Awesome Possum is an anthology of comics with a variety of styles and one thing in common: they’re all designed to show off one of the many aspects of nature. We got an early look at Awesome Possum Volume 4 to see what can be expected from the latest in this series.
Awesome Possum is the brainchild of Angela Boyle, a natural science illustrator and cartoonist with an obvious affinity for nature. As an anthology, Volume 4 is truly eclectic, as there is no theme except for each creator’s obvious love of the natural world, and their desire to talk about it. It’s impressive just how varied and different the stories are.
Among the pieces focusing on specific species of plants and animals, there are stories focusing on the lives of scientists and writers, or the human impact on ecology. The subjects range from the impact of invasive species to explaining the science behind freshwater and saltwater fish. Everyone involved is discussing something specific that interests them and it shows.
The variety in this book isn’t just down to the subject matter, it’s about how the stories are told and presented. The tones can vary from humorous and energetic to thoughtful and helpful. Pieces like David Kirkham’s “The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Black Country” have a sense of fun and a frantic energy. Then there’s David Humphreys’ “Are Zoos a Good Idea?” which comes across as an objective and informative piece designed to help you come to your own conclusions. We even have pieces like Elisa Järnefelt’s “Human Filter,” which makes us look at how we see the world through our own lenses.
The art styles all vary significantly, which again adds to the variety of this book. Some pieces, like Nancy Canyon’s “Bone Collector,” favor a more realistic sketch style, which suits the subject of skull structures. Then you have something like Hedj’s “The Casual Carnivore,” which uses an expressive style with a Disney-like feel and a clever framework to make you understand how sometimes the word “herbivore” is a rigid human concept in a flexible world.
Sometimes the work is more reminiscent of annotated text books, such as Elise Smorczewski’s “Chicken Scratch,” with its realistic-looking diagrams and sketches. Although even with that story, Smorczewski does a great job with some clever ideas to accompany the facts, making it informative without feeling like a chore.
While the book has a friendly and laid back feel, that doesn’t make it lackadaisical when it comes to the facts, as there’s a bibliography with references for each of the stories. Awesome Possum Volume 4 is a book that wants to entertain and inspire, but the presence of this bibliography and an index show that it’s equally willing to make it easier to learn more about the subject matter.
My only criticism is that the page count (229 in total) made it feel a little too big and intimidating for something that’s aimed at a younger audience. Of course that’s offset when you realize a large amount of the page count is due to some great illustrations, with 35 different cartoonists and illustrators represented. The book is best enjoyed by flicking through and picking a story that interests you or suits your mood, although that’s no slight on the contents or the work involved.
Awesome Possum Volume 4 is available beginning November 5th, 2018. It will also be available at angelabcomica.storenvy.com.
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