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Girl Genius, Volume 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank

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In a time when the Industrial Revolution has become an all-out war, Mad Science rules the World... with mixed success. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay is a student with trouble concentrating and rotten luck. Dedicated to her studies but unable to build anything that actually works, she seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown, a strange "clank" stalks the streets and it begins to look like Agatha might carry a spark of Mad Science ...

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Overview

In a time when the Industrial Revolution has become an all-out war, Mad Science rules the World... with mixed success. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay is a student with trouble concentrating and rotten luck. Dedicated to her studies but unable to build anything that actually works, she seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown, a strange "clank" stalks the streets and it begins to look like Agatha might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Poor Agatha Clay. Her beloved Uncle Barry abandoned her eleven years ago, her only link to her parents is a locket with their pictures, she gets headaches when upset, and she is a klutz. To make matters worse, on her way to work at Transylvania Polygnostic University, she is robbed and her locket is stolen, she arrives late to work at the lab, and her boss is killed by Baron Wulfenbach's son. With the city under martial law, a robot is rampaging through the streets, and Wulfenbach is seeking someone with the "spark" of Mad Science. It seems a good bet that innocuous lab assistant Agatha is somehow at the center. Victorian-era-inspired clothing, clunky robots, widgets, and minions with sharp teeth and funny accents allow Foglio to take full advantage of his cartoonlike, exaggerated artistic style. This volume, consisting of the first three issues of the comic book series plus a bonus full-color short story, serves as a prologue, introducing a mad panoply of characters and a dash of setting. Clearly the meat of the tale will appear in later issues; it consequently feels a little thin on its own. The art style and abundant humor soften any harsh edges the book might have-violence is played chiefly for laughs. Readers who like steampunk, plucky heroines, or are fans of the Foglios' other works should enjoy this book, but they will probably want to follow up directly with the next volume (not yet collected). VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S A/YA G (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult~G). 2002, Airship Entertainment/Studio Foglio, G96p,
— Lisa Martincik
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-The Heterodyne family, who "travelled the globe negotiating peace, stopping monsters, and shutting down doomsday devices," are heroes among those with the Spark, the ability to play with the laws of physics, until their disappearance. Now, student lab assistant Agatha Clay works for Dr. Beetle at Transylvania Polygnostic University. After soldiers of fortune steal the locket her uncle gave her years before, she is cast out of the university and left alone while her anxious foster parents go to retrieve it. Agatha takes a nap and awakes, disheveled and greasy, to be confronted by one of the soldiers. He is looking for revenge because his companion died and he blames her and the locket, which contains a complicated mechanism. Meanwhile, back at the university, Baron Wulfenbach and his son Gilgamesh run into a clank, a mechanical robotlike device that seems to be searching for someone. They reprogram it to find its maker, whom the Baron suspects is a new Spark. The clank returns to the shop where Agatha and the soldier are arguing, and the Baron orders them both kidnapped. The sepia-and-white art is lively and appealing, with distinctive characters and a richly imagined environment. There are many humorous touches, such as the "big fish" sign on a, well, big fish in the marketplace, or the Jagermonsters, humanlike soldiers who have an odd joie de vivre. The book includes a bonus color story that gives a glimpse into Agatha's future, which apparently involves a talking cat and several constructs. Sly, witty, and great fun.-Susan Salpini, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890856199
  • Publisher: Studio Foglio
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Series: Girl Genius Series , #1
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2010

    Steampunky, geeky goodness

    Such a great series! Full of wonderful humor, fantasy, action, and a bit of romance. Lots to love about the main characters, especially Agatha. Visually stunning, and entertaining enough to keep you looking for more.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    This Comic Is Bound For Glory

    Agatha Clay begins the day as a student at Transylvania Polygnostic University. She ends the day banned forever from the University, but that is the least of her problems. She is caught in a strange electrical phenomenon, mugged, robbed of her only link to her parents and made late for school. Then her lab experiment fails and she is swept up in events as the school is favored by a visit from the Mad Scientist who rules all of Europe. He arrives guarded by machines and monsters, with his son and heir in tow.

    The visit becomes a Machievellian conflict of agendas and personalities as Baron Wolfenbach takes every opportunity to educate his son Gilgamesh in the finer points of ruling the world. As the backstory begins to unfold the conflicts lead to the death of Agatha's mentor and headmaster. Agatha is sent home, and while she rests another mystery claims the attention of the Baron and his son. That mystery leads straight back to Agatha. Klaus Wolfenbach draws his conclusions, but Gilgamesh takes a closer look. Agatha and one of the muggers are taken, unconscious, to be prisoners of the Wolfenbachs. Father and son have different agendas, and a third agenda is also at work.

    The artwork in this first volume of the story is in black-and-white. It ranges from tremendous detail to abstract comic book forms. Phil Foglio's graphic vocabulary draws on many styles and his facial expressions are often articulate and nuanced. The story is told in both the dialog and the pictures, making full use of the medium.

    With more than eight volumes of this series now in print it is clear that the story arc is multilayered and complex. Characters move in and out as the Foglios move Agatha across the landscape.

    Parents should know that the story ranges somewhere between PG and PG-13. Agatha is often seen in her underwear (it becomes a running joke for a while) and other characters are caught incompletely dressed (but suitably draped) as the story continues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    Girl Genius is Pure Genius

    Girl Genius is one of the most refreshing comic series I've read in a long time. The plot is complex enough to be interesting, but the story flows oh-so-smoothly. Top notch writing blends with a visual triumph to create a fantastically endearing series. The world could use more heroines like Agatha Heterodyne.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    A reviewer

    This black-and-white volume opens the Girl Genius story. While the artwork feels heavy compared to the later colored volumes, Phil Foglio employs touches of Art Noveau or Art Deco in strategic panels, to good effect. But the real draw here is the storyline, a science-fiction adventure-mystery with overtones of romance, secrets to be slowly revealed, characters to be developed, a lost heir and a Quest (introduced at the end of Volume III). The basic premise of the milieu is that among humans there are a few 'sparks,' mad scientists who can warp the laws of nature, creating obedient monsters and machines, calling down thunder, reviving the recently deceased, and generally raising Cain. Their abilities are usually matched by equal parts of enthusiasm and irresponsibility, with unpleasant consequences for all within range. The milieu is revealed as necessary, with the story's pacing and characters taking center stage. But it is always there, and apparently holds a few secrets of its own. It appears that the story has been plotted out completely in advance, which is a big help to both author and reader. It also contains an occasional Easter egg. Some are obvious others require real attention and at least some education. They are all fun, and do not spoil the story in the least. I gave the book a fifth star with some misgivings. It's harder to read than the later books, in part because of the black-and-white artwork. But the pacing and the amount of story introduced make up for it, and without The Beetleburg Clank, the Girl Genius series would never have gotten off the ground. Since Girl Genius was nominated for an Eisner this past year, that has to count for something.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2009

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    Posted June 23, 2009

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