Max Axiom is a series of science comic books that I’ve been hearing about for awhile, but finally broke down an bought a few of. Unfortunately, they don’t have them at my library. There are many volumes of the series out, covering a wide array of topics across the sciences. The ones I bought were about cells and photosynthesis, to tie into our life science study this year, but there are titles about nearly everything.
There’s a lot to like about them. The information in each volume is great and the concept is just plain cool. I like that the main character, as well as many of the other characters, are people of color. Sometimes series like this have very mediocre art, but the art in these is perfectly fine. The writing is also fine. Each volume is short and would be readable by most kids second or third grade and up and could be a good introduction to the topic all the way through middle school.
Sadly though, they weren’t quite what I hoped for. The publisher advertises that Max Axiom uses, “powers acquired in a freak accident,” and that he can shrink down to explore an atom or actually ride on a sound wave. Cool concept, right? Reading that, I imagined Max Axiom was a superhero Mrs. Frizzle, using the powers of science to catch the bad guys. I wanted him fighting El Seed and explaining plant reproduction at the same time or riding that sound wave to defeat some bad guy who made annoying noises while explaining how sound waves work. Or something along those lines. Regardless, I imagined there was a plot. There’s not. That description on the back of the book is more plot than is actually contained inside the book. If Max Axiom did get his powers from a freak accident, it’s never referenced in these volumes. Max Axiom just looks cool and explains the concepts for us or some random kid who asks about them.
Basically, I think these were a wasted opportunity. They’re not bad or anything, and they do look appealing so they may get some kids reading about science and have probably sold well to schools looking for “fun” supplements. If they did have them at the library, I would definitely check them all out. However, they don’t really do anything more engaging than a Let’s Read and Find Out book (though at a slightly higher level of knowledge) and they’re not even as creative storytelling as a Magic School Bus book.
For a better, more nuanced comic about science, take a look at Jay Hosler’s work for older kids and adults. For younger kids, the two Zig and Wikki books from TOON Books cover ecology topics and also have a lot more creativity to them than this series.