a review of Tom Siddell’s “Gunnerkrigg Court”
by Anthony R. Cardno
No, really. I read through over 400 pages of archives, and I really can’t think of a negative about this strip.
Okay, if I had to find something, I suppose I could point out that Mr. Siddell, by his own admission, seems to have a problem drawing Mr. Eglamore, but perhaps that has more to do with the fact that you can’t really tell what Eglamore is up to – he seems like an upright guy, defender of maidens from dragons and all that, but also seems to have more secrets than the fruit flavoring for Powerade – and so the creator can’t get a strong handle on drawing the character. (Don’t you love it when reviewers psychoanalyze creators? I’ll stop now.)
What’s it about? It’s about Antimony Carver, a girl who is effectively orphaned (dead Mom, disappearing Dad), who is sent to live at the same boarding school her parents went to (a fact she doesn’t learn until late in the story). Gunnerkrigg Court is ostensibly a school of science that looks like an out-of-control industrial park but there’s a lot of unexplained happenings and supernatural phenomena both in the school and in the woods across the ravine. And, it seems, Antimony may have some sort of role to play in keeping the peace between technology and the ethereal world.
Siddell’s art is cartoony without being simplistic; he takes efforts to show a difference between the science world and the supernatural, and to put little touches into where the two combine. The main characters and most of the supporting characters are individualized enough that you can tell them apart without a scorecard. There’s Antimony’s new human best friend Kat , her one-dimensional friend Shadow 2, and the aptly-named Robot. There are more, but mentioning some of them might give away some of the nice twists the story has.
And there are twists, and mysteries, and questions. Like most really good series fiction, characters don’t get introduced in Gunnerkrigg without having a purpose. Almost every secondary or tertiary character introduced has something to add to the story, either by becoming a larger player later on or by sharing a piece of information that will become important later on.
You are also not subjected to 400-plus pages of intricate plot movement. While there is an overall story arc (what exactly was the relationship between Antimony’s parents and the other adults who are still at the school? Why are tensions building between the human and other-than-human worlds of Court and Wood? What is Antimony’s role in all of this, as well as that of her friends? And who really are her friends and not enemies?), there are also lighter chapters that focus on unusual classes (like Dr. Disaster’s) or small moments that build the main characters. Kat has several such character-building moments, for instance.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t take my word for it – go read a really fun adventure strip with strong plot and characters that grow and have real emotions. Five stars.Rating:
by Tom Siddell
review by Anthony Cardno