Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 1: Orientation

I’m all for print collections of webcomics, because I enjoy reading great lumps of the series I enjoy in a more convenient, portable format. However, an upscale hardcover with glossy pages seems a bit much, mainly because I think it throws the cost/value equation out of balance. This material has been available for free, after all.

Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 1: Orientation cover
Gunnerkrigg Court
Volume 1: Orientation
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If I were already a fan of the series, perhaps I’d feel differently. And there is an argument to be made that a hardcover is more in keeping with the feel and themes of the series. Gunnerkrigg Court has been running since 2005, and this volume, “Orientation”, collects the first 14 chapters, which cover the first school year. Gunnerkigg Court is one of those oddly mysterious boarding schools surrounded by a magical wood, you see, and a new student, Antimony, has just begun attending.

Personally, I’m a bit burnt out on this genre, and the lack of characterization didn’t help. I didn’t get a sense of the characters’ personalities beyond their usefulness for any particular plot, and I’m tired of this structure being used to justify keeping readers in the dark. “Oh, it’s mysterious!” No, sometimes it’s just lazy, trying to keep readers interested by doling out tiny portions of revelation to keep them on the hook. (Another shortcut: signs that direct Antimony to whatever she’s seeking at any particular time.) On the other hand, each chapter works as its own story, which is convenient to readers.

There are shadows with their own existence as well as robots and ghosts and mythological creatures. The cast includes Cat, Antimony’s friend, and a demon-possessed stuffed animal. Siddell’s style is extremely stylized, with simplified, flat character designs. I didn’t find it objectionable, but I wouldn’t recommend it based on the art, either. It works for the off-kilter world he’s trying to create, but in the beginning, it’s not particularly attractive or welcoming on its own. By the end, though, it’s become more confident, with stronger lines, and it works well to combine the various influences Siddell is using, including Native American legend and British boarding school traditions.

Oddly, unlike with other webcomic-in-print books, the extras are extremely minimal: two sketches. That’s it, unless you count the “about the author” page, reprinted on the back flap. Many webcomic creators include more bonus material in order to make the print package more desirable to existing readers. The publisher has posted preview pages, or you could read the webcomic. There’s already a second book, “Research”, covering chapters 15-22. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

2 Responses to “Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 1: Orientation”

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