The blurb on back of this collection features a quote from Comic Buyer's Guide - "Girl Genius is unique. Buy it." That's high praise indeed. An independent production by Phil & Kaja Foglio (aka Studio Foglio under the branding of Airship Books), Girl Genius describes its own genre as "A Gaslamp Fantasy with Adventure, Romance & Mad Science". That's quite a broad spectrum there, but it's pretty accurate.
Before I go any further I should clarify that these two volumes shown here are compendiums of the "Girl Genius" comic book #1-3 and #4-6 respectively. The first three are B&W line artwork only, while the second volume adds full-blown computer coloring and high quality glossy paper. These are the paperback editions, but hardback is also available for those with deep pockets.
Broad in scope, high quality paper. What more could you ask for? Oh, yeah, I suppose I should say something about whether the story is actually any good or not. Well, to be honest, I'm not quite sure. It's certainly very readable... it rockets along at one heck of a pace. There's a huge cast of characters, though each is distinctive enough. The story revolves around Agatha Heterodyne, a girl genius possesed with the "spark" of invention which would marks her as one of the "elite" if it became common knowledge. However, it would equally make her a target or potential hostage or slave under one of the many mad scientist warlords who feud for control of this lawless alternative-past Earth.
There's many familiar aspects - parents mysteriously dead, leaving her with guardians and a treasured locked which affects her powers. There's a boarding "school" with fellow adventurers, a mad and violent governess, a captured hero, the evil Baron, his not-so-evil son, etc. Stereotypes abound, but what is not so conventional is the sheer number of elements that are brought into the story, one taking the place of the other in overwhelming succession.
The final combination is addictive perhaps in the way that too much chocolate might be. I found myself reading at a great pace, leaping from page to page. Having reached the final page, I wanted to read more - however I'm not quite sure why. Part of the explanation might be the lack of any real conflict. Even the "bad guys" are really rather nice. Even the evil Baron who kidnaps Agatha has a poorly-concealed soft side. At no stage do I ever feel that any character is in danger - the rich sense of "fun" just doesn't allow it. You're as safe here as you are in Disneyland.
I'll probably buy volume three one day, just to see what happens. Girl Genius is a grand old romp. It's a fun comic that a pre-teen or early teen female reader might well enjoy. Just don't expect too much depth. Of course, thanks to the wonders of the InterWeb, you can read the first couple of issues online at Girl Genius Online and make up your own mind!
Next: Top 10.