MINKY WOODCOCK: THE GIRL WHO ELECTRIFIED TESLA #1/ Script and Art by CYNTHIA VON BUHLER/ Letters by JIM CAMPBELL/ Published by TITAN COMICS
Is there any real world figure who has gripped the imagination of alternative history writers more than Nikola Tesla? If so, I am hard pressed to name them. From Doctor Who episodes to adventure games, many authors and game-designers have speculated upon what inventions Tesla might have made based on what little remains of his notes. Despite this, relatively few have written about the mysterious circumstances of his death and the theory he may have been murdered.
Cynthia Von Buhler tackles this mystery in Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla. This first issue introduces us to Minky; a brilliant young lady in the same vein as Amelia Earhart and Nellie Bly, who is ahead of her time but unwilling to compromise with the society that sees her as little more than a pretty face and a perspective mother. As our story opens, Minky is managing her lawyer father’s business affairs while he’s in the hospital, taking on an investigation of Nikola Tesla on behalf of J.P. Morgan. This leads to Minky taking on several other clients, including Tesla himself, as what starts off as a simple business negotiation becomes very complicated.
Reading this issue, I couldn’t help but reminded of various Indiana Jones novels I’d read in the past: not only because of the time period involved but because of how Cynthia Von Buhler works various real-world figures into the narrative, apart from Tesla and the Morgans. Famed performer and spy Josephine Baker, for instance, makes an appearance, as she just happens to be “entertaining the troops” when Minky enacts her own plan to be “rescued” by J. P Morgan’s sailor grandsons. It’s a bold contrivance, but it works well.
Von Buhler’s artwork is similarly bold, photo-realistic, and eye-catchingly colored. Every panel of this book looks like a movie still or a classic pulp cover, presenting one perfect moment, frozen in time. While this effect works quite well on the larger pages, it does become distracting when several small panels are pushed together and Jim Campbell is forced to compress his dialogue balloons accordingly. I think this book might have benefited from a few more splash pages or more pages to allow the dialogue more space to breathe.
I’m not sure how I overlooked the first Minky Woodcock graphic novel The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, but I fully intend to seek it out based on what I saw of Cynthia Von Buhler’s work here. Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla is a must read for fans of pulp fiction, alternate histories and brassy dames.