Comical Musings

Review: Girl Genius

by on Sep.28, 2009, under Review

A bit of good news and a small amount of bad news come hand in hand this week: I’m once again employed part-time, as a writer for a local nonprofit organization. While the opportunity to work and earn a bit of a living is nice, the training this past week took more time than expected . . . so it’s a bit of good luck to have some of my old favorites still available to review.

Among these favorites is Girl Genius, a production by the husband-and-wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio. Set in a Victorian-era steampunk Europe that’s at once charming and terrifying. Mad scientists rule over the land much like warring nobles, if said nobles had had airships and giant holographic displays. (Check out the alternate image for that one, by the way; it’s a hoot.) The current top of the heap is Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, but he and his son Gilgamesh are minor protagonists. The titular genius is one Agatha Clay, who is hinted (and later proven) to be the heir to the legendary Heterodyne family.

The writing style is spectacularly tongue-in-cheek. The mad scientists are all individually wacky, and the co-stars have their own interesting little quirks. The awkward moments are hilariously well scripted, and even the thick of combat is filled with moments of sheer lunacy. Trying to count the hidden references to other people’s work becomes as much part of the fun as trying to piece together who’s betraying whom (and the plot goes everywhere, let me warn you).

The art is rather often beautiful. Both Foglios are accomplished fantasy artists (Kaja, for example, has at least a handful of Magic cards to her name, and Phil has done a number of other comics as well), and they certainly seem to have fun with their work. I dare you to find a more adorable engineer, a more spectacular caffeine rush, more disturbing use of pictograms. And the blood. Can’t forget the blood. Oh, my heavens, the ichor. Between that and the tendency for the women to wind up less than dressed, it’s apparent that Phil does the artwork.

Be sure to catch the side stories as well; while they tend to hit right when the action’s getting good in the main plot, they’ve got their own entertaining charm.

As you can tell, Girl Genius is a comic that I enjoy nearly without reservation. It’s whimsical, complex, by turns serious and hilarious. And fructivorous.

Comic Rating: Five hours before you even notice you’re archive-binging.

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