (I feel like Del Close having to prompt like this.)

_______________
¹ Uhhh, not that I’d now anything about being an awkward, overeager kid without many friends. Nope, not me.

² Verging on flunky.

³ With more than a few stations seemingly named for cartoonists: Wrightson, Beaton, Fink, Rowland … and King could very well be a reference to Stephen.

I Can’t Decide If This Is A Trifecta Or An Even-Cooler Quadfecta

See, there’s three webcomicky types with new books releasing today, but it’s actually four books releasing, which makes things double-awesome for one of them. Regardless, you’ve got a ready-made reason to hit the bookstore and bring home some delightful ink-on-paper gifts to yourself (or another).

  • First up: Ryan North, Toronto Man-Mountain, Nexus Of All Webcomics Realities (Northern¹ Division). His book on jumpstarting an entire technological civilization, How To Invent Everything, hits the major sales channels today. Of course, if you were one of the very smart people that backed the HTIE Kickstarter and got the campaign-exclusive extras, then don’t go to the bookstore … watch your mailbox for a package from an indy bookstore, which will feature an autographed copy of the book, and possibly one that is limited edition², or even a literal one of a kind.

    And then we can all read and learn and enjoy and laugh and love and mourn that, if we are ever lost in time, we will not be the ones to “invent” Shoop by Salt-n-Pepa.

  • If there’s one person that’s riding the wave of entirely deserved, but also completely unpredictable success, it’s Ngozi Ukazu. A child of Nigerian immigrants from Texas doing a webcomic about gay hockey bros? That sentence looks like it was assembled out of a magnetic poetry set³, but to the surprise of everybody, it’s exactly what we were all craving in our media diets. Her Kickstarted volumes have gone to thousands of rabid backers, but now is the day that her major publisher (that would be :01 Books, a part of the Macmillan empire) edition hits the street.

    And you know what? Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Kickstart is all good, but it doesn’t get you into every bookstore (and a hefty proportion of the libraries, too) in the country. :01 publisher Mark Siegel was unwilling to give me hard numbers on how many copies of Ukazu’s Check, Please! Book 1 would be in the first printing, but allowed that it was a pretty substantial number (at other times he’s said that a low initial printing of a :01 title is on the order of 10,000 copies).

    In any event, she’s about to get her work in front of even more eyeballs than it’s commanded to date, and that means even more people are going to fall in love with the sweet tale of gay hockey bros. And you know what the best part is? Every part of that sentence is, somewhere, making a ComicsGater’s head asplode, so that’s a win (for Ukazu) dash win (for her readers) dash win (for society as a whole).

  • Rosemary Mosco may be the most generalist smart person in comics. Oh, sure, Ryan North learned out to create an entire civilization, but does he have two books releasing today? There’s her YA guide to the planets we know and love, and there’s also a guide for adventurous (and probably a bit weird) kids who want to know more about the adventurous (and probably a bit weird) world around them.

    Atlas Obscura Explorers Guide For The World’s Most Adventurous Kid is about everything from crystal caves to abandoned water parks, the sort of bucket list for cool times that I would have killed for at 12, and am kinda planning to use now that I’m 50. Add in the release earlier this year of Birding Is My Favorite Video Game and you have to wonder if there’s anything that Mosco can’t a) write about and b) make super fun. Magic Eight-Ball says: Not damn likely.

Oh, and I just remembered: Lucy Bellwood did the illustrations for HTIE, so it’s four books, four webcomickers. This day will go down in history.


Spam of the day:

‘L.A. LAW’ Original Cast to Celebrate First-Ever Live Reunion

What.

_______________
¹ No pun intended, but North lives in the North, so what are you gonna do?

² He forgot to draw the star on the first 100 or so.

³ Possibly the Dinosaur Comics magnetic poetry set, but then there’d be at least one instance of LESBIANS! or at least FRIIIIIG.

Fleen Book Corner: Last Pick

Oh, what a title we have here. What a cutting, straight-to-the-quick, revisited childhood trauma Jason Walz has packed into two little words: Last Pick (a review copy of which was supplied by the fine folks at :01 Books). You’ve been there, when the teams are picked and every kid is carefully scrutinized for what they’ll bring to the team and somebody gets left until last, the sting of uselessness hanging over them.

What happens when you’ve got a whole society — a whole world — of last picks?

The aliens¹ (oh, spoilers ahead, but pretty broad strokes and not much more than you’d get from the cover summary) that descended on Earth three years ago took everybody that they deemed useful — all able-bodied adults between 16 and 65 — and took them who knows where for who knows what purpose. They’re a utilitarian bunch, the aliens, almost Randian in their fetishistic approach to value and uselessness.

The old, the infirm, the very young are useless for their purposes and are left behind to try to fend for themselves. They can’t, of course, a whole planet of elderly and children, so more aliens come down to manage their new resources. They go native, with the installed “sheriff” of Elizabethtown, Kentucky adopting a bad attitude, a bolo tie, and a drawl that almost has him declaring that What we’ve got hyeeahh is failyuhh to communicate². They have nothing but contempt for the useless.

Which, as is hinted throughout the book, they are in danger of being judged themselves. They get sick after being on Earth for too long, and those who get sickest get denied the medicine that might make them well, because why waste it on the useless? And where better for the aliens to leave their useless than on a planet of those they deem useless.

That’s the situation facing twins Sam and Wyatt; they’ve just turned 16, the cutoff age for being useful, but nobody’s been collected since they aliens first arrived. Neglected, punished, probably killed, but not taken away. When the collection ships come, they’ll not bother with Wyatt because they don’t want him — flashbacks hint at a life on the autism spectrum without ever applying a label. So it’s his sister that has to try to keep a low profile, but she’s too stubborn for that.

Sam’s defined by her emotions in the way that Wyatt’s defined by his trouble processing emotions. She’s angry. Angry at the aliens, angry at being abandoned, angry enough to steal supplies and redistribute them, angry at being thanked for doing so, and especially angry at her obligation to protect Wyatt (at the same time that she loves him more than anything). She got handed a burden as a tweenager that plenty of full-grown adults struggle with, and she’s been dealing with it in a world where there’s literally nobody she can rely on to help with her brother and she feels the weight of that every day.

And that’s why she has to leave him, to let herself be taken so that he can find a way to stand on his own. Knowing inside, maybe, that when Wyatt loses himself to hyperfocus — whether it’s studying alien comm devices, cataloging the alien types, or detailing the flaws of season two of Ultraman — there’s nothing he can’t accomplish. If that hyperfocus is directed at finding Sam, he might just liberate the whole damn world and help all those abducted to come back home. The angry and the uncertain are about to shake this corner of the galaxy.

But to test that theory, to take her angry, troublemaking self away from Sam and not give the aliens reason to pay attention to one more useless human? She’s going to have to leave him alone, and that’s going to cut both of them deeper than anything. He’s going to have to face the unknown of having nobody that understands him or has the patience for him; she’s going to have to face the literal unknown of a life beyond the stars, where the aliens take the kidnapped humans.

And it really is a pair of unknowns that they’ll be facing, because we won’t know what Sam and Wyatt are up against until the sequel, Born To Run, releases. And given that Last Pick is set to be a three book series, it’ll be longer still before we see how it all shakes out.

Last Pick, by Jason Marz, releases on 9 October 2018; find it wherever books are sold.


Spam of the day:

SALE ENDING THIS WEEKEND GET 60% OFF the WSJ NOW!

So the Wall Street Journal is offering subscriptions via [checks email address] 09clown.fun? I … am unconvinced.

_______________
¹ A variety of species, or perhaps castes, they don’t name themselves as a people.

² I hate the sheriff more than any fictional character this side of … let’s say General Xinchub, or Agent 146.

A Finer World

Because when it comes down to it, there’s people out there trying to improve things, and we can all help in our own way.

  • It took about two weeks, but there it is — the fundraising site that lets all of us get in on the defense of eleven creators (and one small publisher) from the SLAPP brought by Cody Pickrodt. When it started making the rounds of social media yesterday, I saw one of the principals say that of the US$20,000 given by SPX so far, fully 15 grand has already been spent on lawyers. It was enough to provide a response and avoid a default judgment, but not enough to make a proper fight of it.

    But US$46,320 (as of this writing)? That’s enough to make a quick-payoff-seeking lawyer think twice about opportunity costs and marginal gains. It’s not enough for a protracted legal contest, but it’s enough to alter the math for the opposing side. Those of you heading to SPX this weekend, I’m sure there will be donation buckets around. Got leftover singles after making your purchases? Better to give ’em to the cause than to let them get sweaty and crumpled in your pocket¹. I won’t be able to join you at the show², but I’ve donated and I invite you to join me in that.

  • Meanwhile, you know how you can hang out with friends for upwards of a week at a time and know that they’re working on something, but they don’t let on exactly what? Rich Stevens and Jason Alderman have more than one secret project cooking, but one is no longer secret. Behold: a 50-state (plus DC) map of the country with voting information for each provided in comic form.

    Choose a state from the drop-down, or just hover over to see which of your favorite comics artists worked on which political territory. Read, get a wry chuckle (hopefully) or a dry, bitter laugh to keep away the screaming (all too often), then follow the links to check your registration and make plans to friggin’ vote.


Spam of the day:

How 71-year-old Kevin Cured His ED

Why.

Just, why?
_______________
¹ Mostly directed at dudes, since ladies are often not given the courtesy of pockets. Also, ew.

² I was gonna say Tell ____ I said hi and give a list of folks who are gonna be there, but then I realized that it would basically be the entire exhibitor list. So whoever³ you see, tell them I said hi, and I’m sorry I can’t be there.

³ Okay, fine, say hi to MollyAbbyHollyMeredithKCShingYukoMakiMikeEvanAnanthSaraBrittColleenAnneBenJamieGeorgeWhitCareyRonKoryFrankGaleTanekaDer-shingBeckyBenKatMKDrewDustinCarlaLonnieSpikeCartaMagnoliaSophieGinaNgoziOthermollyAlexTomJessEricDanielleChrisKateMattOthermattRosemaryOtherchrisMonicaAmandaBlueandGeorge.

I Do Not Think

… that is this, the year of the common era two thousand and eight friggin’ teen, that it is too much to ask that I get four consecutive days of function from the damn network at my client. I really don’t think I’m being unreasonable here.

Post tomorrow, and to all in the path of Florence — stay safe, do not drive into water, and watch out for falling stuff.

Fleen Book Corner: The Divided Earth

There’s this one moment in the third book of the Nameless City series, The Divided Earth by name¹, where Faith Erin Hicks hits a peak; there’s 800 pages of story (more or less) across the three books, and while they all read true and the characters are all believable, this is where she get something so right that it stopped me in my tracks.

The meddling kids (it’s always kids that have to bring the empires back from the brink of war) have succeeded, the city is safe (uh, spoiler alert, but come on … book three of a trilogy? You knew it was happening) and co-protagonist Rat (who could be a completely generic Street Kid Taught To Trust Again in a lesser writer’s hands) realizes that they’ve won, and a friend she thought was gone forever is there and she throws herself into his arms and starts sobbing.

She doesn’t know why, she can’t say why, but the emotion, the relief that it’s all over, the greater relief that she’s alive and victorious and doesn’t have to have the tough exterior for just a moment and it all comes rushing out … it’s a beautiful, true moment of triumph and confusion and Being A Teen all mixed up together, and it’s the most right thing I’ve ever read in a YA story about the youth that save everybody from the war.

The rest of it is excellent, don’t misunderstand me. The sneering villain is far less confident than you’d expect², the hidden betrayers have their own motivations, the plucky comic reliefs can be depended on to both screw up exactly as their nature requires and find a bigger purpose to their actions. These are stock-in-trade elements of YA fiction, but they’re never cliche, and never done in a perfunctory manner. And anything that seems familiar (especially to those that have watched Avatar or The Legend Of Korra) is executed with the highest skill.

The Nameless City feels real and lived-in, almost a character itself. The color palette matches perfectly with the polyglot aesthetics, which are clearly derived from the different looks and feels of the three different contending nations. There’s dirt and dust, there’s new and shiny, there’s conqueror and conquered all brought together with an eye on verisimilitude.

But all of those just sort of fall into the background when Rat hugs her friend and cries because she’s relieved and happy and confused and gets to just be a moody kid for a moment. There’s big changes behind and bigger ones yet to come, but now? Yeah, she earned those tears and Hicks earned our eyeballs.

Fleen thanks :01 Books for the review copy of The Divided Earth, which will be available at bookstores everywhere on 25 September. Take the two weeks between now and then to read (or re-read) The Nameless City and The Stone Heart.


Spam of the day:

Your very own Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Bitches, I’m an EMT. I can get the good stuff any time I want: pure, uncut O2, at 15 liters per minute, at 2200 psi from a rocket bottle if I handle things carelessly. Take your lame-ass battery-powered concentrator and peddle it to somebody that doesn’t know the difference.

_______________
¹ A reference to both the continuous warring of the three major nations that ebb and flow through the land and fight over the Nameless City, and the terrible weapon that was once used to sunder the stone of the earth itself, to provide trade access.

² But utterly, utterly convinced not only of the righteousness of his cause, but it’s fundamental selfless and altruistic nature. He really is doing it for the benefit of the people.

Fleen Book Corner: Ocean Renegades!

Abby Howard gets more cartoon effect — pathos, wry recognition, gut-busting laughter — out of fewer, simpler lines than anybody else. Her style is minimal to begin with, but the slightest change to the curve of a mouth line or the angle at which an arm is cocked results in a primal, visceral sense of recognition.

That is pure smugness your brain tells you of the character on the page, or That dad joke physically hurts me why would you do that to me Abby Howard, why, why or That creature that I thought was hideously frightening is actually cute. Every time she pulls one of those tricks, it makes the panel in question stick in your brain, like a song that won’t go away.

And if that panel in question is teaching you about evolution and mutation, or the importance of the amniotic egg to the conquest of the land by non-insect life, or the places of diapsids, synapsids, and anapsids, you’re gonna remember it.

Thus, when Ronnie and Miss Lernin (a dead ringer for Howard herself) find themselves on a new trip back to the dawn of multicellular life in the Cambrian Explosion, and work their way forward through the eras of the Paleozoic to see what critters looked like before dinosaurs? There’s probably no better narrator for our journey than Abby Howard. Not only does her art lend itself to the variety of creatures and plants encountered, her paleontologist training serves well to ensure that the journey is as scientifically accurate as modern understanding allows¹.

This is particularly true in her insistence on providing pronunciation cues for most of the species that Ronnie and Miss Lernin encounter, and it a habit that all long-weird-name-including graphic novels should adopt immediately². Like last year’s Dinosaur Empire!, Ocean Renegades! is a fun, informative (for any age; no matter who you are, dinosaur-era creatures, pre-dinosaur-era creatures, and post-dinosaur-era creatures have been subject to scientific discovery and re-evaluation since you last looked at them) introduction to a deep, immensely interesting topic.

I’m going to guess that Ms Lernin and Ronnie make one more appearance in the Earth Before Us series, as there’s still the Cenozoic Era to explore. Ronnie loves the cute critters, I can’t wait to see what she loves in the Age Of Horns, or how she feels about the now-extinct glyptodont (giant armadillos) and megatherium (ground-dwelling enormo-sloths³).

In the meantime, I will revisit Ocean Renegades! on a regular basis, and provide copies to kids (of every age) that have an interest in giant extinct animals (also trilobites, which were not large but very, very cool and supremely successful in their eco-niche for about 250 million years) that didn’t have to do what mom & dad said because they were HUGE and therefore AWESOME.


Spam of the day:

Free Fox — Most instant Matrix! fly at the start, you will not regret!

You had me with the free fox, but lost me at the end. Don’t presume to tell me what I will or will not regret, spammer scum!

_______________
¹ I caught one error, where a time period was misidentified in terms of how many millions of years ago it was. 4xx should have been 3xx. Confusing for a moment, but any kids reading will likely figure it out for themselves and learn the valuable lesson that even grownups can make mistakes.

² I love you, :01 Books, but you need to include some phonetics in your Science Comics series.

³ And the reason we have avocados. Think about it — that pit? That’s the seed. Ain’t nothing that snacks on an avocado that’s going to carry the seed to new territory unless it’s big enough to a) swallow the avocado whole, and b) poop out the pit a couple days and several kilometers later. Only megatherium is that large, the correct kind of herbivorous, and in the right place/right time to spread avocados up and down what’s now Central America as they migrated into North America a million years ago. Thanks, extinct giant ground sloths!

I Am, All Things Considered, Remarkably Calm

Just five exercises behind in a nine exercise class at the end of Day One.

The class runs two days.