Last of the Sandwalkers
It’s been too long since Jay Hosler (The Sandwalk Adventures, Clan Apis) brought out one of his amazing true science comics. He’s got a gift for explaining complex biological topics in entertaining adventure stories. Last of the Sandwalkers continues that trend with the story of a group of beetles seeking to learn more about their desert civilization.
Lucy, a scientist, is keeping a journal of their expedition, based on her idea to explore. She’s accompanied by the knowledgeable Professor Bombardier, the flying Raef, the rhino-like Mossy, and the evil Professor Owen, an obnoxious stick-in-the-mud who thinks everything should stay the way it is. I was surprised to see an underlying theme of religious conservatism, and even more, exploitation of that condition by the ruling class to stay in power, in a book about insects, but that illustrates how deep and thoughtful Hosler’s work can be.
Through Lucy’s many inventions, we learn about how the beetles gather water and the dangers they face in the cold of night, as well as their unique natural defense mechanisms. There’s a real sense of danger facing these explorers, whether from unexpected beasties or a sandstorm. They face off with spiders, birds, and bats, all beautifully drawn, as well as a wide variety of other insects.
The characters are strong and distinct, with revelations throughout the book about their relations to each other (and some amazing technological advances!). Bombardier is a particular favorite, teaching the younger creatures etiquette as well as science and survival. There are also some ridiculous puns, which are charming in their good-heartedness.
The end notes give a lot more information on the science, including where to find more information on the various species of beetles Hosler portrays and his artistic influences, including Tezuka and Kirby. I admire his reticence in only including one Beatles pun, although it’s a doozy.
Last of the Sandwalkers amazes me in how much adventure, drama, emotion, and yes, education it packs into its 300 pages. And all with bugs! To find out more about the author and his goals, here’s an online interview.