Science Comics: Volcanoes

Fire and Life

Jon Chad

ISBN 978-0-9906031-0-8

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott


The newest entry into the Science Comics line by First Second Books, is Volcanoes, those frightening, yet magnificent wonders of the world. Jon Chad, weaves a plot into this one, and although the educational value is always there (featuring a glossary and further readings section), the plot comes first, creating a open and closed graphic novel that is remarkably self-contained in its scope, but indispensable in the knowledge it imparts. Throughout Science Comics: Volcanoes, people will become more familiar with both a statement on climate change, and the role volcanoes and geo-thermal heat play in the world.

A tightly knitted story interlaces the mountainous (excuse the pun) amount of information about volcanoes – their types, forms, and effects. That this was a well-researched graphic novel is an understatement – to say the least. It is the story, though that caught my interest right away, and what a story it is. Taking place in a second ice age, humans have died out into tribes that plunder the ruins of mankind in search of combustibles, the only means of generating heat and keeping warm. When young Aurora stumbles across the archives of an old library that the adventure starts to take a new twist. Enter the volcano, those mighty untapped sources of plasma, the fourth elemental form – a solid with liquid like properties. Aurora tries to convince her fellow scroungers of the immense value that volcanic heat could bring to the tribe in their quest to survive. This well executed story brings out the science in a natural form; not seemingly thrown in for knowledge acquisition. It’s this type of cutting edge story/science interplay that holds the reader intent through the course of Science Comics: Volcanoes.

The artwork is notably European in its style, taking an almost eerie Moebius like effect on the people and environments they are involved in. The lines are clean and deft, well placed on the page and only is a little confusing in its panelation – notably when the most science is thrown at you en masse. Otherwise this is a clean read, with lots of momentum keeping it going. Despite some problems with the placement of information, the story reads easily, and it generally sticks to variants of the tried and true six panel layout.  The speech balloons and expository dialogue (about Volcanoes, what else?) are for the most part, well placed and read well. Colors are washed and as faded as the sun in the story which no longer warms the earth the way it used to. All of this combined,  give a palette to whet the senses.

Combined, the artwork and the story make this a really good read. The no-frills artwork combined with a stellar background story actually makes learning about volcanoes fun. That is how science should be presented. After all if there is no pursuit, there is no gain. And the wealth of material within this graphic novel brings both areas with three on base and a home run.

Having read other ‘Science Comics’ titles, this would definitely be at the top of my list for quality, and informative purposes.  A finely tuned blend of science and story put this miles above the previous titles and heralds a new beginning of sorts to the ‘Science Comics’ line. For the budding geologist, or for the curious about natures perhaps most destructive course, Science Comics: Volcanoes holds something for you.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*