Marie Curie: A Quest for Light

Marie Curie: A Quest for Light
Marie Curie A Quest for Light review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: IDW - 978-1-68405-837-2
  • Release date: 2020
  • English language release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781684058372
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Biography, European

Marie Curie’s scientific curiosity was such that she almost single-handedly generated new areas of research, yet her tragedy was not fully understanding the effects her pioneering from the start. Constant exposure to radioactive substances hastened her death, although she survived into her sixties, and her belongings are stored in lead-lined containers as exposure remains dangerous. A series of scientific firsts speak to her importance and legacy, not least a Nobel Prize for physics, and another for chemistry.

Co-writers Frances Andreasen Østerfelt and Anja Cetti Andersen begin with the infancy of the then Marya Skłodowska in Poland, a prodigious intelligence recognised from an early age as she taught her elder siblings to read. They embed her youth in her times, explaining social and cultural pressures of an occupied country whose citizens weren’t permitted to speak their own language.

However, as efficient and informative as that is, what really makes A Quest for Light stand out is the artistic approach taken by Anna Blaszczyk. Instead of conventional panel to panel continuity she supplies pictures of the type found in children’s books, using assorted illustrative techniques, with the sample art a particularly dazzling show of capabilities. Delicacy and creativity abound, and this is no isolated example. Plenty more await, all carefully considered to reflect specific circumstances.

The writing alternates between narrative explanations, personal thoughts and imagined dialogue, always a double edged sword in biographies, yet never pushing the bounds of credibility here. It accompanies a continuing presentation of Marie Curie in her surroundings, enabling an understanding of her motivations and impulses as her life is characterised numerous passions beyond her husband. Watching her father’s scientific experiments triggers a lifelong habit, while learning and teaching are also emphasised.

These are the dominant aspects of A Quest for Light, and it’s beyond halfway before the achievements for which Curie is known begin to filter through, by then thoroughly understandable as an extension of what’s shaped her. The contextualisation extends to pages devoted to the achievements of pioneers upon whose work Curie would build, and extends to her life in Paris after marriage.

With the exception of Pierre Curie’s death, tragedy is largely absent from a compelling biography concentrating instead on inspiration, achievement and legacy. Despite seeming relatively brief and featuring many full page illustrations, an amazing life is accorded full due, and Blaszczyk’s talent elevates it.