I’ve noticed that many humorous storyline webcomics tend to slowly shed the humor as dramatic tension grows, a term often coined as “Cerebus Syndrome” (though Eric Burns of Websnark considered this to be the successful integration of humor and drama, while the abandonment of humor for drama he called “First and Ten”). While I am a huge fan of dramatic storytelling, I must admit that I feel humor has an important place in comics… especially in contrasting the darker, more dramatic moments with glimpses of humor and light. Fortunately, Phil and Kaja Foglio’s gaslamp fantasy webcomic Girl Genius has managed to successfully integrate both drama and humor within its structure, which has allowed the Foglios to tell an increasingly dark and ominous story without it becoming oppressive… though there have been moments.
The last few updates for Girl Genius have skirted the line between the two poles… with the revelation that Baron Wulfenbach was trying to destroy the very weapon he’d designed to detect and defeat Slaver Wasps (which makes sense, seeing he’s been subverted by the Other). The death of so many Wasp Eater weasels and the attack of Slaver Warriors (that had been held captive on the airship, which suggests that the Baron didn’t kill all of the Slaver Warriors from the attack way back when) helped to counterbalance the humor from when the Jägers were fighting off the attack of the Baron’s minions. Today’s comic with the weasel lovefest shifts the mood back from drama to humor.
This is actually par for the course for Girl Genius; while there are occasional moments in the comic that get dark, it never quite reaches the level of “the dark before the break of dawn” (though when you get down to it, that moment of darkness is most intense because of the light). However, I do have to admit I’m wishing this storyline would wrap up. It’s obvious that Agatha and her friends in Mechanicsburg will need allies to overcome the Baron and the Other. There’s even been a number of hints laid along the way that Agatha will eventually head to England (where no doubt we’ll learn the Queen of England is a rogue Hive Engine that decided not to enslave the English people and to fight the Other).
No doubt it’ll be a while getting to England, however. And perhaps my boredom with Mechanicsburg lies more with the years we spent with Agatha wandering through Europe; I want to see more of the wondrous and detailed world that Phil and Kaja Foglio have crafted. For that matter, the Battle for Mechanicsburg has been going on for over a year now. Even with the interweaving of drama and humor, the pacing is starting to falter. I can only hope that the Foglios have moved all their pieces into position for a grand conclusion for the Battle of Mechanicsburg… and the start of Agatha Heterodyne’s next adventure.