Girl Genius 2: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City
Agatha has been kidnapped to the Baron’s blimp, where her gifts are as yet unknown. She’s thought just to be a bargaining chip, the floozy of a man with the real talents, although the Baron’s son Gilgamesh suspects otherwise.
I love the many women who populate this world. There’s such a variety of personality (even if they all do have the same pneumatic figures). There’s down-to-earth Sleipnir O’Hara, the den mother of the group of visiting “students” (hostages) living under the Baron’s oversight; Von Pinn, the Baron’s scary discipline enforcer; and Zulenna Luzhakna, the princess clinging to rank in a difficult situation. She’s amusingly snotty, with dagger-like putdowns that leave their mark before the victim realizes they’ve been tagged.
It’s a shame that the series’ quest structure means that we only get a little while with this interesting groups of characters, before Agatha’s off to a new setting with new people. Before then, though, the scene with Gilgamesh’s aircar is a wonderful sequence of action used to reveal character.
As the non-working machine, carrying the two of them, falls to earth, Gil is distracted by why it’s not flying — he has such confidence in his brainpower that “why” is the most important question to him. Agatha, in contrast, is overcome with the fire of creative vision (that’s why they call genius “Spark” in these stories). The well-meaning manipulation of her parental figures has resulted in her not being able to tap the power of her abilities without impending disaster unlocking her head. So when it takes her over, it’s awesome… and demonstrates the fine line between genius and madness. And the whole thing’s funny, demonstrating through the two’s interaction why they’d make a terrific couple.
Bolted onto the adventure structure are all kinds of clever concepts and creatures, rewarding those who read the art instead of just looking at the pictures. Underlying the book’s present-day adventures are the tales of the Heterodyne Boys, even more outrageous accomplishments that blend fiction and history of the characters’ world. There are hints there of Agatha’s heritage and likely future.
Sometimes there’s almost too much going on, with new concepts flying fast. I think it’s a compliment to the authors to say that I want to know more about most of these characters, and we don’t get enough time with them because the story keeps moving on.