Agatha H. and the Airship City is the first prose novel about Agatha Clay, the heroine of their Hugo-winning webcomic Girl Genius. I've been reading the Foglios since I was a sprout poring over Dragon magazine, and doting on Phil Foglio's back-page comic What's New? with Phil and Dixie; and I've always loved the Foglios for their unabashedly nerdy, slapstick sensibility, a bit of Tex Avery and Max Fleischer filtered through the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide. Girl Genius brought that fine form to steampunk stories, with the buxom, madcap, brilliant Agatha Clay in a starring role.
The transition from comic to print works surprisingly well. While the action sequences sometimes feel a little like a script for a comic, they're always funny and delightful. The effect is a little like the high-speed feeling of reading a fast-paced comic, but with the depth of character that you get from a prose-novel's capacity for introspection and internal monologue.
In the Girl Genius world, the Industrial Revolution has all but destroyed the world, thanks to the Sparks, industrial wizards who are born with the mad scientist's ability to make uncanny machines and lifeforms that upend order and send villagers fleeing to the hills. Finally, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach brings some order to the chaos by conquering Europe and grinding it under his (surprisingly benign) iron heel. Agatha Crumb is a lab assistant at Transylvania Polygnostic University, ward of two "constructs" (reanimated corpses) that dote on her and care for her in her parents' absence. When her benefactor is killed by the Baron's men (and monsters), she is forced to flee, but before long, she is the Baron's prisoner aboard his flying airship castle, "the only capital city that was able to patrol its own empire."
Filled with folgian touches — Borscht-belt comedy accents, things that go sproing, adorkable sentient machines, and laugh-a-minute slapstick — Agatha H is a tremendously fun addition to the Girl Genius canon.