March 14, 2005

OWLY: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer; GIRL GENIUS: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank

OWLY: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer (art: Andy Runton). This is a dialogue-free, all-ages comic about the life of a small owl particularly fond of gardening and bird-watching. OWLY is a perfect example of how execution makes the concept; those who don't believe that the art in a comic can be sophisticated enough to lend a substantial contribution to the overall effect should be handed this volume (not only will it prove your point, but it will probably also improve their dispositions). Runton's art is gentle, evocative, enormously expressive, in a way that gives real depth and appeal to his simple stories. Despite the anthromorphism, Owly's world is naturalistic, tied to the inevitable sorrows and rebirths of nature, and he makes his way through it with a kind heart and a gradually expanding comprehension. This book is absolutely something I'd hand to a five-year-old, but I'd keep a copy for myself.

GIRL GENIUS: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (story: Phil & Kaja Foglio; pencils: Phil Foglio). For complicated reasons, I kept thinking this title sounded good in the abstract, but picking it up and putting it down again unbought in the actual comic-book store. I'm glad I finally overcome my reservations and gave it a look. GIRL GENIUS is a slyly humorous tale of an alternate "steampunk" reality dominated by geniuses--"sparks"--who can design the machinery--"clanks"--that runs the otherwise early-modern-Germanic-feeling cities. Our heroine is a young not-yet-spark, Agatha, of mysterious parentage, who begins to discover her abilities after having her worst day ever. Every page is crammed with clever detail, and while at first some of the characters felt stock, they quickly proved to be rather intricate mechanisms themselves. Particularly intriguing are the villains of the piece, ruthless sparks who nonetheless have a sheer joy of intellect that makes them surprisingly appealing. A couple of questionable artistic choices mean this book doesn't quite have the broad range of age-appropriateness that I think was intended; without the art, I'd happily give this to a bright ten-year-old, but with it, I wouldn't start til fourteen. For adults, though, it's a charming read, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Posted by Sarah T. at March 14, 2005 08:58 PM
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