(Slave Labor Graphics, 2006)
Writer: Dave Roman
Artists: Jeff Zoronow, Dave Roman, Jason Ho, and Riana Telgemeier
Steve's Rating Eight of Ten Stars
The title character of "Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery" is the 16-year-old granddaughter of a renowned detective and spiritualist, who exists ina pseudo-Victorian world where magic is acknowledged as real an commonplace enough that Agnes makes a living partly from running a "curiosity shop" that deals in arcane items and trinkets, and by carrying on the legacy of her grandfather. Her detective business is of a very unusual sort, going beyond solving simple arcane mysteries, as Agnes possesses the rarest of supernatural gifts: She has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts and other restless spirits, so she often helps them complete unfinished business so they can move onto the Afterlife. Her gift earns her a living, but it also leads her life to be lonely... and she is gaining insight into the darkness that exists in the souls of even the kindest-appearing men and women at a very early age.
Published by Slave Labor Graphics, "Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery" contains six tales of the teenaged supernatural sleuth, chronicle such diverse cases as her helping a kindly (but deceased) old lady wrap up her worldly affairs, protecting an unsavory womanizer from being torn limb-from-limb by the reanimated corpses of dead lovers, fighting a steampunkish mad scientist who is snatching body parts not from cadavers but from living people, and even finds possible romance in a secret under city).
Rounding out the book are excerpts from Agnes' personal journal and from files compiled by a shadowy organization that's keeping an eye on her and her activities. These materials add depth to the characters and stories, and whetted my appetite for even more Agnes Quill adventures.
What I liked the most about the stories here was the low quantity of angst, high quantity of adventure, the slight touch of melancholy, and the vast potential that still remains in the characters and the world they exist in. The kind of stories that can be told here have been attempted in comics before, but writer and creator Dave Roman seems to have come up with a world and back story that's got more breadth and depth than previous similar efforts.
"Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery" should appeal to fans of books like the "Harry Potter" and "Dresden Files" series, to those who simply appreciate well-done comics. (Another sign of the sturdiness of the Agnes Quill series is the range of art styles that are represented, from Telgemeier's very cartoony style to Jeff Zornow's intensely dramatic artwork. Each vision is equally appropriate.)
I recommend this book very highly. It's $11 for a book that I believe every comics fan in the house will enjoy; . (Well, except maybe those who need to have characters in tights with impossibly big boobs on every page. But those who appreciate well-told tales with interesting characters and offbeat adventures will get a kick out of the tales here, be they boys, girls, or adults.)