Review Fridays: Bad Machinery, Volume 1

I am a fan of webcomics, and my current favorite is Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery. I found John Allison’s comics in the time between the end of Scary Go Round and the start of Bad Machinery through a link on Kate Beaton’s Hark, a vagrant (which is also lovely). Bad Machinery follows the next generation of Scary Go Round characters, detective youths in the fictional English town of Tackleford. Each case has a supernatural component, but the best part is the characters.

Lottie is a “noisy Miss Marple” who thinks that a lemon, a lime, and an orange are the same fruits in different stages of ripeness. Shauna is the brainy one from a bad part of town. Mildred is raised in a vegan household but will exchange juicy gossip for decidedly non-vegan chocolate. Jack is the cute one, Linton is the rude one, Sonny is the sunny optimist. Side characters include “Little Claire” (who is short and adorable and has the unfortunate last name of Little) and carryovers from the Scary Go Round universe of Mr. Ryan Beckwith (now playing grown up in fake glasses and elbow patches as a teacher), Amy Beckwith-Chilton (his wife, antiques dealer and eventually Shauna’s boss), and reporter Erin Winters (whom no one remembers because of something that happened in the previous comic series).

The first volume, the print form of which includes extra pages from what is published online, is called “The Case of the Team Spirit.” When Mr. Beckwith assigns the class to interview an elderly person, Lottie and Shauna decide to talk to a woman Shauna knows named Mrs. Biscuits. Which isn’t really her name, but she would give Shauna biscuits (cookies, for Americans) and a cute nickname evolved. They find an interesting story when they talk to her. The Tackleford football club is trying to take her house in order to build a new football pitch. The story attracts the notice of Erin, a reporter at the local newspaper. There’s also a mysterious, supernatural creature roaming Tackleford. The mystery girls and boys, of course, figure out a solution for everything.

The humor is always completely on point, and John Allison keeps up a frenetic update schedule that makes me suspect he has a time reversing teapot. The website includes side projects such as the current one, Destroy History, featuring Scary Go Round’s Shelley Winters. I highly recommend both the online comic and the print form.