Vogelein: Old Ghosts

The story of the clockwork faerie continues with the second book in Jane Irwin’s series of gorgeous, painted, modern-day fairytales.

As with any good series, you don’t need to have read the first volume (in which Vögelein copes with the death of her caretaker) to enjoy this one. Vögelein now carries her own key and as Vogelein: Old Ghosts opens, she’s acting as something of a daredevil, riding wind gusts in the city. It’s a beautiful sequence, introducing the character and her motivations as well as demonstrating both the setting and the artist’s skill.

The black-and-white art has an organic, pencil/charcoal feel to it. The key is a great symbol, by the way. It’s iconic, providing a summary image for the series with its Celtic-style knot. It’s attractive, providing a decorative accessory to the design of a young girl. It’s meaningful, representing Vögelein’s control over her own existence, letting her make the decision who will control her and literally keep her alive. It’s a memorial, reminding her of the people who’ve held it throughout her life.

Vögelein’s perspective is a charming mix of the naive (she’s still young, emotionally, learning about herself and the world) and the accomplished (she’s functionally immortal, having already lived for hundreds of years). Her quest, to better know herself and her own desires after escaping a kind of captivity (albeit loving and well-meant) is one most readers will relate to. Her existence requires the care of others, making real the symbolic struggle of relationships. For everyone, it’s a continuing challenge to find the proper balance between giving oneself over to others and maintaining the independence necessary for one’s identity.

Vogelein: Old Ghosts

She’s now got a group of Guardians, people who can wind her up when needed. One’s a folk musician who reminds her of another person from her past, a Romani (Gypsy) harried by soldiers in the late 1600s. Her time with him ended badly, sending her on a quest to resolve her guilt. She hopes the journey will help her better accept the change that’s a necessary part of life, as well as learning more about a culture most of us are unfamiliar with.

Irwin’s quite talented in sketching characters quickly and yet with depth. Their dialogue is realistic and distinctive, and they live in a solid, well-delineated, detailed world. They give the impression of being observed from life, or at least inspired by people Irwin’s really seen. They’re also more diverse and unusual than the expected comic types, from a workingman to a short-order waitress to a young woman choosing a life that allows her to take care of her aging grandmother.

I appreciated the way the book acknowledges the importance of rituals, as well as the way its inhabitants respect culture, music, their environments, and especially books. After reading this graphic novel, I’d learned things I wouldn’t otherwise know, I’d felt what other lives might be like, and I wanted to meet these people and spend lots more time with them. It’s gorgeous.

Find out more at the Vögelein website.


  • Thanks for reviewing these upcoming books! When it comes to indie graphic novels it is SO hard to know what to order based on previews. Because of your review of this book I contacted Jane and got to see more of her work so I could make an intelligent decision about weather or not to order this book. If no one else tells you this – let me tell you – thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your reviews and information on upcoming books. It really helps me out!

  • Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! I’d love to see more retailer support for good books like this one, and I’m happy I can do a small part to help.

  • James Schee

    I don’t know why this popped up on top of your page today, but wow flashbacks. I remember loving this series way back when, it was insightful, with a good heart and just beautiful art.

    I need to see if I can find a copy somewhere, I lost much of my comics collection years ago. But I would like to reread this if possible.

  • I put it up because it’s available for reorder in the current (NOV20) Previews catalog. Looks like Amazon has used copies at very reasonable prices, too.

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