cover image Hawking


Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick. First Second, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62672-025-1

This layered graphic biography of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking presents a heroic yet nuanced portrait of the 20th century’s second-most famous scientist, after Albert Einstein. A gawky motormouthed teen “hopeless at building things, and speaking Hawkingese,” Hawking was a brilliant yet haphazard student at Oxford, with no respect for the “grey men” who spent their time studying. The physics that filled his buzzing mind are explored by Ottaviani (Feynman) as less a field of study than as Hawking’s own joyful pursuit, and Myrick’s dramatically angled but simplistic artwork often renders his subject with a wry grin. The motor neuron disease that eventually progressed to Hawking requiring a motorized wheelchair plays in the background while the authors unfurl complex spreads laying out how Hawking debated with his contemporaries and used his equations to explore the far corners of existence (“At this level, math is as much art as it is anything else”). Hawking’s divorces and emotional distance from his family are poignantly represented, but the story remains about science, which is delivered in an accessible form yet hardly watered down. This smart and wondrously exploratory scientific biography reveals as much about black holes as the man who explored them. (July)

This review has been updated for clarity.