What words describe Girl Genius, the web based comic? Brilliant … Clever … Empowering … Hilarious … It is all of these adjectives and more.
The comic was started in 2000 by Phil & Kaja Foglio. They publish three times a week online and once a year on paper. It has a continuing story line about the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne. It is firmly within the steampunk fantasy genre.
Agatha Heterodyne is a virtual unknown at the beginning of the story. She is a hapless lab technician at the Transylvania Polygnostic University when her mentor, Dr. Beetle, is blown up. Cast out of the school, she goes home to her foster parents. They seem more concerned about a locket that had been stolen earlier that day from Agatha than the death of her mentor! The loss of this locket, in fact, is the catalyst that starts this wild romp.
Agatha is a Spark; a person with an almost magical ability to invent and engineer machines. The lost locket had been inhibiting her talent from manifesting because the potential for madness as a Spark develops is high. The locket was in place to protect Agatha and those around her.
Without the locket, Agatha’s talent explodes. She invents and builds projects in her sleep at first; projects that go on a rampage. She is inadvertently caught by the complex villain of the comic, Baron Wulfenbach. He keeps her prisoner on his zeppelin until she escapes. The following story twists are too many to describe, and most of the fun is discovering them yourselves.
This comic is filled with visual puns and hilarious dialogue. Some of my favorite elements of this comic include the ridiculous situations Agatha gets into, the manic enjoyment she finds in perilous situations, and the secondary characters. She has two love interests who each have definite quirks and a cadre of devoted minions. The minions include the citizens of Mechanicsburg and the unusual creatures known simply as Jägers. (I love the Jägers! They speak in a sort of German-accented caveman speech.) Jägers are sort of monsters that love to fight.
The tone is unabashedly joyful; I get the sense that its creators love their job. This brilliant web comic was brought to my attention by the writers at Book Smugglers, a blog about science fiction and romance books.