Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (Girl Genius, Vol. 1), by Kaja and Phil Foglio

Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg ClankI’ve been meaning to read the Girl Genius series for probably a long while now. It keeps popping up in my real and internet lives as a Thing That People Love, but for some reason the series has kept itself on the “…but what if I don’t like it?” side rather than the “…so I should go read it right now!” side of that line. But when I went to pick up a recent book club selection at the library, this first volume was just sitting right there, out in the open, on my way to the shelf, so it was obviously fate.

Except that if it were really fate, the first two volumes would have been waiting for me, because I’m really not sure what to make of this one! (I could just go read it online, but then it’s not quite so shiny and pretty!)

The problem is that, like in a few other comic collections that I’ve read, this whole first volume is just a prelude to the actual story and action and whatnot. So even though this volume is called Agatha Heterodyne etc., our protagonist is called Agatha Clay and all the questions surrounding her are obviously going to be answered by this upcoming name change. So the fact that this volume doesn’t actually get that far in the story is disappointing.

Bu-ut, I think I’m willing to give the second volume a go, because the story so far is at least interesting. Our hero, Agatha, is a mousy little lab assistant in a steampunk world where magic is apparently real, though I’m not sure yet in what form. And Agatha is having a really bad day — early on in this volume she loses a locket necklace that is apparently of the utmost importance to everyone except her, then she goes to work and someone there gets exploded, and then at the end a “clank” (some sort of mechanical golum-type thing, maybe?) starts wandering her town and gets her in a bit of trouble.

After the story proper, I was like, okay, I guess I’ll have to go find the next volume to find out what happens, but then it turned out there was a sort of bonus issue like in my beloved The Unwritten (when oh when is that next trade coming out?). And in this tiny story, a name-changed Agatha who is apparently now well-known goes grave-digging and makes friends with some people who are apparently not people? This story is so much more intriguing than what came before it, and I am really hoping that Agatha’s future escapades are more like it! (If they’re not, please tell me so that I am not incredibly disappointed!)

Recommendation: For the steampunks and the magic lovers and the people who like drawings in their stories?

Rating: 7/10

5 thoughts on “Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (Girl Genius, Vol. 1), by Kaja and Phil Foglio

  1. Carl V. says:

    I probably need to give this another try, given that I love the steampunk/clockpunk aesthetic and I’ve heard so much praise for this. I was reading the comics of the first series as they came out and they weren’t doing enough for me to continue. I should go ahead and get the volumes from the library and read a good chunk all at once to get a better feel of it.

    • Alison says:

      I’m iffy about steampunk, but I do like books made of pictures and awesome lady protagonists, so I’m hoping that this series delivers the latter. And I will probably also have to read many volumes in a row to see if I really like it. 🙂

      • Carl V. says:

        The best I’ve read thus far is a novel and a few short stories by James P. Blaylock in his Landgon St. Ives series. They have such a great Sherlock Holmes meets mad scientist vibe and are very well written. Also Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone is a good clockwork story.

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