In a mix of comic-book panels and print, a wild ride through the digestive system is positively clogged with scientific information.
Opening a trilogy originally published in Korean, the tale puts fussbudget Dr. Brain and reckless young Geo aboard a virus-shaped experimental craft that, à la The Fantastic Voyage, shrinks to microscopic size just in time to be inadvertently gobbled down by Phoebe—a cast member with dark skin, “jungle instincts” and a huge appetite. With Dr. Brain explaining in detail both anatomical features and what’s coming next, he and Geo view extreme close-ups of Phoebe’s mouth, esophagus and stomach as she chews and swallows. Then it’s “ONWARD TO THE DUODENUM!” Narrowly surviving hazards from peristalsis to indigestion as they go, and blasting potential menaces from H. pylori bacteria to slavering hookworms, the voyagers nearly make it to Pheobe’s anus before they’re absorbed into the intestinal wall to set the stage for the next episode. Interspersed among the pages of high-action, manga-style pages of comic art are frequent spreads of conventional text that repeat and expand on Dr. Brain’s adjacent lectures. The interlocking infodumps not only provide overviews of each stage of digestion (with side notes on topics like proper nutrition, sanitary practices and common diseases), but also identify, for instance, the three types of salivary glands, the specific anthelmintic drug for hookworm infestation, and fecal indicators of disease.
Typecast characters aside, this heavy but nourishing banquet of facts will slide down easily thanks to the art’s mix of often gross physical comedy and recognizably rendered anatomy. (index) (Graphic nonfiction. 11-14)