July 15, 2013 by Heidi
Author/Art: Thomas Siddell [Website|Twitter]
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: Online since 2007, in hardcover starting January 30th, 2009. Volume 4 will be released in print tomorrow (July 14th, 2013)!
Format: Web comic/graphic novel.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Holy crap guys. You know when one of your reading buddies pushes something on you and you’re all: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it when I get to it”? Because maybe, just maybe, sometimes you should get to it faster. Flannery of The Readventurer has been mentioning the web comic turned graphic novel series, Gunnerkrigg Court to me since the turn of the year, and while I think 6 months to actually pick something up and read it isn’t bad for my track record, I’m still kicking myself for not doing so sooner. But also praising myself a bit, because let’s face it, now I barely have to wait to pick up Volume 4 in a hardcopy as it releases tomorrow!
Gunnerkrigg Court contains so many stunning elements that I’m still a bit slack-jawed over the whole thing. The basic premise is this: Our girl, Antimony, is dumped Pushing Daisies style into a mysteriously massive boarding school known as Gunnerkrigg Court (or just “the Court” as they say on the streets) after her mother passes away. The school has a strong focus on the sciences–a need to explain things–but also a tacit acknowledgement that science may be unable to explain everything. There’s a certain air of magic about the place, which Antimony uncovers by coming face to face with the supernatural and the mythological as she and her friend Kat stumble about the enigmatic world of the Court.
Okay, so, I’m not gonna lie–I was really disappointed at first. Our lead, Antimony, is a total Mary Sue, and I didn’t get that in to the first volume. However, it did seem to be setting up for an interesting story arc toward the end, and since they take all of an hour or so to read, I decided to pick up volume two, and fell completely in love. I realized that everything I was a bit ho-hum about in volume one had a reason. Each awkward meeting or item was born of necessity, working to lay the groundwork for what would become a very complex and interwoven tale throughout the following chapters of Antimony’s story. I even became so engrossed in finding out the real history of Gunnerkrigg Court and the forest that lays beyond its boundaries that I completely forgot that I hadn’t liked Antimony all that much to begin with. There are so many other wonderful characters taking up page room, that you kind of quit caring that she’s gorgeous, intelligent, and Practically Perfect in Every Way.
Here’s a bit of the awesomeness: Antimony hangs out with Renard (who you may know as the fox), who just happens to be trapped in her stuffed wolf’s body and has some anger management issues. Her best friend, Kat, is a veritable genius when it comes to robots. Antimony’s pals with a ghost, all the psychopomps, and has potential as a medium. She’s also welcome to hang out with Coyote in the forest. Everyone loved her mom, particularly her crush-worthy games teacher. Plus, there’s all sorts of magic, mystery, and student mischief to be had. Thomas Siddell has a wonderful humor which he’s able to slip into every gap in the story–constantly lightening the mood after a serious scene or making me laugh between chapters. For instance, did you ever need some advice on how to ward off amorous robots?
Oh–and I love the art. Siddell’s style changes from the first volume to later installments, and I honestly much preferred the change. I love a very cartoony art style, and have found many panels to be incredibly captivating, fun, and beautiful. His drawing has a humor about it, but also a deep understanding and respect for how these characters would work with the world around them, and how their images should reflect the cultures they represent:
He also does this gorgeous bit with Antimony’s hair whenever she’s in a dream state that I find breathtaking:
So really. If you enjoy web comics or graphic novels at all, Gunnerkrigg Court is worth checking out. I was able to get the first three volumes from my library, though you can read the entire series online for free here. I have a feeling that once you do, you’ll be wanting to support Thomas Siddell by buying merchandise or picking up the graphic novels in hardcopy. While I was initially disappointed, I moved quickly to astounded by how utterly complex and well-plotted this story has been since the beginning. Every time you think a bit of the story is just for fun, or won’t have an affect in the future–think again, because it does. I’m a little bit in love with Antimony’s world (particularly Renard); the Court is full of mystery, fun, and adventure that will delight readers to no end. At least I hope there’s no end…
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Really, it was just a debate between catching up online and waiting for Volume 4 to be released in hardcopy and then catching up online.
Recommended for: Fans of Fables, Harry Potter and other completely awesome things.