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The genius of Girl Genius

Header for Girl Genius

I ran into Girl Genius, the webcomic, several times.  I read the firsts few pages and found it too busy to follow (my foolishness). The steampunk looked fun, but I had been reading quite a bit of it and wanted something different. And the story had so many pages! That meant too much plot to catch up. Not for me, I decided.
       
Then it won the Hugo Award in 2010 for best graphic story. I noticed, but still, I had plenty of other things to read. . .

A few weeks ago I had a lull in my writing. I had just finished copyedits, needed to regroup for another novel I was writing, and spent a day procrastinating. I ran into Girl Genius again.

Oh yeah, I thought, I remember this. Well, maybe I’ll read a few more pages before getting back to work.

Girl Genius vol. 1 coverSuffice to say that several days later I had finished eight and a half years of pages published three times per week, plus extras. The bad news—I got no work done in those days of hardcore procrastination. The good news—I had found a thoroughly entertaining story. (And, you’ll be happy to know, I am back at work!)

Here’s the summary from the Wikipedia entry, which is pretty good:

Girl Genius presents an alternate history "where the Industrial Revolution has escalated into an all-out war" due to the battles between "Sparks" – highly charismatic mad scientists with supernormal abilities in one or more sciences.

The main character, Agatha Heterodyne, at first seems to be nothing more than a struggling student at Transylvania Polygnostic University, but when Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and his son come to investigate irregularities at the university, a seemingly unrelated sequence of events leads to Agatha awakening to her family's genetic inheritance and their secrets. The people she meets as she flees the Baron will either help her or try to use her, but in the Wastelands of devastated Europe, trust can be hard to win.

The story has been released in book format—there are currently nine volumes, the tenth being released in July---so you need not spend the long hours I did laboriously clicking from page to page (although if you’re looking for a way to procrastinate. . .). We purchased volume 1 which gives some wonderfully entertaining front matter. (The bio for inker Brian Snoddy for example starts: “Professor Snoddy is [Transylvania Polygnostic University]’s resident Zombie Master. His introduction to class Revenant Control and Ethics (If Any) is well-attended and has a long waiting list.”)

The story is clever, convoluted and full of surprises—both crazy and fun. The art is cartoony but sophisticated nonetheless. I particularly admire the use of color in the first few volumes—moving from sepias to a bright palette—as a way to reflect the plot. I heartily recommend the series for teens and all fun-loving adults.

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