Agatha Clay is having a bad day. She’s late to class at the Transylvania Polygnostic University. A sudden apparition has appeared in the street causing her to duck into an alley where she is robbed of her trilobite locket, Baron Wulfenbach and his son Gilgamesh (and a large well-armed retinue) has shown up to inspect the school and they destroy her favorite teacher. If he had just killed him that wouldn’t have been so bad (you can reanimate the dead after-all) but destroyed! And then she is expelled from the university! Can the day get any worse? If the Foglios are telling the story then the answer is “Of COURSE it can!”
The Foglios have created a complex and well-illustrated world, where to be a Spark (defined in the introduction as “people who seem to be able to tinker with the laws of physics as we know them”) can be dangerous, where complex political maneuvering is the undercurrent of the day, and the Foglios wry humor comes through on every page. The Foglios have created a detailed and compelling world where being dead isn’t that final and the impossible is the order of the day. No situation is so dire you can’t invent your way out of it. Kaja Folio’s artwork just adds richness to the story (don’t ignore the backgrounds).
Agatha is drawn as an extremely buxom woman who has a tendency to create clanks (mechanical automatons) in her sleep. And she sleeps in her underwear. So there are a number of scenes that feature Agatha’s cleavage quite prominently. I did not find this to be distracting or irrelevant. That is, there is not a lot of cleavage for cleavage’s sake. It’s just that Agatha is buxom and they, well, stick out. But I have had some patron comments that it is too risqué (mostly from people leafing through and not actually reading).
I would recommend this to middle-schoolers and up. The younger kids may have trouble following the increasing complex story (alliances change faster than Lady Gaga’s outfits) but it is a series that can be enjoyed on many levels.
Girl Genius, Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and The Beetleburg Clank
Story by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio
Pencils by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright, letters by Kaja Foglio
Studio Foglio, 2010