The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer - Comic Review

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer is an interesting mix of comic and meticulously researched notes.

The comic starts off as a pretty straightforward account of the working relationship between Victorian geniuses Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. The book looks at the creation of the never-to-be-completed Analytical Engine, the first programmable mechanical computer. However the story ends sadly with Lovelace dying at the age of 36 with cancer and Babbage never completing his masterwork and becoming a bitter and twisted older gentleman. So rather than stopping the book 28 pages in Padua creates a fictional story which takes place in an alternate 'Pocket Universe,' where the Analytical Engine is complete and Babbage and Lovelace are agents for Queen and country. The pair fight crime, battle economic chaos which threatens to destabilise the worldand also meet many Victorian peers like Wellington, Brunel, Dickens and 'George Eliot,' actually a lady called Marian Evans as Eliot was a pen-name.  The aesthetic is suitably steampunk and the whole work is marvelously illustrated and footnoted heavily for your clarification needs,  if that is your wont.

The footnotes deserve special mention as they are detailed and meticulous, fleshing out what is happening in the story and what happened in real life. Sometimes the research explains the jokes and at other times it provides insights into Victorian life and provides context such as when famous poet Coleridge is writing Kubla Khan but is disturbed by Lovelace! The evidence is convincingly presented but there is one detail which argues against the fact, Lovelace was born 18 years after the fact. This is just one example of the humour (love) laced throughout the comic.... sorry, I'll get me coat!

Apart from the initial 28 page biography there are a few other stories which take part in the Pokcet Universe. My favourite story is when Marian 'George Eliot' Evans has her book destroyed by the Analytical Engine but the visit by George Boole, innovator of mathematical logic, comes in a close second.

Overall the comic is a work of wonder and if you are interested in the Analytical Engine, Babbage or Lovelace then this is a must-read. I'm now planning my next visit to the Science Museum, London, to see the completed Analytical Engine which was finished from Babbage's diagrams in 2000. Reading this comic I feel more prepared to take in it's majesty and over 100 year journey to a fitiing conclusion.