Madeleine Rosca is best known for her all-ages steampunk inspired manga, Hollow Fields. Her award winning title was released in three volumes between 2007 and 2009. The manga tells the story of Little Lucy Snow in Miss Weaver’s Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered, also known as Hollow Fields. The Australian artist and author’s work reveal the combination of her western and eastern influences. The art and presentation of the story is decidedly manga while the heart of the steampunk adventure resembles more familiar tales.
The Clockwork Sky kicks off in an alternate history version of Victorian London, England in 1895. Erasmus Croach is a brilliant inventor and his “Ember” factory has flooded London with steam powered automatons or robots. The price of this convenience has been told many times before, including a Twilight Zone episode. Requiring no wages and no time off, robots became an easy replacement for employees. London’s working class take to the streets in protest only to be confronted with Scotland Yard’s Sky, the latest automaton and newest police addition.
Though inventive, the stern Erasmus Croach is not entirely unencumbered. In exchange for materials to get his business underway, he took responsibility for his headstrong niece, Sally Peppers. Sally has an obsession with racing on motorized velocipedes and escapes her uncle’s compound. Faced with the uncomfortable situation, Croach requests police assistance. The police chief has a mystery of his own he is investigating but, after striking a deal with Croach, offers help in the form of Sky. Sky sets out and, of course, finds the impulsive girl but in that process unearths a disturbing secret on their trip home.
At first glance, The Clockwork Sky strikingly resembles Rasca’s previous Hollow Fields. Sally Peppers is the spitting image of Hollow Fields’ Little Lucy Snow. Even the cover image of the new book with the image of Sally and Sky resembles the Hollow Fields Volume One cover. The red haired Victorian heroines are nearly indistinguishable and again the steampunk theme is continued. Don’t get me wrong, I love nearly all things steampunk and while the story borrows heavily from classic books and the roots of manga, the result is compelling and entertaining.
The Clockwork Sky Volume One is about 160 pages of black and white shonen-styled manga. The story is well told and some of the frames are epic works unto themselves. Unfortunately, while the action packed scenes are well drawn, some of the text, particularly the thin fonts aren’t very easy on the eyes. Luckily, the story is compelling enough to make up for the technical issues. The ending of Volume One is not terribly shocking due to the heavy foreshadowing but it easily whets the appetite for Volume Two.