Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth
Written by Jay Hosler
Illustrated by Zander Cannon & Kevin Cannon
Published by Hill & Wang
There’s a joke about the blasphemy of this book somewhere in here, but let’s cut to the chase. Following on 2009’s The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA (with writer Mark Schultz), artists Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon return to the science fold. This time, it’s Jay Hosler (who brings experience in both science and comics writing to the table, including his “life of a honey bee” epic Clan Apis) handling the script, and Charles Darwin’s favorite theory finds itself in the spotlight.
The framing device for Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, like the Cannons’ previous science-fact effort, focuses on the king of the alien Glargalian Empire and his son meeting with one of their scientists to determine a solution to their species’ genetic crisis. After the last book’s DNA lesson, chief researcher Bloort explains to his regent the recently (to the Glargalians) uncovered Earth-based theory of evolution and its many benefits.
Granted, that’s just the framing device. Most of the book focuses on explaining the ins and outs of evolutionary theory, with plentiful supporting examples. Hosler does an excellent job matching The Stuff of Life’s whimsical humor, and he uses repetition (typically, either the king or prince repeating information to be sure they understand what they’ve learned) very effectively to reinforce the ideas put forth. Hosler also touches on certain misconceptions about evolution (such as it being forward-looking, or the notion that intelligence equals greater evolutionary development). Mostly, the book succeeds because the information is presented clearly and with many practical examples, and the tone makes for entertaining reading.
The artwork by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who, I have it on good authority, are in no way related to one another, suits the book’s upbeat tone and educational importance nicely. Their cartoony style provides humor and playful visual gags throughout the narrative, and they’re able to depict everything from bacteria to dinosaurs, DNA to dolphins convincingly. Finally, the pacing and storytelling is clear and easy for casual readers to follow.
The value of comics as educational tools is well known, but it’s always exciting (to me, anyway) to find a truly engaging, smartly written, well drawn educational comic – something that enforces the value and magnificence of sciences and learning. Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth provides readers with a lot of information, but it’s the entertainment along the way that will hopefully encourage young readers to learn more.