Girl Genius: The Beast of the Rails: The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 1
The Girl Genius series of print collections has restarted its numbering after hitting 13 books. The new number one is titled Girl Genius: The Beast of the Rails: The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne, but the foundations were laid in that 13th book, Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City. (I last reviewed volume 12.)
There, Agatha is kidnapped by one of the presumptive heirs to the Storm King title, Martellus, and taken through a portal to his fortress. Only something went wrong, and they appeared after a two-and-a-half-year delay. Meanwhile, the Baron sealed Agatha’s city of Mechanicsburg in a time bubble, so nothing can go in or out. Including him.
So the Baron’s son Gilgamesh has taken over for his father, but the empire is in ruins. Agatha has escaped from Martellus, and both the men are after her.
Don’t worry, this volume is aimed as “a great jumping-on point for readers who have just discovered the award-winning Girl Genius series!” (as the back cover copy has it). That’s why it opens with a brief story so far summary and three pages of character profiles.
Agatha is taking the train to Paris, but the train is a sanctuary, run by a gang of monks. The price of admittance is confession, which means she sums up her situation to a brother (and the audience). Later, there’s more exposition as she reunites with friends.
The premise is clear enough here, and it does serve as an acceptable starting point. There are new characters, such as Lady Margarella, who’s also being pursued by Martellus. And I’m kind of impressed that, while Agatha has two strong, attractive, powerful suitors, most of her coterie of adventurers are women, including the warrior princess Zeetha and the stealthy noble fighter Violetta. As Zeetha tells Agatha, “You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the muscle, Violetta’s got the sneaky! We can do anything!”
The main conflicts involve an attack on the train, from a couple of minor lords who want Margarella, and Gil’s research on a Jagermonster as part of his attempt to remove the time bubble. Of course, there’s a monster to fight, bringing everyone together in the face of possible death, and a cliffhanger ending. Mostly, there’s silly comedy that I quite enjoy in among the crazy inventions.