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Comic Fencing » Gunnerkrigg Court

Posts Tagged ‘Gunnerkrigg Court’

Where wolf? There wolf …

Posted on August 8th, 2008 by Anthony Cardno in Anthony, Talekyn, comics, five stars

a review of Tom Siddell’s “Gunnerkrigg Court
by Anthony R. Cardno

I have nothing bad to say.

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: ★★★★★

Gunnerkrigg Court
by Tom Siddell
review by Anthony Cardno
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (13 votes, average: 4.85 out of 5)

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Court is adjourned, finally….

Posted on August 8th, 2008 by The Doctor in The Doctor, one star

Gunnerkrigg CourtI have tried to rewrite this review many times and no matter how I do it, it never seems as honest as this one. So here goes. I didn’t like this comic, really, at all, nor would I recommend it to others to read. Why? Here’s why:

1. It has all the earmarks of a Harry Potter knock off, for one, complete with spooky locales, scary people (two she ran into in the library looked like zombies with eye sockets instead of eyes, or as though their eyes had been torn out) and bizarre happenings. All I could think of as I read it was waiting for someone like Snape to show up, or Nearly Headless Nick to come by and make a joke and then go off again, or a book to scream in Harry Pott….I mean, sorry…Antimony’s face. I was surprised she wasn’t named Hermione, to be honest. The comic also was very dark, much like the Potter books became. There is real, concrete evil in the world - I don’t need to be immersed in it in a webcomic. That was a definite turn-off, just as something like The Care Bears is a complete turn-off at the other extreme.

2. Characterizations - The characters themselves seemed like contrivances, honestly, in the way in which they were created and seemed to develop. (Read that as “unimaginative”) Antimony reminded me way too much of Daria, a character from the old MTV days who I simply could not stand in any capacity. If you don’t know who Daria is, look her up and you’ll see what I mean. Never smiles, you can almost HEAR her speak in that flat monotone, and you get the feeling she tolerates the people around her who aren’t as “with it” as she is. I kept having the urge to reach into the comic and slap her and tell her to get OVER herself. I can’t help but wonder who it is that actually identifies with a character like this? Her “best friend” is every bit as bad, not only being the obligatory anchor for Antimony but having all the earmarks of also being a romantic interest, (oh, yay) as is the “guy who turns into a wolf and still talks” - standard inclusions for stories of this nature.

Suffice to say just once I’d like to see a happy, well adjusted person in one of these comics who still has odd things happen to them instead of the typical “smarter than everyone else/out of step with everyone else” character like they have here. Contrary to popular opinion not every intelligent or learned person is either (a) totally out of step with reality, (b) a complete social pariah or (c) cynical and depressed sounding because the people around them are just SO un-intelligent.

3. Far too much of the supernatural/mystical/mythological stuff to even make for an enjoyable read. One comic in particular has her talking to one of the beings who supposedly come to take any and everything away that die. I believe they are called “psychopomp.” (I hope I get geek bonus points for knowing that, or something) As expected, almost no one else can see them, and so that makes her “special,” somehow, rather than the horrified person she’d be if she REALLY saw supernatural entities of the kind described here. In the beginning of the webcomic she gets an extra shadow, and then - surprise! - it starts to talk to her. Of course, she takes it in stride and helps the shadow out. Excuse me? Fiction or no, isn’t that just a bit of a stretch to expect people to swallow? She didn’t even bat an eye, as though this stuff happens all the time. It smacks of shoe-horning to get to a desired point, rather than good storytelling that brings you there with the characters. Kind of a “Even though it makes no sense at all, I’ll have her just ‘oh well’ the extra shadow so we can get rolling.” Sloppy.

4. The overall background and coloring was drab, and then some. If depression were expressed as a comic, this would be it. Can you imagine actually ATTENDING a school like that? God help you. I have yet to see one, myself, and pray no one would ever send their child to such a dreary, dark place as the school depicted here, fiction or no. It makes me wonder, at the risk of being offensive, just exactly what issues the author is dealing with, themselves.

I’m sure there are people out there who think that this comic is just the living end. To me, it’s yet another send off of established stories, mediocre art work and a comic that tries FAR too hard to be something symbolic, heavy, and dramatic.

I give it 1 star. Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The Doctor

Gunnerkrigg Court
by Tom Siddell
review by the Doctor
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (33 votes, average: 1.76 out of 5)

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Holy Antimony!: a review of Gunnerkrigg Court

Posted on August 8th, 2008 by Larry Cruz in comics, five stars

Gunnerkrigg CourtI’m going to make this easy for you.

I’m going to state up front that I have been a fan of Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court for a long time.

It’s not just one of my favorite webcomics. It’s one of the few webcomics that holds an honored place in my personal Pantheon of Webcomics Par Excellence. The Pantheon — which includes Scary Go Round, Templar Arizona, The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo, and Achewood — looms above the sad morass of its contemporaries, flashing their accusing yet gentle eyes as if to say, “You know what you are doing is a sin against storytelling. Why do you work against the power of Our Love?” With their terrible swift swords, hey reduce even the efforts of most print comics into quivering piles of sad, half-hearted doodles. Then afterwards, I imagine that they hang out with Peanuts, Calving & Hobbes, and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, knocking back four-color brewskis. Ah, yes, that’s what you come to Comic Fencing for, isn’t it, my dear reader? The anthropomorphosis of sequential panel funnies.

What follows, then, will be less of a review and something more akin to a fan rant. If you aren’t rolling your eyes and screaming, “Well, if you love this comic so much, why don’t you marry it?” by the end of this review, I will be very disappointed.

Like a lapsed parishioner, I haven’t read Gunnerkrigg for about six months. This is partially because when you’re out there reviewing webcomics on a twice-weekly basis, you tend to forsake the ones that you enjoy. The biggest reason, though, is that, like Kobayashi at a competitive eating event, I like to digest long-form comics in big, meaty chunks. I find that it’s better to wait a while until several story arcs have built up a backlog. Then I dig in. I liken it to buying a trade paperback, or, of you’re more into TV shows, waiting until the entire season is released on a boxed set. Yet, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to return to Tom Siddell’s gothic world. When Comic Fencing announced that this week’s review would be Gunnerkrigg Court, I licked my lips greedily.

Gunnerkrigg Court stars Antimony Carver, a capable Titian-haired girl with a head shaped like a football. She starts school at the gothic Gunnerkrigg Court, am imposing walled city full of mazes and fantastic creatures. Her parents, who are absent or dead, were highly regarded sorcerers in a secret alliance. If this sounds an awful lot like Harry Potter… well, you’re not far off, and chances are that Tom Siddell is very aware of the parallels. (There’s even a guest strip that points this out.) Yet, if you’re writing the series off as cheap J.K. Rowling knock-off, you couldn’t be more wrong, buster. And you’re cheating yourself.

More than any other comic, Gunnerkrigg creates images so memorable and haunting that they’re likely to linger the recesses of my mind forever. A robot caught in the lights of a stone bridge. The owl-headed deities inhabiting the impenetrably dark Gilitie Woods. Zimmy’s eyes, mysteriously and frighteningly shrouded in shadow. The lithe, shadowy form of Coyote. Even the humorous moments, such as when stuffed animal companion Reynardine morphs into an aesthetically pleasing form, are filed away in bundles of cerebral neurons that would be better used for storing phone numbers or computer passwords.

When I resumed reading Gunnerkrigg, I finished up the chapter with a childhood ghost story. After that, we follow Antimony as she begins to train with an elite class of mediums. Then we folllow her and her bestest buddy, Kat, as they scrounge around in a cellar filled with robots. It’s incredible how Siddell manages to maintain the same energy from earlier in the series. New, intriguing ideas are introduced, never growing stale, and yet everything from the beginning feels so consistent, as if he’d planned for these twists and turns all along.

The world of Gunnerkrigg Court is a mix of science fiction, steampunk, and fantasy. Siddell opts for a dark but very cartoonish style. Some people are put off by the look, throwing around phrases that the main characters — mostly schoolgirls — all look like either Powerpuff Girls or Bratz dolls. “The comic looks like it’s for preteen girls,” I’ve heard some critics say.

I love the simple look. The story is, after all, reminiscent of young adult fantasy fiction, and it should be festooned appropriately. To me and my glittering fanboy eyes, the characters far more resemble Edward Gorey illustrations with some of the macabre edge filed off. Not all, mind … just enough. Yet the horror is still there, lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce at the right moment. The story involving Antimony’s childhood threatens to plunge into darker territory, yet the story holds us right at the edge of oblivion and reassures us with the warm touch of a mother’s hand. The evolution of the designs, too, suit the story well. Antimony evolves from an awkward looking girl to a beautiful young woman before our eyes, which mirrors her own personal development towards maturity and adulthood.

If there is only one webcomic you will read in your entire life, read Gunnerkrigg Court. In a medium where sameness is the rule and adolescence is the state of mind, Gunnerkrigg Court stands heads and shoulders above the rest as a stellar milestone in webcomics. Like Harry Potter, Gunnerkrigg can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, blessed with refreshing originality, solid storytelling, fleshed out characters, and beautiful artwork. This is El Santo, from the rugged lands of the Shaolin, signing out.

Rating: ★★★★★

Gunnerkrigg Court
by Tom Siddell

Reviewed by Larry “El Santo” Cruz

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (16 votes, average: 4.69 out of 5)

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