Rating: 4.5/5 – Our Bodies, Our Cells…Edutainment at It’s Best!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
Mankind has struggled with the idea of using comic books for educational purposes since perhaps not too long after the first inkbrush hit the paper. Rather than dismiss them as youth-corrupting rotters of the brain, artists and educators alike have done their best to utilize this medium to inform as well as entertain. Often, the results are mixed. Stray too far into the educational realm, and it’s almost seen as pandering which any kid can see right through. Go too far toward the entertainment side of things, however, and you risk not getting your point across. Cells at Work! is an example of how to do it right.
Simply put, I wish I’d had this book when I was getting Ds in my science class in high school. Would I have aced the human biology test? Maybe, maybe not, but my score would have been at least a little bit higher. The book takes the human body and converts it to a massive building complex, where red blood cells, who seem to dress like UPS or FedEx workers, deliver small packages of Oxygen through the bustling hallways of the arteries, and return through the veins with carbon dioxide. One particular red blood cell keeps running into a particularly creepy looking white blood cell – hey, you’d look creepy too if your job was fighting disease and invaders all day – and the two learn more about each other’s world while fighting off a zombie invasion in the form of the flu, a cut that exposes the “building” to the world outside the body, and the occasional allergic reaction.
While Red and White Blood Cells are the clear stars of the show, there’s plenty of time for cameos from Macrophages, Killer T-Cells, Memory Cells, Mast Cells, and if you don’t find the Platelets adorable, I don’t know what to tell you. All these cells work as a (mostly) coherent unit to keep the business of the building intact, and they’ve only scratched the surface of what’s to come. As a diabetic, I’m anxiously awaiting the appearance of Insulin as a character or weapon to be used. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.
Really, that’s the only question I have about this series…how long can they keep it going and keep readers engaged with it? Will the novelty and fun peter out by the time I reach volume four? The first volume of this book joins the hard science of the human body with the action and excitement of great manga (the strep virus looks straight out of Dragonball Z) and make it all look effortless. I’m genuinely curious as to how long they can avoid becoming stale or running out of material.
This book is a shining example of the real potential of comics. No, it’s not going to replace an actual textbook, and if my doctor said they’d used it as the background for their work, I’d likely go running from the building, but if someone was truly struggling with the concept of human biology, Cells at Work! explains it in a fairly unique way that might help it make sense. Then, of course, you have to return to that textbook, but perhaps with a better understanding of how everything works. Plus you might have found a smile or two along the way. Perhaps education can’t always be this entertaining, but this book certainly challenges that idea.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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