Review: Gunnerkrigg Court, Tom Siddell

Can this count as part of the mini-challenge where we read graphic novels with animals in?  Animals are not main characters exactly, but they are around, and rather important.  And I didn’t like the other graphic novel I read for the mini-challenge, so I hereby decree Gunnerkrigg Court counts.  So let it be written; so let it be done.

Gunnerkrigg Court is about a girl called Antimony Carver, who goes to live at a boarding school called Gunnerkrigg Court, following the death of her mother.  (Her father is off somewhere doing some sort of we don’t know what he’s doing.)  It is a webcomic that gets updated three times a week, so if you want to read the whole of it from the beginning, you easily can at its website.  I read the first volume in book form (at the recommendation of Bride of the Book God), and the rest of it at the website. It is still going on!  You have not come to it too late to join the webcomic party!  And Gunnerkrigg Court just gets better and better as it goes on!

Boarding school stories are wonderful.  Gunnerkrigg Court follows Antimony, with her magicky powers, and her best friend Kat, with her sciencey wisdom, as they learn more about the school and the world of science and magic around them.  Their parents were at the school before them, doing magic-and-science type things, and Kat and Antimony find out about that too.  Siddell incorporates elements of different mythologies into the world – Antimony, for instance, encounters Muut out of Egyptian mythology and Reynard from Alsace-Lorrain-ian folk tales.  (I remember that because MY PEOPLE were from Alsace-Lorrain, lo these many years ago, so I used to really like the Reynard myths.)

This is the second of two graphic novels I have read recently that reminded me of a particular good things comics can do, that books can’t.  When a comic is released serially, it can deviate from the ordinary narrative of the series, for one or two issues or even loads of them at a time (cf. World’s End, Dream Country, Fables and Reflections) and tell other stories.  These stories can illuminate some other part of the comic’s fictional world, or expand on the themes of the series, or give you the whole thing from a different character’s perspective.  The story about Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde in The Unwritten contributed something to the reader’s understanding of the world, definitely, but it wasn’t directly related to Tom (er, as far as I know).  It was its own separate thing.  Similarly, Gunnerkrigg Court has several chapters that are self-contained stories, looking into characters’ backgrounds, or just letting the characters have some fun.

I guess books can do this – cf. American Gods – but it tends to irritate me, when it’s a book.  I am all, STOP IT.  LET ME GET BACK TO MY STORY.  I am all, WHERE ARE SHADOW AND MR. WEDNESDAY? and I stomp about in a temper.

Other reviews:

Bride of the Book God (thanks for the recommendation!)
Reading Rants
Paradoxical

Tell me if I missed yours!

  • trapunto

    Thanks for the web link. I will read this as soon as I get over “Antimony.” Don’t you hate it when someone grabs a name you’d filed away?

    “STOP IT. LET ME GET BACK TO MY STORY” –my main problem with my first Lord of the Rings reading. How could anything be more important than getting rid of the ring?

    • I know! I’ve always felt Antimony should be a name, and I resented the book for a while before deciding to read it.

  • parisreader

    Chapter 14 and loving it!

  • parisreader

    …aaaaand finished. Now I have to actually wait to find out what happens next?

    • MY REACTION EXACTLY. Now there are only three new pages a week, instead of many many pages to read in a single day!

  • anna

    Jen, you need to keep finding me more new webcomics to read. This was lovely.

    • I’m all out. I didn’t even realize it was a webcomic until I’d finished reading the first volume. I now have no more webcomics to recommend to you. Sorry! It’s not because I don’t love you! <3

  • anna

    :'(

    *weeps sad tears imprisoned in work, covered in papercuts (NINE PAPERCUTS! NINE!) with only a few moments to spare for reading like webcomics*

  • I was redaing your Milton post when I saw you’d reviewed Gunnerkrigg Court – I used to read it a couple of years ago and I think it’s terrific. You’ve reminded me to go back and catch up – thanks!