First off, when you start reading this graphic novel, make sure to have a bookmark present. I made the mistake of starting without one. Considering there are no page numbers, you can imagine how much time I wasted trying to find my place again in a graphic novel with over 250 pages.
Anyway, “Life · Blood · DNA” is the first graphic novel of the “LEGEND OF SUMERIA” three part series written by duo Jay Webb and Biju Parekkadan, boasting with design and illustrations by Anthony LaGaipa and his troupe of artists. The novel does consist of a bit of violence and sexual content, including rape, that was not expected. Some readers might need a trigger warning for this.
Biju Parekkadan is currently a biomedical engineer and assistant professor of bioengineering at Harvard Medical School, holding a Doctorate from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. With that and an Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama in 2012, I would say he is more than qualified to provide the science within the novel. Partner Jay Webb introduced his own independent film company (Evolving Productions) and “the first cooperative distribution brand for DIY filmmakers”, Indie Street Media, which transformed into a film festival in Red Bank, New Jersey. As president of Zyndo LLC, he puts forth the creative side of the novel, which brings 3D models and a soundtrack on mobile.
Diving into the novel itself, we are transported just under a decade in the future, where humanity is at risk of extinction due to bioterrorism. Miracle drug Tigris was created by Bruce Abbott, a stem cell biologist, to vanquish all diseases. The Nyima Corporation is a biotech company that holds the drug and created SEQ, a social network that introduces genetics to society by containing human genomes. After bioterrorists release a new disease that Tigris cannot cure, people that are not in the SEQ network are turned away from physicians approved by SEQ, spreading an outbreak.
Bruce Abbott gets wrapped up in the situation due to a symbol found on an item that belonged to his brother. A government employee, Henry Ford, attempts to find out where the symbol came from because deaths and suicides are starting to add up. At this time, an astronaut named Tessa Jones set her sights on planet Kepler Z. With evolution in danger, she meets extraterrestrials very different than human society and tries to learn their ways. These two separate plots are the main ones to follow and will draw readers in. They flip around many times in the end and create the pathway for another novel to come.
Dr. Parekkadan is affluent when describing the scientific methodology throughout. The story is so complex and at some times difficult to follow. And it may be the fact that I’m quite new to graphic novels, but I did have some trouble figuring out the sequence of thought bubbles to read, which convoluted the story just a tad. I think with another chance to get through the entire novel, everything would connect a bit better.
Although not a quick read, it will be a colorful journey. The illustration team were all acknowledged in their own personal way. Each section of the novel was drawn by a separate artist, with a short description on a title page. There were some slight differences in physicality of characters between sections, but each personification was well done. Overall, every graphic is impressive in its own right.
Webb and Parekkadan held a successful launch party in March at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. They spoke live to the guests about breakthroughs that brought on their hard science works. They are currently working on setting up an event in the Philadelphia area.
As said by Parekkadan, “The book content is meant to inspire learning and spark an ethical discussion about technology development that we believe is worthy of national attention.”
Head on over to their website for an interactive experience and to purchase your own copy, or check out the Twitter page @LegendofSumeria! Just released on March 20th, 2018, you can be one of the first to get your hands on this collaborative piece of art!