Countdown to Catastrophe is an attractive grapic novel/comic for younger readers and is the third offering from Andi Watson’s Gum Girl series. The visual style is vibrant and energetic, using a palette of bubblegum pastels dominated by pinks and greens. The panel layout is playfully asymmetric, creating a lively rhythm for the narrative, while character design is simple yet expressive.
The protagonist is a chewing gum superhero otherwise known as Grace, whose father is the headmaster at her school, Calamity Primary. The three stories in the collection touch on conflicts and dilemmas that might be familiar to many primary school-age children: time pressure, conflict with adults and their values, fitting in with peers, setting out on overly ambitious escapades and winding up in trouble. Plotlines feature scientific and technological themes, with explosions aplenty, as Gum Girl saves the world from time-stealing scientists, a maniacal roller derby coach and an anti-gravity ray gun. The language is for the most part simple and snappy, although adult characters tend to wax more lyrical just before a humiliating fall of some kind. The detailed maps and schematics on the inside covers add an extra layer of context and humour to the stories.
Overall a witty, very attractively designed and well produced collection.