Creating a scientific comic book that explains the story of our origins from the Big Bang, to evolution, to the dawn of human civilization is no trivial task. Doing that in rhyming verse as well is a gargantuan undertaking; but one which James Dunbar just about manages to pull off.
I’ve just read Great Apes!, the third and final book in Dunbar’s Universe Verse series. A couple of years ago I reviewed his second book for Wired’s Geek Dad and much of what I said then applies just as well today:
You really have to love any book that starts with a notice that reads: Warning: This book contains graphic depictions of scientific knowledge which may lead to decreased ignorance and heightened sensations of awe and wonder.
Now I have to admit I’m a bit torn here. The books are absolutely beautiful. The illustrations are lovely. The science seems to be largely spot-on: getting a decent grade from even my nuclear physicist father-in-law. The verse is even very clever. But there were times I wished that the author hadn’t chosen verse to make his point. There were points that the rhymes were a bit tortured, and places where the scientific point was a bit harder to follow because of a rhyme. It’s one thing to poetically describe a daffodil or your true-love’s eyes; using rhyme to describe nuclear fusion is a whole different order of difficulty. That said, I stand in such awe of someone even trying that it’s easy to forgive a few awkward constructions.
I continue to wish that Dunbar hadn’t chosen rhyme, but also continue to stand in awe of what he’s achieved. My team of reviewers also had slightly mixed feelings. My Senior Scientist Correspondents, Jean L. and Don L. felt that the text was sometimes hard to follow, but in contrast my Senior Junior Correspondents Callum P. and Declan P., who are more the target demographic, both thought the books fun, entertaining and “just awesome”.
Dunbar has just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the publication of all three of the books in a single, high-quality hardcover book: The Universe Verse. Low resolution electronic versions of the books are available for free through Dunbar’s website, where you can also find links to purchase high-resolution versions (which I can recommend for viewing on an iPad).