Every world-changing scientist deserves such an entertaining but factually rich treatment.

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HAWKING

In which the sometimes-irascible but mostly genial British mathematician finds himself a superhero in a comic-book life.

“Is God bound by the laws of physics?” So wondered young Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), who soon enough would find himself bound by motor neurone disease. In the end, after years of thinking about it, he responded in the negative to an interviewer’s question, “Is there room for God in the universe you describe?” Hawking worried about all kinds of things, easily blending the worlds of mathematics and physics. Toward the end of his life, for instance, the thought occurred to him that any extraterrestrials who visited Earth would conclude that humans were a pest and needed to be exterminated. Before that, as writer Ottaviani and artist Myrick (co-authors: Feynman, 2011) note in this fluent, fun graphic biography, Hawking advanced striking theories in a scientific world whose key players sometimes seemed stuck in Newtonian physics—for example, by looking at the mathematics of white dwarf stars, the expanding universe, black holes, and so forth. You might jump into a black hole, he posited, but you would not be able to reverse the direction of the arrow of time, so that by jumping in in the past, you would wind up in the future. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to come up with enough math to prove anything about this,” says a doubtful interlocutor, to which Hawking replies, “Perhaps not. But I’d rather be right than rigorous.” Readers new to Hawking’s ideas, and particularly his enigmatic musings about the nature of time, will find this book, cartoonish as it is, to be full of insight; the science is sharp and to the point. And there are moments of good humor and beauty alike, especially in the vision of Hawking ascending, godlike, toward the event horizon, taking his place in the heavens.

Every world-changing scientist deserves such an entertaining but factually rich treatment.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62672-025-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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