Book Review

Girl Genius: Agatha Awakens—Phil & Kaja Foglio

girl geniusCover flap text: The Industrial Revolution has become all-out war! Mad scientists gifted with “the Spark” unleash explosive experiments on a battle-scarred Europe! For generations, the powerful Heterodyne dynasty kept the peace, but the last of the Heterodynes disappeared more than twenty years ago. Since then, Baron Wulfenbach has tried to maintain order with his fleet of airships and his army of unstoppable (if not very bright) Jägermonsters.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agathan Clay dreams of one day becoming a scientist, though her trouble concentrating dooms her to being a lowly minion at best. But when Agatha accidentally builds a rampaging war machine in her sleep, she grabs the attention of the Baron—as well as the Baron’s handsome young son, Gilgamesh.

Swept up to the Baron’s Airship City, Agatha finds herself surrounded by the greatest minds of her generation, as well as murderous plots, dashing heroes, and one imperial cat. Agatha may be the greatest genius to have ever lived, and the key to control of the continent, but first, she simply has to survive…


Your standard story. Girl has magical necklace that keeps bad people from finding her. Magical necklace gets broken. Girl is found by bad people, also a guy who thinks he’s a hero but is really just a nuisance, and begins becoming the thing the bad people fear. Also there’s a cat.

getting down to business [to defeat the Hive Engine]…

I’d read this part of Girl Genius in 2012 (I think) when I went through a phase of reading webcomics online. Eventually I realized that spending all day clicking through webcomics online was fun, but not exactly the best use of my time. (I followed a lot of webcomics.) Girl Genius always stuck with me, so when I found it in a bookstore, I had to buy it.

Specifically I remembered loving the Jägermonsters, because come on. They’re stupid and bloodthirsty and kind of endearingly lovable. But upon rereading it, this time in bound-book format, I picked up a lot I had missed on my first read through.

I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not allowed to comment on poetry or art from a critical perspective (my undergrad degree only allows me to make critical analysis of literature, which maybe should be a thing I try on here a time or two), but I think my degree also allows me to comment on the change of art style in a book, so here goes.

Reading the webcomic online, I missed the transition in color from black and white before Agatha’s locket is stolen, sepia-toned (maybe that’s sepia? I’m really not good at art), after it’s stolen, and gradually getting brighter until she wakes up on the airship and it’s in full color.

There’s also a great Thing that the authors do with fonts in the book that I’m going to leave up to you to discover, because the publishing student in me loved it when I realized what it was. So read, discover, and enjoy.

Now for a collection of my favorite signs/moments in Girl Genius, because the background art cracked me up so much I had to share it on Snapchat.

  • A building labeled “Turnips R Us”
  • A “Long live the tyrant” banner
  • a sign that says honking lessons on a building surrounded by signs that read no honking Honking lessons
  • man holding a blue book with the title Advanced Mechanics for the Mad Advanced Mechanics for the Mad
  • man operating a machine labeled Heterodyne portable claw use only for good Heterodyne Portable Claw—Use only for good
  • Liquor names: Dynamo wine, Whale ale, One Mean mead, Old Upside Down ale, Potato Surprise, Blue Lightning
  • The Brain Corer machine
  • The flesh dissolver and blood salts
  • 73-3 No alchemy (unless it works)
  • 73-4 017 days without a (major) explosion
  • 73-2 “All the lab experiments have either been let loose or turned on! And everything’s on fire!”

Girl Genius HUD



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