Max Axiom, “super scientist,” stars in his 9th and 10th adventures, investigating the science behind drones and robots.
Each book has a brief introduction of the framing plot and then consists of Max Axiom interviewing various scientists and technicians and sometimes explaining the science to his audience. In The Dynamic World of Drones, Axiom is hanging out in the batting cage with a young friend, Brody, when he finds out that they need aerial photos of the recreation areas in order to build more baseball fields. This starts a trip first to Max’s lab to use his own quadcopter drone and then on trips to a weather center, military base, and space center to explore other drones. Along the way readers will learn about biomimetic drones (drones that mimic animals), experimental prototypes for space travel, and many other uses for drones.
In The Remarkable World of Robots, Max Axiom has been called in for an important mission—to research robots for a museum’s upcoming exhibit. Max starts by learning about the basics of a robot’s construction and programming and then visits a variety of labs and factories to investigate different types of robots. He looks at factory models that are built for a single repetitive function, robots inspired by animals, and social robots and android programs. When Max gets home, he checks on his own robot—a robot vacuum—and realizes that maybe robot technology still has a ways to go!
Both titles include additional information about their subjects in inset sections and backmatter that includes a profile of Max Axiom: Super Scientist, more information on the subject, critical thinking questions, glossary, bibliography, link to the publisher’s website, and index.
The art is created by a studio, not credited to an individual artist. There is a fair amount of diversity pictured; Max is black and the scientists he talks to often include women and people of a variety of races. When he’s in his “super scientist” guise, Max wears a dramatic, long white lab coat with lightning bolts. The diagrams and machines are clearly and neatly drawn, although not with any degree of detail. Other than Max, there are no other characters. He talks to a lot of scientists, but they’re generally not introduced beyond the occasional mention of a first name and are all there just to talk about their subject. Their drawn forms are unmemorable and they look like stock photos of office workers. There are also several instances in both titles where the speech bubbles are not positioned correctly, making the dialogue confusing.
Some kids get really into blends of science and story or narrative nonfiction, but these titles don’t really fit either of those genres. They’re basically talking heads explaining science topics. Max is a rather ridiculous character; supposedly he has super intelligence, the ability to shrink, and his lab coat lets him travel through time and space but none of those abilities were in evidence in these two titles. He rides a motorcycle to appointments and, since he is asking all these people for information on their subjects, appears to lack even basic knowledge of robots and only knows a few simple facts about his own quadcopter drone. The “important” call from the museum director in Robots is about making a cool exhibit, which is just silly.
Kids who aren’t actually interested in superheroes but are interested in science may find these rather bland offerings to be of interest, especially if they are of the “any pictures are better than no pictures” school of reluctant readers. However, actual superhero fans will find these bland at best and patronizingly juvenile at worst. I would look at Capstone’s blends of real superheroes and scientific concepts or Lynda Beauregard’s Summer Camp Science Mysteries for better blends of graphic storytelling and science.
Max Axiom STEM Adventures Series
by Agnieszka Biskup, Nikole Bethea
Art by Pixelpop Studios Bethea
The Remarkable World of Robots
The Dynamic World of Drones
Capstone Graphic Library, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-12