In Volume #1 of Girl Genius, by Kaja and Phil Foglio we find ourselves riding on the coattails of Agatha Clay, a student and lab assistant at Transylvania Polygnostic University somewhere in Steampunk-themed Transylvania. In a rush to get to the lab, she bears witness to an electro-magnetic pulse and what appears to be a peek at the villain controlling said pulse (or perhaps a flash-forward into the comic). Despite my immediate confusion, reading further finds Agatha running in fear an tripping (quite literally) into the paths of two thieves, one of which takes her apparently beloved locket.
A fit of rage ensues, interrupted by first a burst of pain in her blonde head and then by the sound of the University’s sentinel clock-man, Mr. Tock. Agatha rushes into the lab and is comforted briefly by Dr. Glassvitch, one of the professors that she aides. Dr. Merlot enters with the news that the apparent dictator of their realm, Klaus Wulfenbach, and his son, are early for an anticipated visit. The panic that follows is dulled slightly by Agatha’s quick cleanup of the lab. This panic is reasserted with the destruction of Dr. Beetle, the Master of the lab, and the appointment of Merlot as the new head. His first act of authority is to fire Agatha, who heads home with a saddened heart. Dr. Beetle being dead, her locket gone, and her banishment from the university is deemed her “worst day in existence,” but little does she know her world has not finished its roller-coaster ride.
When Adam and Lilith Clay (apparently family to Agatha although the relationship is rather unclear) set out to search for the stolen locket, Agatha falls asleep when she was supposed to be packing her belongings. She dreams of what appears to be a memory of her uncle. In the dream, he is distraught to hear her hum a tune that a reader would immediately recall Merlot scolding her for humming before leaving the lab. She awakes to find herself being throttled by one of the thieves who had robbed her the previous morning! Covered in oil and clad in only her pink undergarments, Agatha is faced with a clank that obeys only her! A gas canister is thrown into the worksop and Wulfenbach himself walks in, having reversed the task commands in the machine to follow it to the “spark” who created and programmed it. Mistaking the thief for the creator of the clank, The Hitler-esque man leaves his son to clean up the mess and take Agatha and the thief back to Castle Wulfenbach. Gilgamesh makes the observation that where the man has clean hands and Agatha’s are oily, and he takes a deeper interest in her, his chivalry giving way to curious determination, and thus the prologue ends, leaving me completely infatuated and eager to begin the next piece of the story.
Agatha reminds me briefly of the beloved Betty Cooper from Archie comics, being smart, pretty, and emotional, and the writing leaves a lot of holes in the reader’s overall view into the story, but these holes appear to fill themselves in as the story progresses with pokes into the happenings of other characters such as the death of Omar the thief and the journey the Wulfenbachs take to follow the clank to Agatha. It is with great pleasure that I delve further into the mechanical world of Agatha Clay.
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