Sea Creatures in Their Own Words 1: Reef Madness

Sea Creatures in Their Own Words 1: Reef Madness
Sea Creatures in Their Own Words Reef Madness review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Papercutz - 978-1-62991-661-3
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2013
  • English language release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781629916613
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Sea Creatures in Their Own Words has run to six volumes so far in France, and just a quick sample shows why it’s popular. Christophe Cazenove and Jytéry supply 44 single page joke strips that also pack in a fair amount of information about assorted undersea species.

Cazenove sells his education supremely well, with good gags and just the right amount of plain disgusting facts, such as the investigation of the starfish on the sample art. The subtitle of ‘In Their Own Words’ is generated by the creatures generally explaining to another breed, although occasionally a small girl accompanying her father around a sea life centre is used to prompt the explanations.

There’s no great theme. It seems Cazenove just settles on whatever his research has turned up, so a strip about the Monkfish is followed by one on how oysters create pearls, then a rare two page outing presenting now extinct marine life that grew to a massive size. Sometimes Cazenove will group a page of single panels around a topic, such as threatened species or fish that can briefly survive out of water. It seems a random affair whether or not a strip ends with a fact box, but some do.

Jytéry ensures his assorted fish, amphibians and crustaceans are recognisable species in their cartoon form, although especially with some of the tropical fish the colouring by Alexandre Amouriq and Mirabelle is required to distinguish the breed. Jytéry (Thierry Puyjarinet) is another in a long line of Franco-Belgian cartoonists who makes the process seem so effortless, which of course it’s not. He’s very skilled, and that’s evident in the construction of strips requiring more than usual amounts of information, yet still restricted to a page. While the shark on the cover is a striking single image and selling point, look closely and it’s apparent that this shark has seen better days and has been in a few fights.

While aimed at children, like all the best all-ages graphic novels this is something adults will equally enjoy not only reading to them, but pulling off their shelf at night for quick catch-up. Armed & Dangerous is next.