Girl Genius Volume 6 by the Foglios

Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio
Line Art by Phil Foglio
Color Art by Cheyenne Wright
Self-Published (originally a webcomic)

Agatha acts like a woman possessed--because she is! While her friends work on a rescue attempt, our heroine must fight for control of her own body while the Baron makes his own plans and things get extremely complicated--and silly, of course--in a really strong volume of the series.

I'd mentioned that in volume five I thought some of the art got a little sketchier than usual, but that's not the case here. Phil Foglio's linework is about as good as I've seen it in Girl Genius, with all of the characters getting better definition. The trade-off is there appear to be less intricate backgrounds, but I'm okay with that. Part of the fun of this series is in watching everyone from Agatha to the clanks have exaggerated facial expressions (Phil does more with Agatha's glasses alone than a lot of artists can manage with a character's entire body.). There's a ton of reaction shots in this, and the fact that we can easily tell who is controlling Agatha's body just by looking at her really shows Phil's quality as an artist. 

The story itself is extremely complex in this chapter, with a lot of moving parts. The Baron realizes that The Other is play again, and moves to stop her. Gil wants to stop his dad from harming Agatha. Agatha wants to get her body back. The Prince and Princess want to take power, but are operating from positions of weakness. The Other wants to take over everywhere, and seems ready to handle any possible situation. The Jagermonsters are caught between conflicting orders. The traveling circus wants to help Agatha but also stay alive. That's almost as many subplots as an X-Men comic, and I'm probably missing a few along the way. They all explode (literally) by the end of this volume, setting up a new storyline even as these older threads can be re-examined at the right time.

In addition to being strongly structured, with a lot of moments where things look bad (and a willingness to harm major characters, yay!), the humor just flows as smoothly as the art. The Jagermonsters continue to be my favorite characters, playing at being fools but knowing far more than they let on. (A cool bit of dialogue includes: "You cannot possibly be as stupid as you act." "..ken if I vants to be!") They're always ready to brawl but also know when discretion is the right path, such as when they back off taking on the Other's army when it's the wrong time to try. They quip in that strange accent that should annoy me but doesn't. (I tend to dislike altering character speech for comic effect.) 

The other big humor comes from the Baron's murderous assistant Dupree. She doesn't have a lot of scenes, but steals each of them. Her desire to kill first and ask questions later is absolutely ridiculous and I love it. A different type of joke comes from Krosp, the talking cat who keeps getting stuck in situations where his enhanced senses make his life miserable. Having joined Agatha to stay alive, the constant danger gives the cat-as-straight-man a lot of lines to work with. And of course there's the idea that modest Agatha keeps getting put into clothing that's not very modest. Like Tim Seeley and others, the Foglios can make sexual jokes without it feeling icky--and of course, match that with visuals, too.

Combined with Wright's bright colors, Girl Genius is one of the prettiest comics I've ever read, and I'm enjoying the heck out of this re-read, which I'm so glad to be finally getting around to. I'll have to hope the minor god of inter-library loan can keep delivering for me, because I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes next. It's really hitting its stride here, and anyone who loves a good action farce with some scheming, science, and silliness should get back to reading it, too, if you haven't already.