the TEXAS STEAMPUNK TRILOGY
Lea Hernandez, Queen of American Manga and creator
of such works as the Rumble Girls series (recently published in trade
form), is also author/illustrator to the Texas Steampunk Trilogy. The
trilogy consists of Cathedral Child, Clockwork Angels, and Ironclad Petal,
published in 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively. The first two graphic
novels can be ordered off of Cyberosia.com.
Lea Hernandez has been pretty innovative with the Trilogy, making the Japanese Manga style all her own, publishing books that are deliciously portable in size, and openly inviting female readers to the medium with her storytelling style and original characterization. This is not spandex-clad supermen boxing one another while voluptuous and scantily clad babes shake their tail feathers on the sidelines. Of course, one would hardly expect any work of Steampunk to feature such things. But still, the Texas Steampunk Trilogy is uniquely suitable for readers of both sexes.
Cathedral Child takes place in Heaven, Texas in the late 1800s. It is a town with a purpose, as two inventors discover the prototype of a giant analytical engine built into the local church, perhaps the leftover project of Charles Babbage. The engine is aptly referred to as Cathedral. 'CC' is also a story about star-crossed lovers. After one of the inventors mysterious dies, his son is adopted by the cynical entrepreneur, Mr. Stuart, who has significant plans for both the young boy and Cathedral. The plans do not involve a romance between the boy and the precocious daughter of the local Cuerpo, the earthy natives who work Cathedral.
When the two youths come of age, they take on the role of 'teaching' Cathedral. Their jobs are to input coded information into the engine through a giant organ interface. This musical language and the theories about harmonics are very original and make for interesting reading. Trouble brews when the romance between Sumner and Glory develops, much to the chagrin of Mr. Stuart, and some crafty businessmen enter town for a demonstration of Cathedral's analytical power.
In Clockwork Angels, the second book in the trilogy, the focus is definitely on the Angels rather than the Clockwork. In fact, the only Steampunk related element is that it takes place in the same universe as Cathedral Child and has some of the same characters. Realistically though, CA is more broadly a work of Victorian Romantic Adventure, with some heavy supernatural themes sewn in. There is also a strong theme of lesbianism.
Ironclad Petal can only be viewed online at this time, and not ordered in paperback form. A brief preview given at the end of Clockwork Angels demonstrates a return into more Steampunkish territory, as we see mechanical innards of a female doll or Victorian-era robot.
One of the most enjoyable features of this book is a creator's commentary at the end of each story, giving stories and hints and revelations and insight into just about every panel on every page. This is refreshing and provides a much deeper appreciation to be had of the work, just like you would find in a commentary on a DVD. One wishes that Alan Moore would take a similar approach, so that we fans don't have to spend hours surfing on 'notes and annotation' websites for Watchmen and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
-journey to the last FOCUS on Steampunk-