brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
"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 have 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, or any number of childhood distractions." (from the first collection's description)

"Bad Machinery," by John Allison, is a long-form webcomic about a group of school children in Tackleford, West Yorkshire, England who solve mysteries. Allison has been creating webcomics since 1998. His previous efforts, "Bobbins" and "Scary Go Round" featured adults doing adult things, sometimes involving current events and real world situations and other times venturing far afield into some truly off-beat paths.

In some ways, "Bad Machinery" is a big departure from his earlier works. The target audience isn't adults, but children. The characters aren't adults in the work place, they're kids in school. The stories are still quirky, but they are much more focused and tightly scripted. And, of course, they all center around various mysteries... most of them supernatural in origin. Allison, of course, is no stranger to the supernatural world. He's dealt with Ghost Trains, Leprechauns and Fairies, Zombies, Devils, Hell, Warlocks, Ghosts, Witches, Grim Reapers, Parallel Dimensions, Time Travel, Elves and Goblins, and more in his previous runs. And his current stories are set in a very established world, one that he's spent years fleshing out and making real. However, one needn't go back and re-read the years and years of previous comics if one doesn't want to. Don't let that be a barrier to picking up "Bad Machinery."

"Bad Machinery" features an ensemble cast of 3 boys and 3 girls from varied socio-economic backgrounds and very different personalities. Shaunna, Lottie, Mildred, Linton, Jack, and Sonny are initially at odds in a girls vs boys dynamic. Who is better at solving mysteries? Who will solve the most mysteries? Who will emerge triumphant? Over the course of the stories, the two groups learn to work together and form a network of friendships and relationships. Behind the mystery solving, we learn more about the individual characters and their histories and personalities, and watch them grow and mature as well. Allison isn't afraid of shaking things up, and change is a constant but quiet theme in his work.

Allison has a fairly diverse cast with an equal gender split and female characters who are as fleshed out as male characters. While he only has one POC protagonist, his characters have different economic backgrounds and family situations (although all are heteronormative). He is fantastic at showing the different threads of friendship and shifting relationships of middle school, and spot-on at portraying sibling relationships. His characters have unique designs/body shapes and differing body language, and have unique voices as well. In a script without the speaker noted, you'd be able to tell who's saying what.

Oni Press has published the preamble and first story, and you can buy it through Topatoco: The Case Of The Team Spirit. In addition to the already-published story there's some reworked art and a bunch of extras. In Allison's words: "Running to about 140 pages, it features many new pages of story and loads of extra material, including an in-depth guide to the fake history of English football that I can only describe as "dense", "nutty" and "extremely time-consuming to write"." Or you could just read the original story online, starting with the preamble. You can find a list of all the chapters here, but my favorite is The Case Of The Fire Inside for so so SO many reasons.

"Bad Machinery" is currently between storylines, but there's a bit of filler in the form of another "Giant Days" feature, a short about a previous character's college experience.
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