Here’s my review of Girl Genius Omnibus Volume 1: Agatha Awakens by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Take a look, and please let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks to the generosity of the kind folks at Tor, I have one gorgeous hardcover copy to give away to a lucky winner in the US, so make sure to read through to the end and, if you like what you read, enter the giveaway at the very end of the review!
As I mentioned in the Fifty Page Fridays post about this book, I’m not much of a comic book connoisseur. Growing up in Belgium, I used to love bandes dessinées (or stripboeken, as they’re called in my native tongue Dutch): Asterix, Tintin, and hundreds of other famous and less famous titles. Later on, I grew into liking more experimental works by visionaries like the recently deceased Moebius, and later again, I read some of the modern English language classics like Watchmen and The Sandman. Current graphic novels or comics are something I just don’t know much about, aside from a handful of titles. Girl Genius Omnibus Volume 1: Agatha Awakens, on the other hand, is so much fun that it really got me excited about exploring some more authors and titles in this genre.
If I know very little about comics, I knew even less about this series. I learned everything I know now from reading this book and from glancing at the Wikipedia page. (“Glancing” because I didn’t want to see any spoilers by accident.) There, I learned that I may have misrepresented things somewhat in my earlier post: apparently Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius didn’t start as a web comic, but instead started out as a traditional paper comic, then moved to the web, and now, somewhat confusingly, is being collected in paper omnibus editions by the good people at Tor. In addition, there’s also one Girl Genius novel — just words, no pictures — so calling this series a “web comic” may not be entirely incorrect, but there’s at lot more to it than just the comics on the website.
So. Is it worth it to buy something that can be read almost entirely on a website for free? In my opinion, yes, because Tor did an amazing job turning this volume into a gorgeous book. Everything has a Victorian, steampunk-like look to it, from the cover to the lettering on the title page and the table of contents. The paper is colored like faded parchment. You can just tell that Tor set out to make something special. I can only imagine that this series will look amazing on the shelf, once all the volumes are out.
The book starts off with a page about the legendary Heterodyne family (again a lovely piece of art with a faux-leather background and an old-fashioned oval portrait), then a couple of pages with information about “Characters of Note”, and a letter on fake letterhead from the “Department of Irrefutably True History”, written by Professors Foglio and Foglio.
The story follows the life of titular “girl genius” Agatha Clay, who despite initial appearances is actually a descendant of the legendary Heterodyne clan. The Heterodynes were Sparks, geniuses who were able to create steampunk-like automata and who did so for good, as opposed to some other Sparks who created those same automata but more in your average “evil genius” sort of way. The Heterodynes were the heroes of the story, protecting the world time and time again from disaster… until they suddenly disappeared some years back. When the story starts, Agatha is still known as Agatha Clay, but thanks to the “Characters of Note” section we know that she’s one of the long-lost Heterodynes. In this book, you’re getting the story of how she discovers her true nature and identity. Exactly what that story includes is something I’d rather let you explore for yourself.
Girl Genius Omnibus Volume 1: Agatha Awakens is a wild, hectic ride that offers, as the website advertises, “Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!” in spades. This is a beautifully drawn and incredibly entertaining comic book twist on “gaslamp fantasy” complete with hilariously over-the-top heroes and villains, a gorgeous fictional environment, and a plot that feels like it’s just getting started in this first omnibus. I had a blast with this book, and I can’t wait to see where Agatha’s adventures lead next!
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!
To enter the giveaway, simply send an email with subject line GENIUS to fbrgiveaway AT gmail DOT com. The email must include your full name and mailing address. Easy right? Right. Make sure to tell your friends!
The giveaway will end on Monday, March 19th at 11:59 PM, and I’ll contact the winner the following day. Void where prohibited by law, rules are subject to change, may impair your ability to operate machinery, and of course, batteries not included.