Another comic review tonight: for several years I had heard of, and had recommended to me, the comic Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio. I finally started reading it about a year ago.
Like Runners, this started out as a print comic, and later moved to the web. For some time now it’s been posted a page at a time, three times per week. Both of the Foglios write the script, with Phil pencilling and inking the art, and colors by a third person (the colorist has changed over time – currently it is Cheyenne Wright).
One could maybe call this a science fiction comic, though I think fantasy would be a better way to put it (the creators use the term “Gaslamp Fantasy”, in fact). It falls into the subgenre known as Steampunk, though to my recollection there’s a lot more devices in the story that are powered by wind-up clockworks than by steam power, but that’s neither here nor there. What makes it not so sci-fi for me is that there is little attempt to explain how any technology works, or to make it at all realistic (it’s more ‘mad science’ than anything else).
That said, it is a very enjoyable story. It takes place in a fictional 19th century Europe, much of which is unified under the rule of one Baron Wulfenbach. The main character of the series (the titular smart woman) is Agatha Heterodyne, who has grown up thinking she’s an ordinary citizen, only to discover that she is what is referred to as a Spark (basically, a somewhat unhinged savant), and that she comes from a rather infamous family. What ensues are her attempts to stay alive and out of the Baron’s custody while figuring out more about her past and her abilities.
The series is a nice blend of high adventure with really goofy humor, and the particular cartoony style of the art lends itself well to the humor. The comic has an almost epic scope, with a lot of characters, but even when things are fairly serious, some of the characters provide good comic relief (especially the Jaegers, a breed of humanoid soldiers who place particular importance on hats). This comic, like Galaxion, features a large cast of strong female characters, but there has been a tendency to draw them in a somewhat more revealing or cheesecakey way some of the time (though I think that tendency has lessened over the years).
Most readers of this blog probably already read Girl Genius, but I certainly recommend it for those who haven’t checked it out.