Have you dreamt of a richly-illustrated, geology-themed superhero comic for kids? One that not only gets the science right, but encourages great study habits, turns ordinary encounters into fantastical geologic adventures, models kindness and heart-warming family dynamics, and encourages creativity, all without talking down to kids for an instant? My darlings, your dreams just came true:
When I first got my hands on an advance copy of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, I squeed. I did. Because I am a nerd, people. I love geology, and I thoroughly enjoy superhero comics, and I adore media that put someone other than a generic white male in the spotlight for a change. And this comic book is written by Kanani K. M. Lee, an actual geophysicist whose specialty is the interior of the earth – and writing rocking great geologic comics. Illustrator Adam Wallenta brings her characters to vivid life, with blazing, bold color illustrations.
Our hero is George, a sweet and brilliant African-American boy who lives with his grandma and has a secret identity. He’s an ordinary boy worried about getting to school on time and passing his earth science test. But when cracks in the sidewalk menace, he transforms into Geo, a geologically-savvy superhero. His skateboard becomes a rocket-board, and his backpack becomes Rocky, his faithful robot dog. The sidewalk cracks morph into tectonic plates; an open manhole erupts as a raging volcano (from which he saves a visually-impaired woman). He encounters earthquakes and tsunamis, ties the geological drama to the lessons on the earth’s structure and plate tectonics taught by his science teacher, and after heroic feats of recall, aces his test.
It’s a richly-imagined world that vividly shows the way the plates move, and how those movements are driven by titanic forces deep within our home planet. Using diagrams, analogies, and dramatic illustrations how the varied geologic phenomena Geo experienced can all be tied to those plate motions. Dr. Lee manages to pack a textbook-worth of information in, but paces it in such a way that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. And the characters she’s created are a delight.
This may not be a suitable comic for very young children (unless they’re the kind of kids who started using complex technical terms at the age of five), but you can feel quite comfortable getting a copy for anyone from grade school to senior citizen. Anyone who loves comics, science, or both will enjoy this tale. And the second half of the book is an excellent prose tutorial on plate tectonics, paleomagnetic reversals, the earth’s structure, seismology, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, and finishes with a primer on what geologists actually do that will help everyone realize there’s more to it than just rocks. The final section gives links to geology activities suitable for trying at home. Neat!
I can’t tell you what a relief The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic is after spending over a month buried in creationist textbooks that not only mutilate geoscience, but have severely stunted imaginations. This is the comic I’ll be slipping to kids who are stuck learning sham science. It shows the real thing, and in a gorgeous way. It’s the book I’ll be giving to kids who want to know more about geoscience, and the people who think rocks are boring, and the folks who care about diversity in STEM, and anyone who needs a gentle nudge to see how rewarding diversity can be. I can see this as the lovingly-battered book people slip off a shelf to show as the comic that got them in to science, or helped them understand the news when things like the Napa quake happen.
And I’m so thrilled we’ll be seeing Geo again – I’m told more adventures are already in the works. I can’t wait!
This review was originally published at Rosetta Stones. But you guys are the only ones getting the bonus kitty pic!