Gunnerkrigg Court: A Damn Fine Good Read!

Hey everyone! This week we’ll be looking at something a little different then usual. A web-comic! Yes I know I’ve done comic reviews and that’s kinda the same thing; but seeing as how it can be a month between issues in a typical comic and yet a web-comic gets updated three times a week… the pacing can be quite different. Anyway!

I’ve spent my fair share of time cruising around the internet reading all kinda of web-comics. Some are good, some are bad, and a select few fall into that magical area of “Damn Good Reads”. You know, the kind of thing that’s better than half the stuff Marvel or DC put out every month. The kind of thing that you not only bookmark and return to every week, but you’d actually consider owning a hardcover copy of.

Now you may be wondering what web-comic could actually be that good. Well I’ll tell you… 

It’s called Gunnerkrigg Court and it was linked to me by a friend of mine who said something along the line of “It’s a really good comic that starts out with kinda so-so art but gets better as it goes on. Almost like it was on purpose as the characters get older and the story goes on. Kinda like Harry Potter; it gets more mature.”  And while I can most certainly attest to the fact that Gunnerkrigg Court is not a Harry Potter clone (despite some similarities), his original description of it really isn’t that far off.

Gunnerkrigg Court follows the tale of Antimony “Annie” Carver as she attends the school of Gunnerkrigg Court. As you might have guessed from the school’s name, this isn’t your regular school. With miles upon miles of empty space and looking more like a city or industrial wasteland at times then a school, Gunnerkrigg Court definitely isn’t Hogwarts. A large portion of the story is even devoted to slowly revealing some of the school’s (still) rather mysterious origins and history. But even with GC’s unique setting, and its wonderfully charming artwork, perhaps the greatest strength of the comic is its characters.

The same scene, shown in Chapter 2 and 18. See how the artwork improves over time?

Between Annie and her friends, to the other students and enemies/other things she meets while attending the school, the story is never dull and always has something going on. I really have to give the comic’s creator, Tom Siddell, a round of applause for his ability to create a character. Even now, 39 chapters in, we are still learning new things about characters and seeing them grow (in both their strengths and weaknesses). This is the kind of quality character crafting that I praise regularly when I talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra. His characters have goals, secrets and personalities that are both “real” and entertaining; exactly the kind of stuff you’d look for in any triple-A tale. These are characters you care for, characters you emphasize with, and characters that you hate to see get hurt.

Annie as she looks now in CH. 39.

Sadly though, as much as I’d love to gush and pick apart the numerously wonderful characters and scenes scattered throughout the entirety of Gunnerkrigg Court’s (ever-growing) chapters, I can’t do that without giving away any spoilers. I know, sad day. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’d love to talk about how [so-and-so] is secretly [you-know-what-ing] off of [you-know-who’s] [stuff] and what that means for her as a character. Or how it could be implied that [that-one-person] might very well be falling for [that-other-person] (in much the same way that [so-and-so] has). But I can’t. At least not without ruining some of the fun of reading through Gunnerkrigg Court yourself. So for the time being you’re going to have to take my word on it and go check it out yourself. Don’t expect to flip through all 39 in one sitting though. Even I had to break it up and I pretty much spent the entirety of a whole day reading it. Rest assured though, by the time you catch up with the weekly updates you’ll be begging for more Gunnerkrigg… I know I am.

Now I realize that, as a web-comic, Gunnerkrigg Court technically hasn’t ended yet; so attaching a rating to it is kinda pointless as the quality and story of the comic could very well change as it goes on. BUT! (And that’s a but in all caps mind you!) I have no problem attaching a rating to the comic based on the chapters already released (and in hardcover no less!). Plus, since both the art and storytelling of GC has only ever seemed to improve with time; I think it’s safe to assume that things are only ever going to get better as it goes along. Which, for readers like me, is nothing but good news. And is why I can proudly give Gunnerkrigg Court a solid 5  out of 5 stars. Yes folks, it does deserve it. It’s that damn fine a read.

I understand if you’re a bit skeptical, and that’s fine! So was I. But I promise you, if you sit down and invest some time into this one, you’ll walk away a happier and wiser person. “Wiser?” you may ask. Yes, wiser. GC doesn’t pander to its audience and it doesn’t skimp on the mythology just to make it easier to read. Not sure what a Psychopomp is? Well you’ll find out. The “true” story behind the Minotaur? That’s in there too. Neither the characters nor the world are “dumbed” down to be easier to read.

Gunnerkrigg Court doesn’t pull its punches, it’s smart, funny, and at times down right beautiful. Trust me folks, this is one comic you don’t want to miss out on!

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