The cover of Coddlesworth's Clockwork Circus, with the two main characters, Drum and Imari walking through gears covered in vines.

Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus Short Review

Written by: Danny Oliver 

Art by: Slobodan Jovanovich 

Coloring by: Kurt Michael Russell 

Lettering by: Matt Krotzer 

Editing by: Janelle Asselin

I do have to preface that I did financially back Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus on Kickstarter. To say that this didn’t motivate me to do a little review of it on my website would be disingenuous. 

Outside of giving some money to see this get made, I have no other ties to its creators. I have no personal relationship with anyone who worked on it, nor have I ever communicated with them. I gain no payment, concession, or debt from the financial success or failure of this issue.

But, I do feel compelled to write about an obscure comic I enjoyed. I should preference that I did read the black and white physical version, so take that into account.

The World of Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus

Two mysterious characters, one being a cowgirl with Day-of-the-Dead facepaint, and the other being an industrial-era dressed gentleman.

It’s a testament to the art style that so many different characters types are on the same page without clashing with each other. By the end of the issue, there’s a cowgirl with Day-of-the-Dead facepaint on, a masked man straight out of the industrial era, a girl dressed like a Celtic druid, and another who appears like an African shaman. They shouldn’t all fit in the same world, let alone the same page, but the art style makes it work. 

While at first, Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus seems to fall into a rather generic setting, the characters give it life. The two main characters, Drum and Imari, land in a city with far less character than them. The place is filled with generic pirates-types that could be ripped from every era of human history. The same could be said of the port city’s architecture. Its buildings of clay and brick really do fade into the background.

That can make it hard to get invested in the setting, but it works for focusing on the characters. There’s nary a panel where Imari isn’t giving someone or something a harrowing glance. She and Drum clearly don’t fit in, and while Drum seems able to ignore that fact, Imari will not. 

I hope that chapter two leads to the aforementioned, Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus, and a setting that matches the inventiveness of the character designs.

The Tale Going on

Drum sailing into the setting from the beginning of Coddlesworth's Clockwork Circus.

Most first issues try to cram as much world-building as possible. There can be this fear that the reader can’t follow the story if they don’t understand everything there is to know about the world from the start. Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus doesn’t do that in its first issue. Rather, it builds up the dynamics and characterizations of its two protagonists. 

That works in its favor, and against it. Any reason to keep reading now lies solely on whether the reader is captured by the characters’ designs and character-building moments. This is strong enough for me, but I would be shocked if no one reads this issue and wonders where the story is supposed to be going.

This leaves more pressure on the second issue to get to this story’s inciting incident, or at least answer more questions than the first issue asks. This issue might have been better served by switching out some of the expository narration about how special Imari is, for more information about why the main characters have come to this setting. While Coddlesworth’s Clockwork Circus is in no way hitting me over the head with just how “special” the main characters are, I never need to be told. The art establishes immediately, that these two main characters stand out from the crowd.  

This Circus is Something New

I spend an absorbent amount of time reading superhero comic books as anyone who’s been on this site can tell. Now and then I get to read indie comics from famous creators who do their own thing. Even those comics have large overhead and strict publishers judging and controlling what they create.

It’s nice to see someone’s vision as close to how they intended it as possible. That’s when we get wacky ideas and concepts that won’t be found elsewhere. Like with Midnight Western Theatre, I enjoyed this side adventure into something not like the other books polluting my pull list. 

Check out their comic on their Kickstarter (the funding period is over) to learn more.

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