Barnum: In Secret Service
of the U.S.A.
SteamPunk had a brief run at the top of literary Sci-Fi, it
is no strange condition that it has taken hold in comics,
where the images that make the subgenre work can be drawn.
Though Barnum: In Secret Service of the U.S.A. uses
far less of the SteamPunk thing than JLA: Age of Wonder
did, it still shows through in a number of areas.
and David Tischman have concocted a fine little story where
P.T. Barnum and 6 of his freaks, I mean Transmundanes, are asked
to go on a mission to stop the evil Nikolai Tesla from taking
over the world.
that Tesla should appear in two volumes in the same week,
but I digress.
has Ada Huxtuble, aka Lady Ada Lovelace, the woman some call
the first programmer for her work with Charles Babbage. Among
Barnum's stable are Chang & Ang, the Siamese Twins, Plastino
the contortionist sword-swallower, Dyna-mite the midget strongman,
and Hypnosia the hypnotist. They go off in their little adventures
across the country, with all the typical events that happen
in civilians asked to do undercover work stories, but there
is so much freakish fun going on, it's hard to really notice.
are problems, mostly in the history. Simple research would
have shown that Babbage's first name wasn't George, and that
Chang and Ang and Lady Lovelance didn't live into the Cleveland
Administration, but I can forgive these as they make for a
much more interesting story.
itself seems to be a pastiche of 1800s personalities, and
it works so well, with each character pulling us into the
vision, that I can forgive Chaykin for not doing Alan Moore-like
book progresses, the quality of Henrichon's art seems to increase,
adding little touches that seem to make the entire book glow.
I'm of the opinion that no other artist could have conveyed
the story with the proper amount of humor and heart. The freaks
are a dream to draw, and he takes advantage of every opportunity.
all, a fine little book, that while it does slip a little
on the real history, makes it all work on the level of the
story. At thirty dollars, it's a bit steep, but the level
of enjoyment leads me to say it's worth every penny.
has it for just over twenty bucks...)