cover image The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human

The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human

Héloïse Chochois, trans. from the French by Kendra Boileau. Graphic Mundi, $24.95 (168p) ISBN 978-0-271-08706-1

Chochois’s insightful storytelling and fresh, playful art turn what could be a grim topic—the science of amputation—into an engaging scientific tour. She frames the narrative around a fictional protagonist who loses an arm in a motorcycle accident. When he awakes in a hospital, pioneering 16th-century surgeon Ambroise Paré emerges from a portrait and takes the amputee on a weird and wonderful time-traveling tour of the history of amputation and prosthetics, from 10,000 BCE to an imagined transhumanist cyborg future. Woven throughout are tender, wordless interludes in which the amputee struggles to adapt to his new life with one arm, relearning how to drink tea, play video games, and hug his partner. Chochois’s skill shows in how she elegantly balances information with visual narrative, avoiding the text-dense pitfalls of many a science comic info dump. As the tale delves into discussing the finer points of phantom limb syndrome and diagrams of prosthesis design, Chochois’s clean, expressive linework remains full of charming details that keep the pacing airy. The amputee dreams of a prosthetic arm that ends in a handy whisk, tissue box, or lighter. (Sorry, a doctor explains, reality is much less exciting). This surprisingly delightful and empathetic examination offers an exemplar in the graphic medicine genre. (May)