The Stuff of Life

The Stuff of Life

I like true science comics, like the works by Jay Hosler or written by Jim Ottaviani or the Manga Guides to various fields.

When I saw The Stuff of Life: A graphic guide to genetics and DNA, I thought it would be another great book in the genre. Heck, it was both blurbed by Hosler and illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who previously worked with Ottaviani on two books, T-Minus: The Race to the Moon and Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards. Unfortunately, I was severely disappointed.

The Stuff of Life

First, I found the premise, written by written by Mark Schultz, silly. The framing sequence has an alien named Bloort 183 reporting on human genetics to the king, Floorsh 727. Aliens with goofy names? Ok, maybe they wanted something visually interesting, since this is a comic. Nope. The aliens are stalks with a flower on top with an eye in the middle. They’re lumpy and boring.

They feature in a very text-heavy, yawn-inducing introduction. Why does a book on genetics start with the formation of the planet Earth? I thought I was in the wrong volume. The overwritten text doesn’t work well as comics — the pictures illustrate the words instead of integrating with them. The art is quite good, actually; it’s a shame that the small size of the book and the copious amounts of text don’t show it off better.

By the time they start the genetics information, they’re throwing concepts, facts, and specialized terms at the reader rapidly. The alien nattering becomes a distraction instead of a way into the pile of jargon.

I’m not sure who the audience for this is. Younger readers will be put off by the relatively advanced vocabulary. Older readers (college level, for example) will likely find the comedy aliens too silly. I only made it 25 pages into the 150-page book before I gave up — it was making me sleepy. I will say, flipping through the rest, it seems very thorough and in-depth in covering its subject, but I was too bored to continue.

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