I’m not, generally speaking, a huge fan of the graphic novel. Being more verbal than visual by nature, I prefer to imagine my characters, but I can’t deny the draw for children – especially those who are emergent readers. Anything that gets kids making the link between story and books has got to be good, and David Follett’s Uncle Silas: Genetis is about as fun, lighthearted, and sumptuously illustrated as it gets.
Selena and Tommy are siblings who are close to their slightly loopy scientist uncle Silas Mortimer Mulch. When they respond to his call to come and see a surprise, they are greeted by his organic computer Sofia, who tells them that their uncle is in danger and that they must save him. As they get be-suited and sucked into the greenhouse, they find a welter of self-propagating plants and other fascinating life forms that raise a number of scientific questions about how we define life, how we determine individuality, and what humanity's relationship is with the natural world. The kids also find new strength within themselves as they grow into the challenge (in more ways than one) and save both their uncle and the computer.
There’s a definite Avatar feeling to the greenhouse, as the suits that Selena and Tommy wear protect and support them, while connecting with Sofia. In order to find out critical information about the environment they find themselves in, the siblings have to go to the fungi for a reading of to find out more about the greenhouse and their uncle. Silas's work involves splicing DNA with electrometers and nanotechnology in order to speed up the growth factors of his plants, but there's plenty in there that he doesn't understand. From a Science Fiction perspective, Follett has quite a few threads running through this about humanities relationship with the environment and Uncle Silas himself is an interesting and evocative character that hints at more than is revealed in this book. Where will it end up? What will happen to the greenhouse? What about Sofia? (the whole notion of an ‘organic’ computer is intruiging). Obviously there will have to be a sequel.
Uncle Silas: Genetis moves very quickly through the story – perhaps a little too quickly, though children won’t mind the pace, and is illustrated throughout with fantastic, vivid colours, dramatic images, and powerful, superhero styled characterisation. I particularly like the cute little ‘green man’ styled son – there are definitely some philosophical questions that he raises, and I’ll be waiting anxiously for the sequel to find out what happens with him, and whether the paternal instinct can override the natural sense of difference/separateness between man and plant. Young children will read it quickly, taking it at face value and enjoying the suspense, the adventure, and the gorgeous illustrations. Older children and adults may well ponder the questions it raises.
4.0 out of 5 starsThe Deep Green Unknown, November 29, 2010
By AndreiB -In a global comic market where the old hands and industry watchmen plead for creators to make something fresh and engaging to all ages (*especially children*), it's a great experience to walk down to a comic store and pick up the first volume of a new series that's got so much to offer.
Our adventure begins as two quarreling siblings, Selena and Tommy, visit their mad old uncle Silas's house to see what he's been up to in his greenhouse full of plant experiments. When they arrive, they discover he has gone missing in his vastly overgrown greenhouse, and it's up to them to rescue him. They get geared up in some wonderfully chunky Megaman-esque hard suits, complete with radars, pod-shooting plant-tranquilisers and head into the overgrown forest to find out what's happened.
This new series by South Australian author and artist David Follett has been widely described as a title for kids, but that's selling it short. Without giving too many spoilers away, Tommy and Selena find the forest of Silas's greenhouse is a lot more complex than just being a place full of giant flytraps and mischevious sprites. Follett begins to introduce a meta narrative very early into the series with Tommy and Selena learning that they're "a part of the forest" and all elements of life are, in some way or another, connected. Follett's creative reworking of the forest internet system is a great way to get tech-savvy kids to think in original ways about the linking of all ecosystems. The best part is he manages to insert this message without diluting the fun of two kids having an action-adventure in a fantastically illustrated forest.
And my god, it is well illustrated. The colouring is amazingly lush and detailed - far *too* detailed for this print size. If Dark Horse do another print in a A4 gloss paperback, I'd recommend this even more, because the level of detail in the panels is incredible. To give you an idea, the opener stretches one panel for two full pages without any issues whatsoever, but when we reach this panel in the story it's about 4cm by 5cm. Crazy!
It's hard to pick faults, but if there is one, it is the pacing. Being an action adventure with a lot of discoveries along the way, Selena and Tommy are not given the chance to stop and take a breath. There's no 'cooldown' panels - as soon as the kids are in the greenhouse it's full steam ahead. Hopefully the second volume gives the kids a chance to slow down and learn more about their newly found links to the deep green unknown.