There are good mash-ups, and there are great ones, ones that make you wonder “how terrific! why haven’t I seen this combination before?” Megan Rose Gedris’s Spectacle is great, combining life in the circus, steampunk touches, a ghost sibling, and a murder mystery.
Anna is the practical twin, creator of a steam-driven conjecture engine that can predict future events using statistics to 78% accuracy. Ironic, then, that she tells fortunes, knowing that they’re trickery. Kat is the twin liked by everyone, a flirt and socializer (although mean to her sister) and a knife thrower. Ironic, then, that Anna finds her stabbed to death.
Kat hasn’t moved on, though, haunting Anna until they can figure out who murdered her. Even with all of this juicy content — it really feels like the reader is traveling with the circus, with plenty of detail to establish the lifestyle in packed layouts — the art is my favorite part of the book, full of sun-drenched color and unusual-looking characters. In particular, Anna’s cloud of hair keeps the reader’s eye on her, and I love her vaguely military coat, symbolizing her unofficial authority as investigator. I wish I could help her; she’s a distinct personality and a sympathetic one.
Kat’s keeping something from her sister, and as Anna investigates, aided by Flora the snake charmer, we learn more about the secrets under the big top (including church-going clowns and a jailed ringmaster). Every chapter has something new and unusual in it.
Spectacle is due out in bookstores on May 22 and comic shops on May 23. It is being serialized digitally on ComiXology and via Kindle, among other outlets. You can also read some of it online at the book’s website. The graphic novel, first in a three-volume series and collecting #1-5, can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JAN18 1822. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)