Bad Machinery Vol. 3 returns to the cast at Tackleford as they kids take on the mystery of a troll under the bridge and the mystery of having two of their friends date.
Previously in Bad Machinery Vol. 2: The Case of the Good Boy: Everyone’s favorite preteen British detectives are back for another case! With toddlers disappearing and rumors of a large, beast-like creature roaming the woods, Tackleford is in serious danger. And then there’s Mildred’s new dog Archibald… if you can even call it a dog. After all, what kind of dog drinks tea out of a cup? Everything comes to a head once the boys get a picture of the beast and Archibald goes missing. Is there a connection? And what does it all have to do with the magic pencil Mildred won from a carnie con game? Don’t miss the second installment of John Allison’s award-winning webcomic series in print!
COMPELLINGLY SIMPLE TALE OF THE SIMPLE SOUL
Bad Machinery vol. 3 marks writer/artist John Allison’s final return to his cast of kid in Tackleford (which is in England, by their generous use of slang). This web-first collection is populated by amazingly intelligent and articulated pre-pubescent characters set on solving local mysteries and creating an ultimate collected volume of local magical wildlife.
One of the immediate complications in Bad Machinery vol. 3 is that Shauna and Jack are dating. This not only rends the group of friends into boy vs. girl factions, which also renders them incapable of working together as a unit on the mystery-solving front. Charlotte (Lottie), and Mildred are mostly on their own and even in their early adolescent the two slightly strange girls are as charmingly unique as the cast of Lumberjanes. Throughout Bad Machinery vol. 3 we see the pair get up to such mischief as: designing dream husbands for each other (“bare chest. For combat.”), giving decorum lessons to a troll who lives under a bridge in order to set him up with their French teacher and reject the advances of the weird boy Colm who joins their school.
The main thrust of Lottie and Mildred’s adventure is their work to solve the identity of a local arsonist destroying out-of-use barns throughout Bad Machinery vol. 3. Allison uses their story as mystery hunters to steer the best of his cast of characters into more and more misadventures and complications. Each twist and turn is handled masterfully to the point where even the addition of a hissing fox never seems too weird for this world.
Meanwhile, in a parallel storyline in Bad Machinery vol. 3 Linton and Sonny have the friendship of Colm thrust upon them. Abandoned by Jack – their leader, who is more interested in locking lips with Shauna than anything else – the boy reluctantly allow Colm to tag along. Much like Lottie and Mildred, Linton and Sonny are on the investigation of a local arsonist and it doesn’t take much for them to suspect Colm. At the same time Colm manages to embroil both Linton and Sonny in petty shoplifting – an act which both seems to think is capable of ending their young, young lives.
Most of the melodrama throughout Bad Machinery vol. 3 comes from the boys, where girls remain level-headed (for children), collecting clues, constructing plans and following through to the best of their limited abilities. In the end, the arsonist is revealed as a fluke and Allison’s reveal of their identity is a hard left turn from the development in the rest of the volume.
Bad Machinery vol. 3 is smarter than it appears at first glance, the mystery narrative hits every classic story beat without falling into trope. John Allison has put out a book that is endlessly entertaining as a standalone graphic novel (did I mention there was a hissing fox!?), but with the context and growth behind Lottie, Shauna, Mildred, Jack, Linton and Sonny Bad Machinery vol. 3 carries so much more resonance.
As with many web-first initiatives, writer John Allison also helms the artwork throughout Bad Machinery vol.3 and it has a very cool, independent comic feel (again, think Lumberjanes mixed with The Adventures of Superhero Girl), and it really works for a narrative that takes place around six kids and their adventures.
Bad Machinery vol. 3 has a sketchy and intimate feel to it that suggests some of the events of the story may be exaggerated from the characters’ point of view or, perhaps, this story is a look back on past events from a nostalgic future. Allison’s limited, well-chosen linework manages to keep the urban fantasy story on the page feel grounded.
The art serves the story – as one would hope coming from the same creator – and Bad Machinery vol. 3 winds up looking really, really cool.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BAD MACHINERY IS GOOD
As I stated above, Bad Machinery vol. 3 is great on its own or when taken as a part of the collection. If you like a mystery, English small town trappings and smart-as-a-whip kids than this is 100+ pages at a steal just for you!