It’s always enjoyable to see an effective and well-developed villain in stories. More often than not, villains (recurring ones, at least) are depicted as potent but fatally-flawed individuals who never seem to realize that doing the same thing (with minor variations) to overcome protagonists is destined to fail. Only a few villains are ever shown to learn from their mistakes, or possess some level of genre savviness to avoid the more common pitfalls that their brethren make time and time again. Thus I was quite amused to see the mind-clones of Lucrezia showing their own genre savviness in the latest update of Girl Genius.
To be honest, part of me has doubted the validity of the revelation that Agatha’s mother Lucrezia is the Other, responsible for the destruction of so many Sparks and the devastation of Europe. Something just feels… off about it. Part of this lies with the fact that Lucrezia’s first child died in the attack on Heterodyne Castle, when Lucrezia vanished, and I can’t quite imagine Lucrezia as someone monstrous enough to kill her own baby just because she realized she was pregnant with a girl. I always figured that Lucrezia herself was controlled by the Other. No doubt it’s the romantic in me who manages to survive the rampant pessimism of my inner cynic.
But with each new comic with the Lucrezia mind-clones, I must admit I’m reluctantly putting that theory to rest. There seems to be no reason for the Other to call itself Lucrezia if it was in fact a separate entity. Oh, there’s always some glimmer of possibility my old speculation is true, but it seems quite doubtful after all this time. It’s a bit of a shame, too, as I suspect Agatha would fight long and hard to try and rescue her mother if it were at all possible. But not only does Lucrezia seem beyond redemption (as Agatha’s father sadly learned), but that her father also is gone. But Lucrezia is no Darth Vader, and what we’ve seen of her remnants and personality is of someone who not only feels no remorse… but sees even her daughter as just a tool to be used and discarded.
The humor of the last couple of panels, with the Lucrezia mind-clone inhabiting the body of Zola chatting with another copy nestled away in a humanoid clank built by Prince (and part-time antagonist) Tarvek Sturmvoraus only to freak out when one of the pair dismisses the long-absent Barry Heterodyne as being no threat, was the strongest strike against my theory of the Other and Lucrezia being separate individuals inhabiting the same body. It is obvious from their reactions that the Heterodyne Boys have a long-standing tradition of appearing when the Heterodynes are dismissed as “not being a threat,” which Lucrezia has experienced in the past. It also was a delightful tip of the hat to the few, the proud, the genre-savvy antagonists who know better than to tempt fate (or the whims of the cartoonist) by saying such things as “nothing can stop me now!” or the like.
We also have the set-up for another bit of drama; Zola (and her copy of Lucrezia’s mind) knows that Baron Wulfenbach was infected with a Slaver Wasp, rendering him vulnerable to the commands of those who can speak with Lucrezia’s voice (an odd aspect of how Lucrezia was able to control her minions while preventing others from wresting control from her; her very vocal patterns are inherent in her ability to issue commands). But only the humanoid clank can mimic Lucrezia’s voice, allowing her to seize control of the Baron’s kingdom as the puppet master behind the scenes. Naturally, something will keep the Zola-based Lucrezia from imparting this knowledge to the clank; at least, for now.
It is inevitable that the Baron will fall under the control of Lucrezia. The moment he was infected by a Slaver Wasp I saw this was coming, though I would like to think Klaus Wolfenbach to be savvy enough himself to have safeguards in place to keep him from being used by Lucrezia. It also feels too… pat. Too easy. Like Phil and Kaja Foglio are trying to lure us into a false sense of security over what will happen. Might it not be more interesting to witness the start of a game of chess between Klaus and Lucrezia as she tries to take control… and he manages to evade her time and time again? After all, Klaus knows Lucrezia all too well, and has seen what she can do. And it would be a suitable distraction of his attentions away from Agatha, giving her time to fix the Castle and protect her people.
This is one of the fun things about Girl Genius; the Foglios retain enough of a sense of whimsy to pull the unexpected, even when literary and storytelling tropes would suggest a different course of action. No doubt there will be twists within twists even if Lucrezia gets her claws into Klaus sooner rather than later in the story with his own struggles to overcome her control (which would be an interesting parallel to the struggle Agatha herself faces in overcoming the fragment of her mother’s personality implanted in her own mind). It is these twists (along with characters who I can easily like) that make this comic so enjoyable.