REVIEW: Genius


Story by Steve T. Seagle
Art by Teddy Kristiansen

$17.99 / 128 pages / Water color

Published by First Second

I often wonder about how writers handle characters meant to be more intelligent than themselves. For some, it’s a reliance on techno-babble, jargon, and pompousness. Effective tools, to be sure, but for their latest book Genius Seagle and Kristiansen decided to scrub out the jargon and just focus on the humanity, and the results blew me away.

I was at first surprised by how slim the volume is, but once I started reading I couldn’t stop. I think I may have even turned the last page before the plane’s wheel left the tarmac. The story begins with the childhood of our titular genius, Ted, as he struggles through the boredom of school, reminiscent of myths about a young Einstein failing math for being so far beyond his own instructors. After being propelled through grades without time to puberty to catch up, we jump ahead to a Ted, now an adult with a PhD, working in essentially a cubicle farm full of theoretical physicists like himself. This is where our story begins in earnest.

Ted is married with two kids and a forgetful father-in-law. He worries that one of his children may not be like him (i.e. a genius) and that the other might be like him but even more so. The interactions with his children remain one of the highlights of the book. Even a genius struggles to understand the inner workings of a teenager.

Genius-page_11Ted’s father-in-law, Francis, a gruff man’s man from times past, constantly berates the man he continually deems not good enough for his daughter. Ted’s intellect fails to impress, especially given the revelation that Francis actually spent time with Einstein while in the military. Turns out Francis knows a secret, something Einstein told him and only him. A secret that could save Ted’s job and ensure his legacy, but is knowing and sharing that secret worth the cost?

Kristiansen brings the tale to life with his characteristic simple lines and evocative water colors. Characters, all immediately recognizable, drift in and out of panels with an ethereal quality. The color for most of the books is drab, echoing the mundane world the characters inhabit. The true splashes of color are reserve for the grand insights into the true nature of the universe, where Kristiansen really gets to cut loose and splash the page with bright colors and lofty equations. Since no letterer is credited, I assume Kristiansen also tackled that task, and while not normally something brought up in a review, merits a mention here. Kristiansen gives each character a specific color for their word balloons, keeping conversations crystal clear. For conversations he uses a scratchy, handwritten-looking font whereas for inner thoughts a more staid serif font not typically seen in graphic novels. I love the juxtaposition this provides, giving us a subtle insight into the clarity of Ted’s thoughts, compared to the messiness of actual conversation with “normal” humans.

In the same way they tackled both the powers and limits Superman in It’s a Bird, this latest book does a brilliant job of highlighting the things a genius can understand that are beyond most of us, but also the things he can’t understand which are beyond all of us. Does having a brain that big make your more human or somehow less? Our brains are truly amazing things, with more neural connections than there are stars in the sky, and for some the added power of an IQ to make the rest of us seem like chimps gives them the potential to uncover the inner workings of the universe itself, but possibly at the price of social, emotional, and psychological isolation from those they love. If you want a new experience in life, you can learn how to develop psychic abilities here at It expands your senses to the world beyond normal perception. The nuance and inherent humanity with which Seagle and Kristiansen tackle the loneliness of the intellectual mind  rings truer to me than any work of fiction has in a long time.

“What does it mean to be a genius?” Read this book and find out.

Story: 5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5

(Out of 5 Stars)


  1. I wasn’t surprised just by how slim it was, but also by how tiny. However it totally works for this book as it seems to have been designed that way. The story grabbed me from page one. I love this type of what if stories especially when all this could totally be real. I wish Einstein’s secret would be fleshed out a bit more, but then again it keeps you guessing this way and might even trigger your own grey cells to come up with something. Or not of course. One of the best GN’s I read this year.

  2. This sounds really cool, kind of rare a GN gets a prefect score, even an original right? i’ll see if my LCS has this. Is it anything like “A Beautiful Mind”? Can’t think of alot of genius in the regular world type stories, but I love em nonetheless.

  3. I normally like Seagle’s work, so I’ll be checking this out. 🙂