Review: Bad Machinery Vol. 1 - The Case of the Team Spirit

I’ve been looking forward to this series since it was announced that Oni would be publishing it. There was something about the art style that instantly caught my attention and after waiting a bit I was finally about to check the book out. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but then some of the best things in life are not what we expect. The story revolves around six students that are beginning their first days of grammar school (high school to us here in the States). The format of the issue is essentially that of a web-comic where each page (or two) stands alone as a chapter in the story. The story stars three girls: Shauna, Charlotte and Mildred and three boys: Jack, Linton and Sonny. For the most part the boy’s story and the girl’s story are divided with a few overlaps. It’s clear that they’re all familiar with each other, but they have a rivalry between them that isn’t made clear to us in this story. After a lengthy character introduction including several teachers, we move on to heart of the story.

The plot involves a mystery around a rich Russian Football owner and the curse that has apparently followed him from Russia. Linton catches wind of the case during a match with his favorite local team Tackleford City. During the match a Satellite crashes in the middle of the field alerting him that something is definitely up. The girl’s side puts things together a bit differently when they begin interviewing an elderly woman by the name of Mrs. Biscuits for a school assignment, only to discover that she is the last house standing in the way of the new football stadium.

Overall the story is pretty charming, but it does have its pacing issues. Being that it’s currently a web-comic its format it’s structured differently and that tends to make the plot move ahead awkwardly. Also in the beginning it really felt as if the story had no direction, but then it towards the middle it starts to come together and form a really interesting world with these characters that are intertwined and barreling towards the same ending. There were some chuckles, but not nearly as many as I would have hoped for. Additionally, the most interesting aspect of the story is introduced in the closing pages. It alludes to a past that is bigger than this first story that we’re reading, but I think that ultimately this was the best start for the series.

The art style is fantastic and a huge selling point for the book. It has a slight animated look to it, but overall it reminds me a lot of the type of material that First Second Books produces. The character designs are all very distinct and what’s even better is that they go through changes with their hair and style which is usually avoided in comics. The coloring also plays a big role in the animated look with its rich and vibrant colors. The world looks and feels real; when it’s bright and sunny it feels that way and when it’s not, you feel that as well.

I wouldn’t say that this made me want to run out and get caught up on the web-comic which looks like it’s years (and I mean that literally) ahead of this story, but I would definitely continue reading the collected books. If memory serves me correct Oni Press will be releasing the second volume later this year. This is definitely a story that struggles to find itself, but once it does it’s quite entertaining. If you’re looking for something for a younger reader or just something that reminds you of Scooby Doo minus the dog, the drugs and the repetitive formula then definitely check out Bad Machinery.

Score: 3/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: John Allison Publisher: Oni Press Price: $19.95 Release Date: 3/27/13