Review – Flash Facts – DC Does Edutainment

DC This Week
Flash Facts cover, via DC Comics.

Flash Facts – Mayim Bialyk, PhD, Editor; Sholly Fisch, Varian and Darian Johnson, Amy Chu, Dustin Hansen, Amanda Deibert, Vita Ayala, Cecil Castellucci, Corinna Bechko, Michael Northrop, Kirk Scroggs, Writers; Isaac Goodhart. Vic Regis, Ile Gonzalez, Dustin Hansen, Erich Own, Andie Tong/Devyn Hansen, Gretel Lusky, Yesenia Moises, Yancey Labat/Monica Kubina, Kirk Scroggs, Artists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: One of the most inventive projects to come out of the DC all-ages OGN line yet, this book doubles as an original anthology and teaching tool. Curated by famous sitcom star, scientist, and STEM education advocate Mayim Bialik, it brings together ten creative teams from both within and outside of the DC talent pool to create original superhero stories that illustrate major scientific principles. But how does this edutainment experiment stack up to a reader?

Barry Allen, forensic scientist. Via DC Comics.

Up first is “Flash Facts” by Sholly Fisch and Isaac Goodhart. This is an interactive story featuring Barry Allen as he introduces forensic science to the reader, showing us how he interacts with a crime scene and figures out which of the Rogues committed a recent heist. The mystery is pretty simple, but I imagine young readers will love the experience of solving a case with Flash. This is very reminiscent of Fisch’s work on Scooby-Doo Team-Up, but with more of a scholarly look at what actually goes into the work of a CSI.

3D printing, Bat-style. Via DC Comics.

Next up are Varian and Darian Johnson, new to DC, paired with Vic Regis on a Batman/Plastic Man team-up story. This is a simpler story, definitely geared towards younger readers, but “If You Can’t Take the Heat” still manages to deliver an interesting primer on the fast-growing world of 3D printing. After Firefly gets the better of Batman, he decides he needs a new heat-resistant suit—and he can build it himself. Plastic Man is mostly along to provide some comic relief as he listens to Batman explain things—and provide one great visual gag at the end.

Amy Chu and Ile Gonzales on “The Facts of Life” is a surprising throwback to Chu’s Poison Ivy miniseries—featuring Ivy as mother to her three sporelings Rose, Hazel, and Thorn. The three of them are rambunctious little girls here and are bored with staying inside, so Ivy invites them into her lab for a hands-on lesson on DNA and a trip to the Gotham Botanical Gardens. Naturally, they get up to some mischief and get an assist from a friend of the family—although I was expecting their stepmom Harley to show up, personally. While it’s an odd choice to center this story around some EXTREMELY obscure characters, I really enjoyed this story and wouldn’t mind the girls becoming a regular part of Ivy’s status quo.

Writer/Artist Dustin Hansen, last seen on My Video Game Ate My Homework, takes the lead on “More Than Meets the Eye,” a Teen Titans Go story that focuses on Beast Boy and Cyborg as they learn about virtual reality. It’s a fun story that does a good job at capturing the snarky banter the two boys always have, and it’s effective at conveying the technology, but I’m a little puzzled by both the subject and the characters chosen. It’s not quite wacky enough to be a TTG story and I kind of would have liked to see the talented Hansen on other DC heroes.

Jessica Cruz saves the power grid. Via DC Comics.

But it seems like this book will be covering characters from across the DC spectrum—pun intended, because “Lights Out” by Amanda Deibert and Erich Owen features Jessica Cruz from the DC Super Hero Girls reality. In the middle of a blackout, Jessica explains the power grid to us as she tries to restore the lights and get her friends back to their video games. Both the cartoon ones definitely feel like they’re geared to a younger audience than the first three, but it picks up with a time travel adventure near the end. It’s definitely more on the “info” side of infotainment, especially as Jessica gives a speech about renewables—important, but not a smooth transition.

Vita Ayala and Andie Tong are the creative team on “Subatomic,” which—to no surprise—is an Atom story. Focusing on Ryan Choi and Mary Marvel with art far more realistic than most of these, it focuses on subatomic technology. Ryan shrinks himself and Mary down to explore the world of protons and quarks, with some great visuals along the way. At only nine pages, this story moves quickly, but it’s a lot of fun. I’m not quite sure where this duo comes from—have they ever interacted before?—but they’re a good match and this story explains its concept well without sacrificing the flow of the dialogue.

Supergirl’s space show. Via DC Comics.

“Home Sweet Space” by Cecil Castellucci and Gretel Lusky focuses on Supergirl as she visits an elementary school for a superhero mentor visit and winds up bonding with a young girl struggling to find anything interesting about Earth. Kara takes her to space for a look at Earth in the grand scheme of the universe. While this is definitely an astronomy lesson first and foremost, Castellucci does a good job at balancing that with some likable dialogue, and Lusky’s art is some of the best Supergirl art I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a great portrayal of Supergirl in both the writing and the art, and I’d love to see more from this team.

Aquafamily in the deep. Via DC Comics.

“Sea for Yourself” by Corinna Bechko and Yesenia Moses is an Aquaman story, as the title basically gives away. With cute and cartoony art that made me think this was child versions of Arthur and Mera at first, it focuses on the duo exploring the ocean as Aquaman seeks unique footage to help a friend with her documentary. The main focus is on the unique ecosystems of the ocean, and it’s interesting to see Mera as the more experienced one of the two—after all, she did grow up in the ocean, unlike Arthur. This story does a particularly good job with sharing unique and interesting facts about ocean wildlife.

Flashes save the planet. Via DC Comics.

“Weather or Not” by Michael Northrop and Yancey Labat brings us back to the Flash family, as Barry shares the focus with Wallace West. The two Flashes are taking a break to play some video games, but Weather Wizard has other plans—attacking the polar ice caps and speeding up climate change. While there is some good information about climate science in this story, this is a fast-paced one heavy on the entertainment—it’s a pretty good classic Flash story, and once again shows that Northrop gets the Justice League headliners better than most writers.

Deep dive with the Swamp guys. Via DC Comics.

Finally, it’s “Human Extremes” by Kirk Scroggs, who is quickly becoming one of DC’s all-stars after “The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid” and “We Found a Monster.” And this story actually features the return of Swamp Kid as his friends! This story is all about the extremes of the human body—how we react to extreme workouts, extreme cold, and extreme heat, among others. The dense style of Scroggs’ work helps him get a lot of info in without losing the rapid-fire dialogue and jokes that set his work apart. This feels like a longer story than the rest, featuring Swamp Thing for a battle with Anton Arcane, and shows that Scroggs’ work is just as good in short bursts as in full OGNs.

Some of these stories work better than others, but overall this book absolutely does what it set out to. There’s even a little book of simple science experiments in the back. I predict it’s going to be a mainstay in school libraries for years to come.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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