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“Gunnerkrigg Court” vividly blends science and folklore

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

A little girl sits next to a coyote in a forest. She asks the coyote a question, “What is Gunnerkrigg Court?” The coyote responds back with a laugh, “It is man’s endeavor to become god!” Behind that cryptic answer is a mystery, one of several that the webcomic “Gunnerkrigg Court” by Tom Siddell is composed of. I first started reading “Gunnerkrigg Court” a few years ago, but only very recently have I caught up with the current story arc. “Gunnerkrigg Court” is a stunning surreal dreamscape that challenges our perception of truth and reality. It merges elements of fantasy and science fiction into a richly flowing narrative that continues to impress from page to page. 

“Gunnerkrigg Court” is the tale of Antimony Carver, a young girl who recently has begun attending the titular academy. Within the walls of this sprawling mechanized complex, she finds she has a second shadow, befriends a robotics genius named Katarina Donlan and starts to learn the ins and outs of both science and magic. However, as Antimony will discover, there is more to the Court than meets the eye. Soon she will find herself tangled in a web of politics and intrigue that will bring deity and machine together. At the center of this web lies Antimony’s destiny, and inside that, the secret of her past. Revealing anything else would spoil the webcomic.

Photo by Malcolm Streitfeld

I have never seen a story that contains so much symbolism in its artwork. On every single page, Siddell has hidden layers and layers of meaning and foreshadowing about future story events. You really have to pay attention to minor details in the background to truly get a good picture of what’s happening plot wise. This is true to such an extent that Antimony and Katarina, the story’s deuteragonists, each have their own alchemical symbol. Furthermore, Antimony is frequently associated with fire, and Kat has an allegorical connection to water. That’s just scratching the surface when it comes to how deeply Siddell has ingrained these complex threads into his story.

The world of “Gunnerkrigg Court” is a mish-mash of well, just about everything. Within the walls of the Court, and outside of them, lie gods and monsters from myth and legend, cryptids, robots, and Lovecraftian eldritch horrors. And yet none of these elements feel out of place or jarring when they’re depicted together. When robots interact with supernatural beings in “Gunnerkrigg Court”, it doesn’t detract from the narrative in the slightest. Rather, it adds to it, helping to build a rich tapestry where at times it seems like anything can happen. 

The most fascinating thing about “Gunnerkrigg Court” is that in a bizarre sense, this is a story where both science and folklore are true. The sun is a big ball of plasma created through natural processes, and yet it is still pulled by the chariot of a Greek sun god. A coyote placed all the stars in the sky, and yet they were formed from cosmic dust billions of years ago. Science’s idea of what is considered “true” is just as valid as what people have believed to be “true” for generations. Neither one of them is considered more “right” than the other.

“Gunnerkrigg Court” is a masterpiece of a story. The art starts out simple and evolves over time. It is unlike anything else I’ve read. Go plumb the depths of the Court, many secrets lie in its shadows.

This webcomic can be found here


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