Every world-changing scientist deserves such an entertaining but factually rich treatment.
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: First Second
Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019
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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.
The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.
R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.
Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009
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Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.
A new life and book arise from the ashes of a devastating California wildfire.
These days, it seems the fires will never end. They wreaked destruction over central California in the latter months of 2018, dominating headlines for weeks, barely a year after Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, 2009) lost nearly everything to the fires that raged through Northern California. The result is a vividly journalistic graphic narrative of resilience in the face of tragedy, an account of recent history that seems timely as ever. “A two-story house full of our lives was a two-foot heap of dead smoking ash,” writes the author about his first return to survey the damage. The matter-of-fact tone of the reportage makes some of the flights of creative imagination seem more extraordinary—particularly a nihilistic, two-page centerpiece of a psychological solar system in which “the fire is our black hole,” and “some veer too near and are drawn into despair, depression, divorce, even suicide,” while “others are gravitationally flung entirely out of our solar system to other cities or states, and never seen again.” Yet the stories that dominate the narrative are those of the survivors, who were part of the community and would be part of whatever community would be built to take its place across the charred landscape. Interspersed with the author’s own account are those from others, many retirees, some suffering from physical or mental afflictions. Each is rendered in a couple pages of text except one from a fellow cartoonist, who draws his own. The project began with an online comic when Fies did the only thing he could as his life was reduced to ash and rubble. More than 3 million readers saw it; this expanded version will hopefully extend its reach.Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.
Pub Date: March 5, 2019
Page Count: 160
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018
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