Bad Machinery Vol. 3 By John Allison: We Didn’t Start The Fire - But Someone Did

Bad Machinery Vol. 3 By John Allison: We Didn’t Start The Fire – But Someone Did

Posted by December 16, 2014 Comment

By Cameron Hatheway

PrintSomeone in the little town of Tackleford has been setting barns on fire. With the town’s population consisting of eccentric residents and a few local beasts of legend, anyone could be a suspect if motivation can be proven. It’ll take keen detective skills and the right evidence to put the arsonist away and restore the town to its former glory. Thankfully there are two groups of detectives residing in Tackleford who are up to the task…if they can only take a break from kissing and dreaming about their ultimate dream men.

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Simple Soul is the third volume of the hit webcomic of the same name to be collected by Oni Press. Taking place in the Scary Go Round universe three years after the webcomic, creator John Allison focuses on two rival groups of schoolchildren who investigate the strange and bizarre mysteries in their town of Tackleford. Think of it as The Hardy Boys versus Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, and Harriet the Spy, only everyone is British.

While I followed Scary Go Round on and off throughout the years, I was never a consistent reader. However I loved Allison’s style and characters, so imagine how excited I was seeing that same eye candy art in Bad Machinery. This third volume was my first introduction to the series, but I had no problem catching-up and figuring out who was who within the first couple of pages. Each volume has one main mystery—in this case the burning barns—but also focuses on the two groups of friends and how they’re coping with other obstacles life throws at teenagers; love, friendships, building the best skate ramp ever, etc.

bad_machinery_vol3_pg23As soon as the fires start, a big ugly troll is spotted living under the local bridge. Pegging him as the obvious suspect, the boys try and get the local newspaper reporter to cover it while the girls try and set the troll up on a date. Meanwhile while the boys’ friend Jack is too busy locking lips with the girls’ friend Shauna, a new boy by the name of Colm tries to fill that void, but the boys soon realize he’s bad news with all the shoplifting he does. Is he a possible suspect as well? No one exactly knows his past, and he is pretty shady looking. Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, an angry mob of idiots, and an extremely dangerous skate ramp that transforms into a fort, and you have the makings of a hilarious mystery comic.

The humor in the book had me laughing out loud so much that I was asked to quiet down several times by my girlfriend. The characters Charlotte and Sonny in particular were constantly tickling my funny bone with the way they think—waaay outside the box. Allison’s dialogue for the characters is fantastic, and funny as hell. As I mentioned before, the art is probably my favorite thing about the book, and the giant page layouts definitely give the reader the opportunity to really absorb every detail. At the same time, the dimensions of the book (9” x 12.5”) sometimes made it awkward to try and hold, for it flopped around everywhere like a giant piece of wet spaghetti almost. Perhaps ordering the limited edition hardcover would make for a better grasp.

The Case of the Simple Soul storyline originally ran online from November 2010 through May 2011, with the next mystery running a week later (The Case of the Lonely One). With 8 cases in total, Oni Press won’t be short of material to collect and should have no problem collecting the last 5 cases within the next few years.

bad_machinery_vol3_pg38This collection was hands-down one of my favorite reads of 2014. Allison’s one-two combo of storytelling and art packs a tremendously fun punch, making it not only accessible but enjoyable for all-ages. I haven’t read the first two volumes, but I hope to correct that mistake as soon as possible, for it would be a crime not to. For those looking for a good all-ages gift this holiday season, Bad Machinery: The Case of the Simple Soul comes highly recommended.

Bad Machinery Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul (Oni Press)
Written & Illustrated by John Allison
136 Pages, FC

Cameron Hatheway is the host of Cammy’s Comic Corner, an audio podcast. You can hear his pitch for a fox scented deodorant on Twitter @CamComicCorner.

(Last Updated December 16, 2014 3:39 pm )

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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