Monday, July 16, 2012

Notable Steampunk: (Moving) Daguerreotype Edition

My undergraduate thesis advisor was fond of saying that "you can only read a great book for the first time once."  As a recent acolyte into the universe of steam, I lay claim to the delight for which words sought to prepare the way.  Following up on the Ecclesiast's recent post on notable new steampunk, I wish to submit my own sampling of artifacts, primarily in the realm of the visual narrative arts.

Avatar: the Legend of Korra Yes, it's a kids' show.  But anyone who followed the original Avatar: the Last Airbender series (discounting the insultingly horrific film adaptation) knows that, interwoven throughout the humor and cute characters are deep layers of engagement with powerful issues of identity, loyalty, tradition and innovation, and community.  The latest installation of the Avatar saga takes place several decades after the original, primarily in Republic City - a steampunk smorgasbord of Metropolis mixed with the early Roaring '20s spliced with ample experimentation in Eastern and Asian art forms.  In a world populated with "benders" (those capable of manipulating the four elements), unrest is stirred by Ammon and his Equalist party.  Too awesome - even if you have to wait for it to come out on Netflix or DVD!

Girl Genius  by Phil Foglio - I kept coming across this in various podcasts and websites, and this web-based comic does not disappoint.  Much like Scott Westerfield's Leviathan trilogy, much of the action here takes place in a more Eastern Europe locale.  Agatha H. is a "spark" - born with an innate propensity for ingenious invention with the ever-present risk of descent into mad scientist status.  The art is luscious and rich, the story-telling is fabulous, and the best part is - it's all free online!  So you can definitely engage at your own pace.  Like Korra, Girl Genius has the veneer of a young adult type adventure (as does much of recent steampunk, it seems), but like a slightly mad steampunk manifestation of Pixar, much depth and delight waits for those willing to become a child again!

The Last Exile - Admittedly, just recently started this series and have only seen a few episodes thus far. Like most of the anime reviewed in this post, the story is set in a neo-Victorian steampunk future, this time where aerial vehicles known as vanships are the technology of choice, echoing the glory days of dogfighters in and between the great World Wars.  Two nations, Anatoray and Disith, are locked in an endless war within the Grand Stream, a strange region between them, and class as well as international warfare features prominently.  A cadre of sky couriers are charged with transporting a girl who holds the key to unity while the factions battle in a world strangely reminiscent of late 19th-century Europe.  Even based on three episodes, I can tell this is gonna be a winner!

Trinity Blood - My absolute favorite adventure thus far, Trinity Blood takes place in an alternate Victorian-future Europe, again not unlike in Leviathan, poised on the brink of World War.  The world is divided between two powers - the Methuselahs, a race of immortal vampires who inhabit the role of an Enlightened Ottoman Empire, and the Vatican, which has assumed international power and responsibility for the future and fate of the humans (the vampires' capital is Byzantium, so read the East-West divide all the way back into Christian history as well).  In between is the nation of Albion (England) with its superior technology and alleged neutrality.  But the kicker: the Vatican employs a team of crack warrior priests and sundry clergy who are responsible for clandestine engagements with the vampires.  The main narrative centers around one Abel Nightroad, a "crusnik" - a vampire that feeds on the blood of other vampires.  Abel serves the Vatican devoutly, tortured by horrific memories of past misdeeds, and committed to the protection of innocent life at all costs.  So. Awesome.  Definitely an ego boost for us clergy types.  

What (moving) steampunk daguerreotypes do you enjoy?  Recommendations are always welcome, and we'll share more as we are privileged to enjoy them!  

1 comment:

  1. I think the YA field and teen lit has really "owned" the steampunk. Thanks for these additions.