What do you get when you cross The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew with Charlie and Lola? Something along the lines of Bad Machinery.
Shauna. Charlotte. Mildred. Three schoolgirl sleuths. Jack. Linton. Sonny. Three schoolboy investigators. Tackleford. One mid-sized city with a history of countless mysteries. Is there enough room at Griswalds Grammar School for two groups of kid detectives? There better be because once these kids set their sights on solving a mystery there’s nothing that can derail them. Nothing, except maybe gossip, classwork, new football player cards, torment from siblings, stolen jackets, teacher’s wives…
Bad Machinery is difficult to nail down. It is not quite a mystery. It is not quite a supernatural book. And it is not quite a slice of life story either. So then, what is it? If nothing else, Bad Machinery is distinctly British. By that I mean that the pacing is different than a comic from the US, it is primarily dialogue driven, and there are several parts which just seem to wander off in their own direction.
A casual reader might take that last paragraph as a criticism of Bad Machinery. Far from it, that difference is what makes Bad Machinery work so well. It takes an invest ment from the reader. It means that the reader has to follow all the little tangets down to the ends to find out what makes a character tick (even though is does not move the main plot forward). Creator John Allison does not give the reader anything easily. He makes the reader learn and discover on their own. Because of this, the characters in Bad Machinery are far more interesting and the reader is far more invested in them.
The book is also very British in its language. There is enough slang tossed around that there is a glossary in the back. Most of the book is readable without flipping to the back pages, but there are a few times where the unfamiliar cadence and verbiage may make a colonial reader stumble.
The Case of the Team Spirit is a classic mystery with bits and bobs being added and discovered along the way. There are some fun revelations which surprise the reader and make the revelations all the more interesting. In true Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fashion the mystery is not over until the final page is turned.
There are a few parts of the story which are pretty unbelievable. Mostly these revolve around character actions or reactions. This is very much a comic book and is not attempting to be “real”. therefore it should be treated in the same way that one would treat a cartoon or sit-com; things are resolved and wrapped up in a neat and tidy package which should not be thought about too deeply.
The Case of the Team Spirit is the first of five Bad Machinery stories (so far) from John Allison. Hopefully this will be the first of a print series of the books since they are being presented in a large format (12.25″ x 9″) which makes for a far better viewing experience than on a computer screen.
You can order your own copy of Bad Machinery Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit now.