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Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 1: Orientation by Thomas Siddell

01/12/2009. Contributed by Phil Jones

Buy Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 1: Orientation in the USA - or Buy Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 1: Orientation in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 295 page graphic novel small hardback. Price: 14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84856-175-5.

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This is a printed version of the web comic 'Gunnerkrigg Court' that has had quite a bit of praise and rightly so. The story follows Antimony Carver, a young girl who's mother has died and her father is well...elsewhere most of the time. She discovers that she has a rather strange shadow that is trapped and needs to get across the bridge and to the forest. With the help of a robot, she manages to help him escape and return home.

Normal school activities commence, but there are a few odd things happen such as the school ghost who fails to scare anyone and trapped demon who end up in Antimony's possession. Antimony goes on to form a few friendships of sorts and also gets to find out a bit more about her father.

About half-way through the book, there is a convergence of story elements and the main character becomes a lot more complete and likable. It's like Thomas Siddell starts to find his feet a bit more and the main character gains more depth.

This is a beautifully printed hardback. The artwork alone is impressive, although to start off with it has a rushed feel which I suspect is down to its webcomic routes and tight deadlines. Deep dark and textural it seems to capture something that a lot of fantasy comics and books don't have. Antimony Carver is a deeply lonely character, but she easily forms relationships but still has an element of isolation. She has an almost matter-of-fact attitude to life with very little phasing her at all. Saying that, she doesn't come across as bullish or self-centred. She is far from perfect and sometimes stumbles in what she does and happy to help, as with the school ghost who fails to scare her and gives a few pointers to help him in his haunting of students.

For the lazy among us, we could just simply use the Harry Potter analogy but to me this is a completely different beast. For all of its simplicity, it has an edge. A dark foreboding gritty depth. This first volume feels like things are brewing and there are the major set pieces to come. It also takes a more adult approach, in a way like many Japanese manga. The trapped demon Raynardme in Antimony's cuddly toy is far from polite and comes out with the odd dodgy suggestion.

There are not many stories that have talking robots, mythological creatures that holiday at your school with ghost and demons all mixed up in the same pot. Actually, saying that, there is probably Manga or Anime that does but you get my drift. Perhaps not completely rounded or fully formed, this is still an enjoyable read especially as the artwork and story improve throughout the book. The main character, although perhaps not initially is likable. You can feel that the story is working up to some major elements so I look forward to reading some more. I have to confess as well I still love to have a book physically in my hand rather than reading it on-line.

Phil Jones

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This book has 78 votes in the sci-fi charts

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