Saturday, 7 April 2012

REVIEW: Gunnerkrigg Court

Click here to start from the beginning.

Gunnerkrigg Court centers around an unusual young lady named Antimony Carver. We join her at the start of the comic when she transfers into Gunnerkrigg Court, a boarding school in the UK that is a lot more than it seems at first glance. As the story rolls on, it evolves into a complex world of fantasy politics, a tug of war between magic and science and adorable robots. Plus, it's got some of the best characterisation I've ever seen.

Though we've all seen magical boarding schools in the United Kingdom before, Gunnerkrigg is quite unique. Through Antimony's eyes, the reader is given a wonderful view into the world that Tom Siddell has created. I like the way that there's so much of the titular Court that remains a mystery, both to the character and to the readers. There's a sense of vastness about it. For a manmade place, a lot of it seems so undiscovered.

A lot of the storyline is more about discovering what's going on between lots of different characters and groups, as opposed to an actiony type of 'go out and get stuff done' kind of deal. It meanders around in quite a few different directions, revealing new facets of the Gunnerkrigg universe with every step. And it meanders in a very well done, skilful way. It never feels like it's dragging or moving too slowly. Every single page is entertaining in some way, whether it's fascinating or laugh-out-loud funny.

As I previously mentioned in the summary up there, Gunnerkrigg is full of wonderful characters. Time is taken for each character, even minor ones, to show a little part of themselves. Antimony is one of my favourite characters from anywhere. She's not the standard blank-slate protagonist for the audience to pretend to be, yet we still manage to get an excellent look at the world through her, as I talked about in the Plot and World section. Annie is inquisitive, but not in an annoying 'please explain this so the audience can hear it' way. She's clever, and genuinely clever, at that, as opposed to the 'this character scored highly on a test and other characters copy their answers' kind of thing you can sometimes see in fiction. She's resourceful and insightful and calmly snarky and you can probably tell I adore her.

Her best friend, Kat, is just as excellent. Again, she's cleverclever. I appreciate it a lot when the characters we're told are smart actually have the smarts to back the claims up. Kat is lively and bubbly and caring. I don't want this section to turn into a summary of character traits, so I'll try to cut this list short. The characters really pop off the page and they feel like real people, moreso than a lot of characters I've watched and read about in recent times. What's more, it's very hard to pick out absolute favourites apart from Annie, which is a good sign. There's no choosing between characters like Eglamore, Reynardine, Kat, Shadow, Coyote, Robot... let's just say there's no real choosing between anyone.

You really feel for and sympathise with the characters. It's hard not to get attached to them.


I've actually always liked Gunnerkrigg's art. Towards the beginning it was very heavily stylised - maybe even overly so - but the way every aspect of the drawing has been thought through and put together in order to create interesting ideas has always been commendable. The wonderful writing is consistently backed up with interesting art and expert manipulation of details.

Though I've seen some people complain about the art in the very beginning (which, as I have stated, I actually like), it improves out of sight very quickly. It's actually pretty jaw-dropping how quickly the art improves.

Take special note of the art in any panels where Coyote or different planes are involved. Those pages are so good, words can't do them justice. The colour and composition of those sections are outstanding.

As if I hadn't already said it enough, Gunnerkrigg is a piece of brilliance. It's a real gem! If you haven't read it, you are actively doing yourself a disservice by not reading it right this second.


Gunnerkrigg Court updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Check back next week for another review! If you have any suggestions, let me know.

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