Gunnerkrigg Court: Research, volume 2
Both by Thomas Siddell
I follow this online (it starts here) and even reviewed the webcomic, but then I wandered into the local Borders and they happened to have volume 2 on display so I knew they had it.
And so I read through in book form the adventures of Antimony at a boarding school that makes Hogwarts look sensible and mundane. You know, it's odd. Online, the space between the panels is black. It makes a curiously stronger effect when it's black pages in a book.
Antimony herself grew up at a hospital because her mother was too ill to leave it, hobnobbing with the psychopomps that arrived to conduct the souls of the dying off. When her mother died, she was sent to Gunnerkrigg Court where she has plenty of competition for Most Notable Student. Antimony's best friend Kat, to be sure, is merely very, very, very good at robots, but for instance, there are fairies who committed suicide to turn into humans to come here, and there's a boy who's there for only a week, and features in one of the saddest episodes. Plus Zimmy who -- defies summary. And that's just the students. Kat's parents, who were childhood friends of Antinomy's, also appear. And James Eglamore who is a literal knight in armor, and who was in love with Antimony's mother. Coyote is in fact surprised that Antimony's, being her daughter, is not James's as well. Yes, that Coyote. Not always nice, but always a trickster. When Antimony doubts his words (always good, as we are assured later), he regards it as hilarious. Plus the shape-shifting and very dangerous Reynardine.
And all these characters get introduced in Episodes from the Life of Antimony Carver and Friends. Except that the episodes' significance is perfectly likely to appear much, much later, in another episode. A loosely woven Bildungsroman like this allows you a lot more flexibility. Some are sheer fun, like the episode where a professor bursts into the classroom to usher off the students to fight alien invaders in their moon base. (It's virtual reality. Really.) And, of course, the episode where Antimony and a friend sneak into the robots only rooms. Guards catch them and shout, "Halt" They run. Baffled the guard says, "I said Halt, not Run Away" and its companion says, "Maybe they didn't hear you. Say it again.") Or the scene at the hair dresser, where the hair dresser sets to and there's a caption before the next panel, "Soon, after what I'm sure would have been a very amusing hair dressing montage."
The books do not form unified wholes, although they do have intact episodes. Orientation ends with a note that somewhat ties off the book, but Research ends, actually, with an episode that's a flashback to the parents' generation. Ah well, the episodes are complete.