spontaneousMelvin was blowing out the candles on his 3rd birthday cake when his dad felt hot and then burst into flames. As he grew up, Melvin concluded that his dad was a victim of spontaneous human combustion. So, he devotes his life to figuring out how spontaneous human combustion works and who will be a victim. As he continues his research, he finds even more victims than he would have thought. After a gruesome incident in the mall, he meets Emily, an “investigative reporter at large.” While she doesn’t have a regular job at a newspaper, she strongly believes in investigative journalism. So, they team up to take on the story and uncover the mother of all conspiracy cover-ups.

The underlying story is intriguing, and it definitely starts with a bang, or rather, a spontaneous combustion. However, I find it flattens out from there. Most of the action is fairly predictable, and that which isn’t just seems random. A minor character does something unique, but then we never hear from him again.

I didn’t find that I particularly liked anyone, either, but that could also be the thin character development in the rather short, yet action packed book. However, it does have an interesting concept as its focus and includes a couple nice plot twists. Plus, you can’t beat this book for ratio of action scenes to number of pages.

The art, however, is my favorite part of the book. At first, I thought it was weird, but it grew on me. The outlines of characters are drawn like you might find in another graphic setting, but the coloring looks like an impressionist’s watercolor, if he/she only had blue, orange, and yellow. The color washes across the characters with only a minimal difference to help them stand out. There is also a gritty coating to most of the frames, like a light coating of ash covers the town or perhaps the book. The whole look sets the mood for a fast-paced, intriguing story with everyone living in a blue-gray world being visited by the yellow wrath of the spontaneous combustion gods…

Overall, I would say this was an OK book. It was interesting enough that it kept me entertained while it lacked that certain something to make me love it. However, an action-loving teen will probably get into it and maybe even want to start researching spontaneous human combustion.

by Joe Harris
Art by Brett Weldele
ISBN: 9781934964743
Oni Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

  • Sarah Wright

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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