The Clockwork Sky, Vols 1 and 2

The Clockwork Sky Volumes 1 and 2 by Madeline Rosca

I haven’t read Rosca’s series for Seven Seas, The Hollow Fields, but I remember being aware of it as one of the more positively reviewed English language manga series. So I was curious to check out Rosca’s recent series The Clockwork Sky.

The first volume establishes the world of Ember, along with a plucky heroine who has a habit of getting in trouble for being improper due to her need for speed. Sally has been sent to live with her Uncle Croach, who is a evil steampunk industrialist. His line of household robots is transforming the city, but where is he getting all the parts for his creatures from? Sally is basically locked up in her room and told to concentrate on being a proper lady, but she’s got plenty of ingenuity and manages to sneak out of her uncle’s house and comes across a race, which she promptly enters.

The other young protagonist of the story is Sky, a young mechanical police aide who resembles an adolescent Atro Boy a bit in his character design and powers. He’s assigned to track Sally down, but soon finds himself a bit sympathetic towards her. This conflicts with his orders. As Sally and Sky soon begin to discover, her Uncle’s scrapyard contains secrets and unexpected dangers.

While the first volume introduces the characters and world of The Clockwork Sky, the second volume is almost non-stop action as Sally and Sky learn that the missing children of the city are being recycled in unexpected ways. Croach makes an unconventional presentation to some powerful people in a desperate attempt at getting the raw materials needed to keep his factory going, while Sky begins to chafe at his programming and manifests even more self-awareness and independent thought. There are plenty of dynamic action sequences in Croach’s factory, and when Sky is able to bring in the authorities, Sally is able to build a new life for herself.

I appreciated the varied character designs and the clarity of Rosca’s art. In the second volume I sometimes wished for a bit more detail, as so many of the characters were yelling while being drawn in a slightly super deformed mode. Rosca touches on class issues with the clockwork underclass but there’s plenty of adventure and world building to keep a reader engaged. The story and art were well in synch, which made The Clockwork Sky easy to read. This would be a great comic for the upper range of elementary school, and a two volume series isn’t too much of a space commitment for most libraries. I’d definitely recommend this series for younger readers.

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