Publisher: BOOM! Studios (Archaia Imprint)
Writer/Artist: Tom Siddell
Release Date: 15th April, 2015
Critically acclaimed webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court (http://www.gunnerkrigg.com) tells the story of Antimony Carver, a young girl attending the titular boarding school – a school which has body-snatching demons, living shadows and mythical creatures roaming the halls alongside the students. The product of both the mind and pen of Tom Siddell – whose work I shamefully only just became aware of as part of his contribution to BOOM! Studios’ ongoing Munchkin series – I jumped at the chance to take a look at this first collected volume, dealing with Antimony’s orientation and her early days at the school.
The nearly 300-page volume is broken down into fourteen different chapters of varying lengths, each managing to tell a self-contained story while still also feeding into the overall narrative and growing mystery. Subjects in this first volume range from Antimony dealing with her mysterious ‘second shadows’, to the risks (or lack thereof) of bringing a minotaur to class, to an incident of doll-based demon possession. Siddell’s writing remains sharp throughout, with an offbeat sense of humour and a keen focus on character development as his story gradually evolves and expands over time.
His stylised artwork is also perfectly in keeping for the tone of the book, with elaborate backgrounds and eye-catching, distinctive characters throughout. He keeps his colour palette fairly restrained, opting for simplicity in his approach but never losing any of the mood and feel of the series along the way. Some of his character designs are better than others, it has to be said, but all are packed with expression and – more often than not – a generous helping of humour. It’s also interesting to compare these early strips to Siddell’s current output and see just how far he has come as an artist. Don’t get me wrong, these initial chapters are still polished enough, but the current content is – to be frank – light years ahead of what you’ll find contained within these pages.
With Siddell now devoting himself full-time to the webcomic, the updates continue to flow regularly, and the series has a fiercely passionate fanbase with a terrific sense of community. Taken in isolation, there may be the occasional flaw in the pacing or the occasional rough panel of artwork, but as an ongoing collection – an ever-expanding world which Siddell has been gradually adding to on an almost daily basis for the past ten years – it’s difficult not to find yourself drawn into the fun, fascinating and truly unique world of Gunnerkrigg Court. This volume serves as both perfect jumping-on point for new readers and a terrific way for long-time fans to grab themselves a wonderful printed copy of their beloved series.
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